The Parole Board of Canada has denied Sébastien Simon’s request for supervised visits outside the Archambault Institution, a federal prison in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Que. during a hearing held on Oct. 26.
Simon is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in connection with the death of 17-year-old Brigitte Serre in 2006.
Serre, who was working alone at a gas station in Saint-Leonard on the night of Jan. 25, died after being stabbed 72 times by Simon, then 18 years.
Simon had been seeking supervised outings, four times a year, to visit his wife, whom he married in March of 2017.
In its 10-page report, the parole board commissioners noted Simon’s difficult childhood years marked by violence, the absence of structure and control, and disengaged parents.
By the age of nine, Simon was taken in charge by the system living in group homes, foster homes and youth centres. He was also involved in the sale of drugs and eventually developed a substance abuse problem.
The board also said that numerous interventions aimed at improving his behaviour during his adolescent years did not have the desired effects.
Since being incarcerated, however, Simon has called six different prisons home. He started in maximum security and, with good behaviour, worked his way down to the minimum security part of Archambault Penitentiary. He has completed high school in prison and obtained a number of CEGEP-level and recently took on the role of secretary of the prisoners’ committee.
Simon had been seeking supervised outings, four times a year, to visit his wife, whom he married in March of 2017, as well as supervised outings to do volunteer work for a non-profit clothing counter.
Simon argued that visits with his wife would allow him to further develop and strengthen family ties, while volunteering would allow him to give back while at the same slowly reintegrating into society.
According to Simon’s case management team, volunteering would also give Simon the chance to work on developing altruistic skills and put in practice other skills acquired during his imprisonment.
In its decision, however, the commissioners, while mentioning Simon’s progress in controlling his temper and impulsivity, as well as his willingness to participate in his rehabilitation, said it had to weigh various factors.
While Simon’s latest psychological assessment in 2019, indicated an elevated risk of violent relapse in the long term, supervised outings did not present a significant risk.
However, the board said that the objectives mentioned for supervised visits to his wife can easily be met via the current practice of private family visits.
As for volunteering, the board said his recently acquired skills need to be put into practice within prison walls for a longer period of time, before being “tested” in society.
While the board recognized Simon “occupies an important role within the institution,” allowing for greater interactions with others that can lead to potential disagreements, “it is prudent that you continue to challenge your patience, your tolerance and your capacity to adequately manage your negative emotions and frustrations.”
The board ultimately felt Simon’s requests for supervised outings were premature and that his objectives could be met within the institution.
While the board agreed, Simon has come to recognize the irreparable impact of his actions on the victims and is taking full advantage of services offered to him he seem unaware of the long road ahead before reintegrating society. The board also believes Simon hasn’t taken stock of the challenges that lay ahead.
In a Facebook post, Serre’s stepmother, Darlene Ryan, expressed her relief.
“Wonderful news for us but more importantly for Brigitte’s memory,” she wrote.
But for Ryan, even if Tuesday’s decision is welcome news, it isn’t over yet.
“We have won this battle in a very long war, one which we will fight to the end.”
Because of COVID-19 regulations, family members and loved ones were not allowed to attend the hearing in person, delivering impact statements via telephone.
This is the second time, Simon’s request for supervised outings has been rejected. He was denied a similar request in 2019.