Archive for October, 2016

“Une maison hantée à Verdun, [Quebec]” Photo-Journal, November 4, 1937. Page 07.

Read Full Post »

Maurice Becker, “C.O.’s [sic] in Leavenworth.” Charcoal drawing, 1919.  Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-39793. Source.

Maurice Becker was, amongst many other things, an illustrator for The Masses. A war resister, socialist and draft dodger. he was arrested after returning to the United States from Mexico in 1919 and was
tried, convicted, and sentenced to 25 years of hard labor, of which he
served 4 months at Fort Leavenworth prior to commutation of his sentence.  Fort Leavenworth’s treatment of imprisoned conscientious objectors was singled out by critics as particularly brutal and tortuous, especially given the impact of the 1919 strikes. However, the practice depicted above by Becker – shackling to the ceiling or cell bars – was widespread in ‘modern’ prison systems, and, for instance, was condemned during the penal reform moment in early 1930s Canada. 

Read Full Post »

“The elections to the Reichstag put the “presidential” government to a new critical test. It is useful, therefore to remind of its social and political nature. It is precisely through the analysis of such concrete, and at first glance “sudden” political phenomena, as the government of Papen-Schleicher, that the Marxian method, reveals its invaluable advantages.

At one time we defined the “presidential” government as a species of bonapartism. It would be incorrect to see in this definition the chance outcome of a desire to find a familiar name for an unfamiliar phenomena. The decline of capitalist society places again bonapartism together with Fascism and in connection with it on the order of the day. Previously we have characterized the government of Bruning as a bonapartist one. Then, in retrospect we narrowed its definition to a half, or pre-bonapartist one.

What did other Communists and in general left groups say in this connection? To await an attempt at a scientific definition of a new political phenomena from the present leadership of the Comintern would, of course, be naive, not to say foolish. The Stalinists simply place Papen in the Fascist camp. If Wells and Hitler are “twins” then such a trifle as Papen is altogether not worth breaking ones head about. This is the same political literature which Marx called vulgarian and which he taught us to despise. In reality Fascism represents one of the two main camps of civil war. Stretching his arm to power, Hitler first of all demanded the relinquishing of the street to him for 72 hours. Hindenburg refused this. The task of Papen-Schleicher – to avoid civil war by disciplining amicably the national-socialists and chaining the proletariat to police fetters. The very possibility of such a regime is determined by the relative weakness of the proletariat.

The SAP rids itself of the question of the Papen government as well as of other question by means of general phrases. The Brandlerists preserved silence on our definition as long as the matter concerned Bruning, that means the incubation period of bonapartism. When, however, the Marxian characteristic of Bonapartism confirmed itself fully by theory and practice of the presidential government the Brandlerites came out with their criticism: the wise owl of Thalheimer takes flight in the late hours of the night.

The Stuttgart Workers Tribune teaches us that bonapartism raising the military-police apparatus over the bourgeoisie in order to defend its class domination against its own political parties, must be supported by the peasantry and must use methods of social democracy. Papen is not supported by the peasantry and does not introduce a pseudo-radical program. Therefore, our attempt to define the government of Papen as bonapartism “does not fit at all”. This is severe but carries no weight.

How do the Brandlerites themselves define the government of Papen? In the same issue of the Tribune there are very timely announcements of the lecture of Brandler on the subject: Junker-monarchical, Fascist or proletarian dictatorship? In this triad the regime of Papen is presented as a Junker-monarchist dictatorship. This is most worthy of the Forward and of vulgar democrats in general. That titled German bonapartists make some sort of little presents to the Junker is obvious. That these gentlemen are inclined to a monarchistic trend of thoughts is also known. But it is purest liberal nonsense that the essence of the presidential regime is Junker monarchism.

Such terms as liberalism, bonapartism, fascism have the character of generalizations. Historical phenomena never repeat themselves completely. It would not have been difficult to prove that even the government of Napoleon the Third, compared with the regime of Napoleon the First, was not a “bonapartist” one, not only because Napoleon himself was a doubtful Buonapart by blood, but also because his relations to classes, especially to the peasantry and to the lumpen-proletariat was not at all the same as that of Napoleon the First. Moreover, classical bonapartism grew out of the epoch of gigantic war victories, which the second Empire did not know at all. But if we should look for the repitition of all the traits of bonapartism, we will find that bonapartism is a one-time unrepetative occurrence, that means that in general bonapartism does not exist but that there once was a general Bonapart, born in Corsica. The matter stands no different with liberalism and with all other generalized terms of history. When one speaks by analogy of bonapartism, it is necessary to state precisely which of its traits found their fullest expression under present historical conditions.

