A Winnipeg advocate for people struggling with addictions and mental health is voicing concerns over correctional system exit supports as more details come to light surrounding the 34-year-old woman accused of stabbing a stranger with a hypodermic needle in Winnipeg on Sunday.
It’s not the first time she’s been charged for this kind of crime.
Jessie Kayla Genaille pleaded guilty and served time for aggravated assault after sticking a needle into a woman who was shopping at St. Vital Centre on June 27, 2018.
Court records detail how Winnipeg police arrested her elsewhere in the mall about an hour after the attack around 7 p.m. Officers found a needle containing blood, stolen perfume and underwear, and they also located a health card and ID that didn’t belong to Genaille. She was later convicted of possession of identity documents and theft.
The victim had to go to Health Sciences Centre over concerns of bloodborne illnesses, the Crown said at Genaille’s sentencing hearing on March 13, 2019. The woman also experienced crippling anxiety in public places after the “frightening” incident, the attorney said.
Court records show Genaille had been released from custody on June 15 — less than two weeks earlier. Court heard she hadn’t taken her prescription for a mental illness, and she was high on meth at the time.
Winnipeg Police Service Const. Dani McKinnon said Monday the suspect accused in Sunday’s “unsettling” incident “appeared to be intoxicated.”
“(They were) showing signs of some type of consumption, whether it was alcohol or methamphetamine. The circumstances were quite strange in that they were completely random and unprovoked.”
Genaille apologized to the victim in the 2018 assault in a letter she read to court at her sentencing hearing in 2019, saying, “I want to let you know that I’m very sorry from the bottom of my heart.”
“I hope you are OK and doing well,” she said.
Genaille promised never to do anything like it again and said she’d been struggling with addictions since she was 16.
The judge acknowledged the then-30-year-old’s difficult and tragic life, which court heard had been affected by drug use, exploitation, physical and sexual abuse along with schizophrenia.
But they added, “At some point in time, this is a choice.”
The judge handed Genaille a 23-month sentence (on top of a 13-month pre-sentence) and two years of supervised probation, which included abstaining from illegal drugs, being on good behaviour and getting substance abuse help and trauma counselling, along with a 10-year weapons prohibition.
“This is your opportunity to solidify everything that you’re starting to do and making your way out,” they said.
The judge warned Genaille would find herself back behind bars if things didn’t go well.
The case is raising questions over the addictions and mental health supports those incarcerated receive while in custody and in particular, after they transition following release.
They need more recovery and treatment help, Marion Willis with St. Boniface Street Links said Tuesday.
“If we can’t do that, we fail society. We fail the inmate who is really a victim … and who creates victims,” Willis said.
The revolving door of repeat offenders could improve with a better exit plan for those leaving the correctional system, Willis said. It should include stronger co-ordination between case managers and organizations like hers and between government departments, she continued.
“If we can just get everybody on board to change the way they’re looking at this, look through an addictions lens … and in planning for people exiting a system, you know, use that continuum of care to plan for every single person exiting corrections, and many of the challenges we face today would not be happening.”
Global News has requested a comment from Manitoba’s Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen.
Meanwhile, Ottawa has committed to make bail harder to get for repeat violent offenders.
Genaille is charged with assault and failing to comply with a release order. She remains in custody.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.