By the second day outside the Keele Centre halfway house, the outrage among the 30 or so gathered to protest sex offender Walter Jacobson's transfer there on July 11 had reached fever pitch. Throngs of media joined by locals, mayoral candidate and event organizer John Nunziata and Parkdale Grit MP Sarmite Bulte questioned how Correctional Services Canada (CSC) could be so insensitive to a community still reeling from the murder of 10-year-old Holly Jones.
It didn't matter that Jacobson had already checked himself out and was heading back to an undisclosed penitentiary - at his own request.
There were political points to score, particularly on Nunziata's part, who vowed to protest outside the centre every day until Jacobson, 61, was removed. Alas, he didn't have to.
For political opportunists like Nunziata - and to an even larger extent Police Chief Julian Fantino - Jacobson's release and the subsequent controversy around it provided the perfect occasion for calls for get-tough laws against sex offenders.
A visibly upset Bulte tore a strip off her own government's statutory release policies on sexual offenders.
Lost in the scapegoating and finger-pointing, however, is the fact that an assessment team made up of both police and local residents cleared Jacobson for release last January, well before Holly Jones became a household name - and a lightning rod, it seems, for law-and-order types who can't seem to resist the temptation to play on the fears of a community whenever a tragedy like Jones's occurs.
CSC refused to release the names of those on the assessment team, citing privacy issues.
David Pisapio, an assistant director with CSC's central Ontario office, says, "Every release that comes to the Keele Centre is presented to a community assessment team, and this case was no different."
Pisapio describes the Keele Centre as a community correctional centre with 40 residents, including no more than 10 sex offenders at any one time.
He says all are supervised by parole officers, security staff, supervisors and the director at the centre.
Sex offenders meet within two days of arrival with psychologists and parole officers who are partnered with a psychiatrist on contract at the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health.
As part of the centre's reintegration program, parole officers escort ex-offenders to counselling sessions at Queen Street the first few times. Then the ex-offender goes out on his own but must sign out and remain in phone contact with the Keele Centre on a regular basis.
Pisapio says the the only way the release strategy can be changed is if the ex-offender breaks the law or breaches one of his conditions.
"In this case," Pisapio says, "(Jacobson) didn't do anything that would give even a hint of a breach of one of his conditions. In fact, he has not offended violently for over 18 years. He's participated in programs and was actually seen as making some progress."
One wouldn't know that from the vitriol being spewed by the chief.
Everyone had cheers for Toronto's top cop, who took the rare step of publicly exposing Jacobson's name and whereabouts. On July 9, Fantino held a press conference during which he said he believed this particular offender was beyond rehabilitation.
In later press releases, Fantino chided the CSC decision to allow the release of a multiple offender who reportedly "beat and sexually assaulted teenage girls for over 40 years" and whose transfer to the Keele Centre "should not have happened in the first place."
Many observers noted the police effort to get CSC to set very stringent guidelines on Jacobson.
"Those conditions were virtually the same as those set by the National Parole Board," Pisapio notes.
Notwithstanding, Bulte said she isn't finished with the battle to protect her constituents.
"Abductions - we are talking abductions of young children," she says.
Local resident Donna Hale says she sees the fear in neighbours every day. She lives near the centre on a street with two schools, and says, "I see more kids walking in groups. More parents walk with their children, and I hear people talking about how worried they are."
Still, she's not entirely sure politicians have the answers.
"Part of the problem is no one knows what to do. Even the parole board doesn't know what to do with repeat offenders. I'm sure Corrections is frustrated. We need some real solutions instead of moving people from one centre to another. That's wrong." policing