Present-day German bonapartism has a very complex and so to say combined character. The government of Papen would have been impossible without Fascism. But Fascism is not in power. And the government of Papen is not Fascism. On the other hand, the government of Papen, at any rate in its present form, would have been impossible without Hindenburg, who in spite of the final prostration of Germany in the war, signifies in the memory of wide masses great victories of Germany and symbolizes the army. The second election of Hindenburg had all the characteristics of a “plebiscite”. Many millions of workers, petty bourgeois and peasants (Social-democracy and Centre) voted for Hindenburg. They did not see in him any one political program. They wanted first of all to avoid civil war and raised Hindenburg on their shoulders as a super-arbiter, as an arbitration judge of the nation. But precisely this is the most important function of bonapartism: raising itself over the two struggling camps in order to preserve property and order, it suppresses civil war, or precedes it, or does not allow it to rekindle. Speaking of Papen we cannot forget Hindenburg on whom rests the sanction of the social democracy. The combined character of German bonapartism expressed itself in the fact that the demagogic work of catching the masses for Hindenburg was performed by two big independent parties: the social democracy and national socialism. If they are both astonished at the results of their work this does not change the matter one whit.

The social democracy asserts that Fascism is the product of communism. This is correct in so far as there would have been no necessity at all in Fascism without the sharpening of the class struggle, without the revolutionary proletariat, without the crisis of capitalist society. The flunkeyish theory of Wels-Hilferding-Otto Bauer has no other meaning. Yes, Fascism is a reaction of bourgeois society to the threat of proletarian revolution. But precisely because this threat is not an imminent one today, that the ruling classes make an attempt to get along without a civil war by the medium of a bonapartist dictatorship.

Objecting to our characterization of the government of Hindenburg-Papen-Schleicher, the Brandlerites refer to Marx and express thereby an ironic hope that his authority may also have weight with us. It is difficult to be made fools of in a more flagrant manner (?). The fact is that Marx and Engels wrote not only of bonapartism of the two Bonaparts but also of other species thereof. Beginning, it seems, with the year 1864, they have likened hot once the “national” regime of Bismarck to French bonapartism. And this in spite of the fact that Bismarck was not a pseudo-radical demagogue and so far as we know, was not supported by the peasantry. The Iron Chancellor was not raised to power as a result of a plebiscite, but was duly appointed by his legitimate and hereditary king. And nevertheless Marx and Engels are right. Bismarck made use in a bonapartist fashion of the antagonism between the propertied classes, and the rising proletariat, overcoming in this way the antagonism within the two propertied classes, between the Junkerdom and the bourgeoisie, and raised a military-police apparatus over the nation. The policy of Bismarck is that very tradition to which the “theoreticians” of present German bonapartism refer. True, Bismarck solved in his fashion the problem of German unity, of the external greatness of Germany. Papen however so far only promises to obtain for Germany “equality” on the international arena. Not a small difference! But we were not trying to prove that the bonapartism of Papen is of the same calibre as the bonapartism of Bismarck. Napoleon the Third was also only a parody of his pretended uncle.

The reference to Marx as seen has a slovenly character. That Thalheimer does not understand the dialectics of Marxism we suspected long ago. But, we must admit, we thought that at least he knew the texts of Marx and Engels. We take this opportunity to correct our mistake.

Our characteristic of the presidential government rejected by the Brandlerites received a very brilliant confirmation from a very unexpected and in its way “authoritative” source. With regard to the dissolution, of the “five-day” Reichstag DAZ (Deutsche Allegemeine Zeitung – organ of heavy industry) quoted on August 28th in a long article the work of Marx The 18th Brumaire – for what purpose? No more and no less than in support of the historical and political rights of the president to put his boot on the neck of people’s representation. The organ of heavy industry risked at a difficult moment drinking from the poisoned wells of Marxism. With a remarkable adroitness the paper takes from the immortal pamphlet a long quotation explaining how and why the French president as the incarnation of the “nation” obtained a preponderance over the split up parliament. The same article of the DAZ reminds very apropos how in the spring of 1890 Bismarck developed a plan for a most suitable governmental change. Napoleon the Third and Bismarck as forerunners of presidential government are called by the right name by the Berlin newspaper which in August at least played the role of an official organ.

