When CHEK News first spoke with Pam Sanderson in February 2020 she was visiting her son Keith, a prolific offender who had been recently incarcerated at Wilkinson Road jail in Saanich for assault.
26-year-old Keith Cathcart, who has severe mental health and addictions challenges, has been in and out of jail most of his young life.
“He’s like a little caged animal and when he gets out he’s ten times worse than when he went in,” Sanderson said.
Cathcart has lived in Victoria much of his life but has most recently been living on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, not far from where Sanderson says he randomly attacked a stranger in March.
You never want to hear about your kid hurting another human being you just don’t,” she said.
“Thank god that individual is okay. I was totally mortified when I found out he had hurt a completely innocent bystander and this was something I’ve been telling our criminal justice system saying you can’t just keep doing this, he’s going to hurt somebody.”
Cathcart is back behind bars serving a 48-day sentence for that assault but is once again set to be released in just a couple of weeks.
“Being that he does have that violent, aggressive side to him I mean he really needs that support put in place for him because to have him out there on his own right now, I can’t foresee a good outcome,” Sanderson said.
After years of fighting for those supports for her son, on Wednesday Sanderson got a glimmer of hope.
The province has released an independent report on prolific offenders and random stranger violence.
“We’re going to work to improve the safety and well-being of our communities,” B.C. Attorney General said at a media conference Wednesday afternoon.
It lists 28 recommendations, among them, a form of mandatory mental health care.
“Facilities actually designed with proper security, therapeutic design, staffing details you need for people with extreme violent behaviour,” report co-author Amanda Butler said.
The most severe cases could be taken involuntarily, under the Mental Health Act, to therapeutic mental health and addictions facilities. It’s a model Cathcart’s mother herself has been pushing for.
“I believe every single individual has the right to have a safe environment to be housed and to have health care whether they know they need health care or not,” she said.
“There will be individuals out there that have to access the system somehow and they are unaware they are actually mentally ill and they can’t control the drug use, they can’t control the auditory and visual hallucinations without assistance.”
Sanderson hopes the recommendations will become reality before it’s too late for her son.