7 things you may not know about what’s next for killer colonel

Russell Williams, the murderous former airforce commander who killed two women and who sexually assaulted two others will soon be subject to the sometimes incomprehensible rules that govern federal prisons and parole in Canada. In a courtroom in Belleville today he pleaded guilty to 86 crimes including the murders of Jessica Lloyd and Cpl. Marie-France Comeau. The lurid details of his deviant spree of fetish break-ins that culminated in torture and murder began to unspool in court, along with the release of bizarre photos taken by Williams himself. He will be automatically sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. His life sentence means exactly that – he’s subject to scrutiny for the rest of his life, even if he is one day freed from prison. But you might not believe just how soon he’s eligible to seek freedom.

Russell Williams, during one of his fetish break-ins (click pic for more photos - images were released by the court Monday)


Believe it or not, Williams can seek release from prison as soon as his sentence begins. In practice, it would never happen, but the provision exists, providing that killers – and all federal prisoners – can apply to the warden for escorted temporary absences, as soon as they get to prison. Because escorted temporary absences are granted by wardens, and not by the parole board,  the process by which they’re doled out is not subject to public scrutiny.


Williams will be able to seek unsupervised release from prison after he has served 22 years of his sentence. Though he’s been sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years, Canadian law says he’s eligible to seek day parole and unescorted passes three years before full parole eligibility. Day parole typically involves release to a halfway house.


Williams will not be able to seek early parole after 15 years under the Faint Hope Provision. He’s barred from using that measure because he’s a multiple murderer. Here’s Section 745.6 of the Criminal Code:

745.6 (1) Subject to subsection (2), a person may apply, in writing, to the appropriate Chief Justice in the province in which their conviction took place for a reduction in the number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole if the person

(a) has been convicted of murder or high treason;

(b) has been sentenced to imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole until more than fifteen years of their sentence has been served; and

(c) has served at least fifteen years of their sentence.

Exception — multiple murderers

(2) A person who has been convicted of more than one murder may not make an application under subsection (1), whether or not proceedings were commenced in respect of any of the murders before another murder was committed.


Williams won’t have to stay in a federal prison in Ontario. Prisoners aren’t required to serve time in the jurisdiction where they were convicted. Corrections Canada often moves high profile, notorious convicts out of the area to get them away from the publicity, in the belief that it will make it easier for them to integrate into a prison population and get on with their sentence. Serial child killer Clifford Olson, who killed 11 children in British Columbia, was moved to Ontario soon after his conviction in 1982. He’s now in a prison in Quebec.


Williams already has served roughly 8 months of his life sentence. When you are convicted of murder and sentenced to life, Corrections calculates the beginning of the sentence from the date of arrest. Williams was arrested in early February 2010.


Williams won’t get an Inmate Number when he goes to federal prison. Canada’s Corrections system doesn’t assign convict numbers like those you’ve seen in U.S. TV shows. Instead, Williams will have an FPS number – an abbreviation of Fingerprint System number. That number is assigned to the fingerprints that identify him in CPIC – the Canadian Police Information Centre database, a national directory available to law enforcement. Williams already has an FPS, but I can’t yet tell you what it is. Corrections considers FPS numbers confidential and will not disclose them. Here’s a few infamous killers:

FPS 143391A: David Threinen (murdered four children in Saskatoon in the 1970s):
FPS 704938A: Saul Betesh (murdered shoeshine boy Emmanuel Jaques in Toronto in 1977)
FPS 608637: James Hutchison (murdered two Moncton, N.B. police officers in 1974)


Williams won’t have to serve his life sentence in maximum security. Corrections follows a guideline of putting killers in maximum security for at least two years. After that, depending on their behaviour and assessments of their risk and their needs, they could be moved to lesser security. Shoeshine boy killer Saul Betesh is now confined at medium-security Warkworth Institution in Campbellford, Ontario. Many killers eventually get to minimum security, where there are no fences and no armed guards.

Note: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act is the primary federal law that governs the operation of Canada’s prisons and parole systems.



  1. James Hutchinson is currently in Beaver Creek Institution just outside of Gravenhurst Ontario. BCI is a minimum CAMP. They also have their share of “walkaways”
    or using their terminology “unauthorized absences”

  2. Alfred

    Minimum-security federal prisons in Canada do NOT have fences or armed guards. They operate on an honour principle. The inmates placed there can escape at any time by simply walking away. In Kingston, Ontario, Frontenac, a minimum-security federal pen, is located on a busy commuter road that connects the city’s western suburbs to downtown. The prison is across this road from a mall with a grocery store and liquor store also nearby. That pen has a chronic problem of convicts simply strolling across the road, without authorization, to buy booze and other unauthorized goodies and taking the booty back to the prison. See this post about it:


  3. Alfred Desoto says:

    If you think minimum security have no fences you should spend some time there. You are flat out wrong about that, it’s not an executive
    retreat it’s a prison, with double fences, razor wire and body searches, sometimes 3X a day.

    A simple argument can get you bumped from minimum security back into maximum security; minimum security is a privilege earned and tough to keep.

    Note also sentencing has changed, the law used to give you twice time served since time of arrest to time of conviction, now it’s actual time served, and this is one of the reasons prisons are over-full now.

    I don’t understand Zerb’s column at all. It sounds like the rantings of a madwoman personally defending fetishes or an attempts to “sell ink”. On the one hand a claim is made “I won’t show the pictures here” but provides a link to them. I would never have known they existed if she hadn’t done this.

    There’s a reason Th New York Times isn’t equal to The Toronto Star – which looks more like The Sun each day.

  4. Cool post. Very informative. Thanks.

    But please, I think you miss the point when you say I oversimplify. I don’t say there is no fetish. The point is that the media have, all too often, reduced it to a fetish, even referring to him as a ”cross-dresser” which he isn’t. There is no consideration of the violation of women’s (and girls’) most intimate spaces and places.

    I slapped up my post pretty quickly. Bina Becker expands on the theme twice, and I think she does an admirable job of it.



  5. Thanks for expanding on that. And thank you for simply calling him Williams, the media are still calling him Colonel.

  6. I think Antonia’s column (referencing writing of others) makes some good points, but I also think there’s an oversimplification there, this notion that fetishist does not equal predator. I’ve spent more than 20 years writing about sexual offenders. I have interviewed many of them and many experts who study them.

    Some predators have what certainly appear to be, at least in lay terms, fetishes. The problem is those fetishes operate in concert with other deviant behaviour – sexual sadism, psychopathy, paraphilia – though even the expert literature on paraphilia notes that not everyone agrees that paraphilia is necessarily deviant. The fetishist who likes to put on women’s underwear and masturbate at home might eventually graduate to breaking into women’s homes to commit the act using the lingerie of others. Though we haven’t heard that in the Williams case, maybe that’s what he did. Maybe he started out using his wife’s lingerie, or lingerie he bought, but then his behaviour escalated. In this sense, he started out as non-controlling fetishist who became a sexual predator. His original conduct remains part of his makeup and not something we can dismiss.

    I think it’s far too simplistic to simply suggest that fetishists are non-violent, non controlling and not to be confused with predators.

    I say this also because even after decades of modern research, we don’t clearly understand sexual offenders, particularly those with personality disorders or those who meet the threshold for classification as psychopaths. There will be many experts anxious to poke and prod Williams once he’s behind bars to try to understand his evolution, in the hope that it might some day help us identify and stop other similar predators.

  7. I’d like to bring your attention to Antonia Zerbisias column in the Star that challenges the media to not confuse Fetishism with Predatory behaviour.