To quote The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon in reference to the “July 20th of von Papen’’ is of course very risky since Marx characterized the regime of Napoleon in the most acid terms as the regime of adventurists, crooks and pimps. Actually DAZ could be brought to punishment for a malicious slander of the government. But if we should leave aside this indirect inconvenience, there remains nevertheless the doubtless fact that the historic instinct brought DAZ to the proper place. Unfortunately one can not say the same of the theoretical wisdom of Thalheimer.

Bonapartism of the era of the decline of capitalism differs widely from bonapartism of the era of ascension of bourgeois society. German bonapartism to not supported directly by the petty bourgeoisie of the country and village, and this is not accidental. Precisely therefore we wrote at one time of the weakness of the government of Papen which holds on only by the neutralization of two camps: the proletariat and the fascists.

But behind Papen stand the great landowners, finance capital, generals – so rejoin other “Marxists”. Do not the propertied classes in itself present a great force? This argument proves once more that it is much easier to understand class relations in their general sociological outline than in a concrete historical form. Yes, immediately behind Papen stand the propertied heights and they only: precisely therein is contained the cause of his weakness.

Under the conditions of present-day capitalism a government which would not be the agency of finance capital is in general impossible. But of all possible agencies the government of Papen is the least stable one. If the ruling classes could rule directly, they would have no need either of parliamentarism, or of social democracy, or of Fascism. The government of Papen reveals too clearly finance capital, leaving it even without the sanctified [word missing] ordered by the Prussian commissar Brakht. Just because the extra-party, “national” government is in fact able to speak only in the name of the social heights, capital is over more careful not to identify itself with the government of Papen. DAZ wants to find for the presidential government support in the national-socialist masses and in the language of ultimatums demands of Papen a bloc with Hitler which means capitulation to him.

In evaluating the “strength” of the presidential government we must not forget the circumstance, that if finance capital stand behind Papen, this does not at all mean that it falls together with him. Finance capital has innumerably more possibilities than Hindenburg-Papen-Schleicher. In case of the sharpening of contradictions there remains the reserve of pure Fascism. In case of the lowering of contradictions one will maneuver until the time when the proletariat puts its knee on its chest. For how long Papen will maneuver the near future will show.

These lines will appear in the press when the new elections to the Reichstag will have already passed. The bonapartist nature of the “anti-French” government of Papen will inevitably reveal itself with a new force, but also its weakness. We will take this up again in due time.

Prinkipo, October 30, 1932


– Leon Trotsky, “Bonapartism in Germany,” The Militant, Vol. V No. 50, 17 December 1932, pp. 1 & 4.

Picture is cover of Simplicissimus. Vol. 37, Issue 24September 11, 1932.

Read Full Post »

“The United States has Guantanamo Bay. Ontario has the Thunder Bay Jail.

Not much difference, really, when it comes to solitary confinement and the application of a torture technique.

An innocent man had been locked up in a tiny cell in that institution for four years. To be clear: he had not had a trial, he had not been convicted of anything, he had not been sentenced for a crime. In the eyes of the law, he is an innocent man. And he had been locked up in solitary confinement for four years.

The light in his cell was on 24 hours a day, a torture technique used to destabilize prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

The young man’s name is Adam Capay. He is a 24-year-old Aboriginal of the Lac Seul First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. In 2012, at age 19, he was serving time in the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre. There was a violent confrontation with another inmate. The man died and Mr. Capay was charged with first degree murder.  Mr. Capay had been held in solitary without a trial for 52 months. This is 100 times longer than the threshold the United Nations considers torture — 15 days. On top of which, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a delay of 30 months or longer between being charged and being tried is a violation of an accused’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Capay’s agony calls to mind the tragic story of Edward Snowshoe, a young Aboriginal inmate in Edmonton who hanged himself in 2010 after 162 days in isolation.”

– Michael Enright, “The system not only failed Adam Capay. It buried him alive,Sunday Edition, CBC Radio, October 30, 2016.

Read Full Post »


October 29, 2016: a new episode of The Anatomy Lesson at 11pm EST on CFRC 101.9 FM. Going nowhere in particular. Pre-Halloween show, though the music isn’t much of an outlier for this programme. Music by The Body x Haxan Cloak, Striations, Mass Marriage, Émilie Payeur, The Unquiet Grave, Deviation Social, Death Kneel, Delia Derbyshire & Barry Bermange and Nurse With Wound. Check out the whole setlist in the comments below, tune in at 101.9 on your FM dial, stream at http://audio.cfrc.ca:8000/listen.pls or download the finished show at cfrc.ca.

