Helen Naslund set for parole board hearing after unescorted absences from prison

Helen Naslund set for parole board hearing after unescorted absences from prison

Helen Naslund at the Edmonton Institution For Women where she is serving a sentence in Edmonton on August 2 for killing her abusive husband Miles Naslund.Amber Bracken / The Globe and Mail

Helen Naslund, who is serving a nine-year sentence for the murder of her abusive husband, will face a parole hearing on Wednesday to see if she qualifies for an unaccompanied temporary absence from the Edmonton Institution for Women.

Unaccompanied temporary absences are granted by the Parole Board of Canada and allow federal inmates to leave prison alone for limited periods of time. Unaccompanied temporary absences are considered a pre-parole step.

Ms Naslund, 58, was charged with first-degree murder after the remains of her husband Miles Naslund were found on their rural Alberta property in September 2017. After her arrest, Ms Naslund told RCMP she shot her husband in the back of the head while he slept on Labor Day weekend 2011, then disposed of his body, car and weapons and reported him missing to RCMP.

Decades of abuse, then years in prison: Inside Helen Naslund’s fight for her life – and justice

She was sentenced to 18 years in prison in October 2020 after agreeing to a plea deal. Under the terms of the deal, Ms Naslund pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the murder charges against her and her youngest son were dropped. First-degree murder convictions carry a mandatory life sentence in Canada, with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Ms Naslund’s 18-year sentence was one of the longest sentences an abused woman had ever received for manslaughter in Canada, and sparked a backlash with influential advocates from across the country rallying for her. Ms Naslund, a mother of four and grandmother of eight, was severely abused by her husband for almost 30 years, including being threatened and held at gunpoint by him the night before he was killed.

In exclusive interviews with The Globe and Mail, Ms Naslund and those closest to her told of the life-threatening violence she and her sons endured on the farm and how it eventually escalated to Mr Naslund’s murder.

More than 29,000 people have signed a petition calling for Ms Naslund’s release from prison.

Ms Naslund’s sentence was reduced to nine years by the Alberta Court of Appeal in June 2021 after Edmonton defense attorney Mona Duckett appealed. On appeal, Ms Duckett argued that Ms Naslund’s judgment discredited the administration of justice and was contrary to the public interest.

In the court’s two-for-one ruling, Judge Sheila Greckol concluded that the 18-year sentence was “provenly disproportionate” and failed to consider or understand the context of Ms Naslund’s experience as an abused woman.

“It is improper and outdated thinking to suggest that women who cannot leave domestic violence situations remain voluntarily, and such thinking could not help but affect the lens through which the joint submission in this case was viewed.” , wrote Judge Greckol .

She said women like Ms Naslund were in “a decidedly vulnerable position in plea bargaining, given the risk of a mandatory life sentence for murder”.

Persons serving a sentence of more than three years may be temporarily absent unaccompanied after serving one-sixth of their sentence.

Ms Naslund has been in prison since October 2020 and served additional time in pre-trial detention before being released on bail following her arrest in 2017.

A number of supporters are expected to attend Ms Naslund’s appearance before the parole board in support of her.

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