Kimberlys sentencing supervisor, Patricia Wilkin, commenced testimony today. She gave evidence about the first contact with Kimberly through to her last contact on August 1, 2001 at Kimberlys home. She told the inquest that Kimberly was very compliant with the terms of her house arrest, and that Kimberly never made any request to her for a change in her terms. She stated that Kimberlys order allowed for the supervisor to permit her to leave her home for such other circumstances as she would allow.
The supervisor said she would have allowed such outings permitting Kimberly to leave for the benefit of her well being, but that Kimberly never contacted her to make any special requests other than to arrange meetings with her lawyer or with scheduled appointments outside the Wednesday 9 am to 12 noon timeframe. She also discussed that Kimberly would have been allowed to leave her home for the purposes of looking for work or engaging in employment, however she did feel that Kimberly was restricted in what work she was able to do because of her pregnancy.
She also admitted that she had never discussed with Kimberly, primarily because she never asked her, what Kimberlys parameters were within her home that would not constitute a breach of the house arrest order. She indicated that Kimberly was able to sit on a porch, or be in her yard, and not strictly confined to the inside of her home.
She told the inquest that Kimberly looked lethargic, red faced and sweaty when she first met her, probably due to her pregnancy. On her first assessment of Kimberly, she determined that she was not a risk to society, and was assessed at needing medium supervision. However because of the seriousness of the offence, it was mandatory that she meet with her supervisor bi-weekly which is the most frequency for serious offenders.
She also said that Kimberley seemed shocked that her benefits were cancelled for 3 months. When questioned by Cindy Wilkey, counsel for the OSSN/SCSA, she agreed that Kimberlys circumstances were dire, and that certain basic needs would need to be met for people under conditional sentence orders. Also special diets would be needed for pregnant women, and money to obtain baby items. When asked who she felt would be responsible for this type of support, she said that the Sudbury community agencies would be expected to help Kimberly or anyone else who was in similar circumstances faced with no income and under house arrest.
The inquest heard testimony from social workers with 4 agencies in Sudbury who assisted Kimberly after her welfare fraud conviction.
Evidence was given from the Program Co-ordinator-Financial & Peer Support for Elizabeth Fry Society. She stated she first met Kimberly shortly after her house arrest sentence, and that Kimberleys main concerns at that time were: she had no income and could not pay the rent; her medication was running out; she was pregnant and under house arrest.
The agency knew she needed immediate action, gave her a list of agencies to contact and arranged for a box of food for her. Contacts were made with other community agencies who could support Kimberly. She arranged for contact with OW to seek help with reinstating benefits and health care benefits. She was told by OW that benefits could not be reinstated, and that health care benefits also suspended. OW did however contact her back to say the municipality would reinstate a drug card for Kimberly because of her need for anti-depressant medication.
She told the inquest Kimberly was very stressed during the first month of their contact, that Kimberly was living on the edge as she did not feel the court challenge on the lifetime ban would go in her favour. Upon discovering her benefits would be suspended for 3 months, the worker did not think that Kimberly understood the impact and gave no thought to how she would live.
She stated that once Kimberlys benefits were restored and her pregnancy became more advanced, her stress was caused from other concerns. Kimberly seemed to place more concern on her ability to provide for herself on the little money she had available, and to make sure she would be able to care for her baby.
The E-Fry worker said her last contact with Kimberly was on August 3, 2001 by way of a telephone call. Kimberly did complain about the heat in her apartment, but seemed very excited in that conversation about her expected baby. She was positive about her reconnection with her family and had been spending more time with her mother and sister. The E-Fry worker told the inquest that Kimberly expressed she knew she had made a mistake with the fraud, but she had tried to change her life.
She said that Kimberly did not want to go to jail or lose her apartment and belongings. She seemed resolved to putting in the house arrest time and thought that she was strictly confined to her apartment. Kimberly was also concerned about the criminal conviction having an impact on her ability to work in the field of social work.
The Executive Director of the Pregnancy Care Centre gave evidence next. She first met Kimberly on April 20, prior to the conviction. She told the inquest that Kimberly did not seem to know what would happen on her court date, and did not seem to know that she would lose her benefits. Kimberly indicated she was excited about her pregnancy, as it was her last chance to become a mother because of her age.
She talked about the services they provided to Kimberly, none of which were financial. They did provide her with food, counseling (which included budgeting), and donations of baby items. 90% of the Care Centres clientele are in receipt of OW.
She indicated that the level of assistance from OW is insufficient for most to meet their basic needs of housing, food and clothing. Her clients frequently have to use the food banks, soup kitchens and rely on charity. Most she indicated want to go back to school so they can get off the OW system.
She also stated that some clients who are in school and on OW stoop to other means of support not lawful. She told the inquest that Kimberly felt embarrassed to be on OW and obtaining charity which was a common feeling of most of her clients. Kimberly told her that she was excited about her court challenge on the ban of her benefits as not only would it help herself, it would help others in her same situation. By late July, 2001 Kimberly was suffering from the extreme heat, she was swollen, and had difficulty breathing. She indicated to her that she felt trapped in her home. The workers last contact with Kimberly was July 28, 2001.
The Director of Birthright was called next. She was contacted by E-Fry about Kimberlys situation in early May 2001. She was in regular contact with Kimberly from that period until her death. Birthright provided Kimberly with baby items, and visited her often in her home. She told the inquest that Kimberly seemed shocked to not have any money to support herself, and felt that she was being punished for her crime over and over. Kimberly felt she had no choice but to go through the house arrest.
She last saw Kimberly on August 6, 2001 in Kimberlys home. Kimberley had asked her to pick up some medication and that she was very concerned that day about her health. She appeared extremely hot and sweaty. The worker said that she picked up some medication, milk, Pepsi and peaches for Kimberly that day. She tried to encourage her to go to a medical clinic but Kimberly said she could not as the terms of her house arrest would not let her leave.
The Family Support Worker from Better Beginnings Better Futures testified next. She first met Kimberly in early May on a referral from E-Fry. Kimberly did not meet their criteria for their program as she lived outside of the geographic area, and did not have a child or children between age 4-8. The worker indicated that she does not tell someone initially that they do not meet their criteria and tries to assess what referrals can be made for assistance. She did continue to help Kimberly by providing rides to her appointments and offered to buy her food and medications at the beginning as she felt she was in extreme need.
She stated she could not believe that a pregnant woman could be under house arrest with no income support, and only being allowed out of her apartment for 3 hours per week.
All 4 agencies stated they did not have the resources to provide the level of assistance to pay for shelter or food for anyone who would be faced with a 3-month ban or a life-time ban. All four agencies told the inquest that the province did not consult with them on their capacity to provide supports to people faced with a life-time ban from receiving social assistance prior to enacting the law. They also were not aware of any research or evaluation that may have been done on the impact this would have on agencies ability to support.
On Wednesday, November 6, 2002, the OW worker handling Kimberlys file and the Administrator of OW will be expected to testify.