Delia Derbyshire & Barry Bermange – “Running” The Dreams (1964)
Tibetan Red – “Scanning” Freedom In A Vacuum (1987)
Émilie Payeur – “Kissing Hitler” Deadline
Kristin Anna – “Let Nature” Howl (2015)
Striations – “Death Descends Upon The City” To Know Mercy
Death Kneel – “Champagne Everlast” Champagne Everlast
The Unquiet Grave – “20,000 Years of Suffering” Slave Trade (2014)

Nurse With Wound – “Shattering Man Falling” Drunk With The Old Man of the Mountains (1987)
Deviation Social – “Case Study In Censorship” From End to Beginning, Vol. 1: 1982-1985 (2010)
Mass Marriage – “Ghost” Nothing Underneath (2012)
Zos Kia / Coil – “Sewn Open” Transparent (1984)
The Body – “The Night Knows No Dawn” I Shall Die Here (2014)
White Horse – “So That Death Will Tremble To Take Us” The Revenant Gospels, Vol. 2 (2011)

Read Full Post »

“Document photographiques inédits pris par un Canadien à Tien-Tsin et à Shanghai au risque d’être fusillé / Horreurs de la guerre en Chine,” Photo-Journal, October 28, 1937. Pages 2, 3 & 8.

Read Full Post »

Scenes from the Witzwil Colony, Switzerland. 1929.  From John Gillin, Taming the Criminal: Adventures in Penology. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1931

“In 1928 the total number of
employees in this institution was 74. Two of these employees, the director and
the bookkeeper, have spent thirty-two years of service with the institution. Of
the other employees, one has spent thirty-one years, one twenty-eight years,
one twenty five years, one twenty-three years, three twenty-two years, two
twenty-one years, three nineteen years, etc. All but five of these employees
are men. During the course of the year, fifteen of these employees were beginners.
The long-continued service of so many of the employees indicates admirable
administrative procedure on the part of those in charge.  If one may judge from the reports, when an
employee leaves it is like the breaking up of a family.  The loyalty and devotion of most of these old
employees reflect the spirit of the institution and without question explain
much of its admirable work.

The number of inmates in the instution varies from year to year, but normally
runs between four and five hundred. On January 1, 1928, there were 430 in the
institution and on December 31st of that year there were 453. The highest
number in the institution during that year, 460, was on February 10th. The
smallest number, 383, was on September 17th. The average number during the year
was 427. 208 of these were in the institution for the first time and 313 were
repeaters. Through this institution flows a continuous stream of prisoners.
Thus in 1928, 521 were admitted and 498 dismissed.

The religious confession of the 521 who entered was: 408 Protestant, 111
Catholic, and 2 Jewish. The marital status of the 521 was: 332 single, 110
married, 27 widowed, 52 divorced. 492 of them were born in wedlock and 29 were

Most of them spoke German 368, while 141 spoke French, 11 Italian, and 1
Armenian. Canton Bern furnished 3 3 8 of these 521. 164 were from other
cantons, while 17 were foreigners, and 2 were men without a country.

The educational status of these 521 entering the institution in 1928 shows a
similar situation to the prisoners of our own country. Only 17 had finished
high school, 74 secondary school, 426 only primary school, and 4 were
illiterate. The occupation of these entrants shows a large proportion from the
unskilled classes. Only 7 were from what might be called the professional
classes; 28 were from the skilled artisan class; 217 from what might be called
in our country the factory workers, and 233 were day laborers, ordinary laborers,
farm laborers, and other unskilled workers. Only 2 of these had any property,
519 were propertyless.

The swift movement of the population in and out of the institution is explained
by the fact that the large proportion of the inmates have but short sentences.
Thus, 213 in 1928 had up to a six month’s sentence; 203 from six to twelve
months; 86 from one to two years; 8 over two years, and 11 received what we
should call an indeterminate sentence.
During the year the number of days spent by the inmates in the
institution days in sickness, while 22,320 days are accounted for by holidays.
Of the 156,144 days spent by the inmates in the institution in 1928, 129,821
were spent at work, or a little more than four-fifths of the entire time. More
than one-half of this time was spent in agricultural labor and in the care of
live stock.

One must not get the idea, however, that in the eyes of the administration this
institution is merely a work institution carried on for profit. The difficulty
of resolving the two contrasted purposes of profit and of preparing these men
to go out into life again has not been entirely solved. Herr Kellerhals, the
superintendent, frankly admits the difficulty of coordinating these two
purposes. He must make the institution pay and at the same time he must use the
activities of the institution for the purpose of preparing these men for a free
life. In order to make a profit he must not neglect the proper feeding of the
inmates; he must look after their education to prepare them for the practical
exigencies of a free life on their discharge. He must teach them to love work
who formerly had not loved it. That work must be profitable and contributory to
the purposes of the institution. Yet withal, consideration must be given to the
natural inclinations of the inmates and to the opportunities that will face
them when they go out. Therefore, the activities in which they are engaged in
the institution must fit them for the day of their discharge.

There is a portion of the institution set aside for discharged prisoners where
efforts are made to adjust them to a free life and provide for them until they
get a free position. On a part of the domain at Nusshof there is a labor-house
for old men, often drunkards, which attempts to provide them care and
reformation.  This house is always
over-full, yet in 1928, so small is it, only 9009 days were served there by
inmates.  The administration hopes to see
this colony enlarged.  In 1928 the
inmates earned 6905 francs.  The
institution furnishes them their clothes, shoes, and washing.

The Discipline of the Institution. As
much attention is given to the conduct of the inmates of the institution as is
given to producing economic efficiency. Regulations are carefully laid down
both for the employees and for the prisoners. Printed in the institution’s
print shop are three sets of instructions, one for the employees, one for the work-leaders,
and one for the prisoners, concerning their rooms, cells, and their general
conduct. In the instructions for the
employees, it is made clear that all of the employees are under the control of
the Director and his representative. They are immediately responsible, however,
to their other superiors, such as work-leaders, supervisors, guards, etc. They
are personally responsible for the minute fulfillment of all functions which
are laid upon them by the regulations as well as by special instructions. They
must replace all objects which are trusted to their care whether for their own
use or for the prisoners under their supervision.  The employees have direct
supervision over the prisoners. They must see that the prisoners live up to the
house regulations, the time schedule, and that they do their work in accordance
with orders.  No supervisor is allowed to punish
a prisoner in any way. Corporal punishment is strictly forbidden, as is also
rough and undignified talk and especially any mention of the prisoner’s crime
and of the penalty. Any misconduct on the part of the prisoners must be
reported to the superior officer. No reports concerning the prisoner’s behavior
shall be given to relatives.  At the first ringing of the bell
in the morning the employees go to their places of work, and get the necessary
instructions for their daily tasks from their superiors. After the second
ringing of the bell the prisoners appear, with the exception of the monitors of
the rooms, who come last, after they have seen who come last, after they have
seen to it that nobody is left in the open room or cells.  After the employee who has charge of a
certain number of prisoners   Makes sure that all the men under
his care are presenty, he marches them by twos to the courtyard or to the
workroom.  In the courtyard the men who
are to be given tools have them distributed by the employee with the help of
one or two assistants. Every group then under the leadership of the employee
goes to its appointed tasks. The foreman and supervisor take part in the work
assigned to their group, thus there are no idle employees in Witzwil. It is
their duty to keep the prisoners at work and to give the instructions briefly
but clearly and with tact. Reports are made by these employees concerning the
conduct and efficiency of the prisoners entrusted to their care. After the
working time is finished each half day, they march back to the building in the
same way as they came. The tools are deposited at definite places and the group
is marched into the prison in the same way it came out. Ten minutes are allowed
at the end of each half day to get these men into their cells or the dining and
living room. The employee has entire responsibility until each man is in his
appointed place.  As has been indicated, there are
two men with each group, the foreman and the supervisor, or what we should call
guard. It is the guard’s duty to see that none of these men escapes. He also
teaches the inexperienced workers and must serve as an example of diligence to
his group.  While there is no rule of silence
in the institution, there is a rule that during working hours quiet must be
maintained. Mischief of any kind is punished as disorderly conduct, whether
done at work or during periods of rest. In case of misconduct the prisoner is
admonished by the employee. If this warning is without result the guilty party
is brought to the office of the superintendent. The house master then shuts him
in a cell after he has been thoroughly examined by the superintendent. A report
on the case must be given at once to the Director.  Rules provide that every employee is entitled
to use necessary measures against a prisoner for his own security.

In case of attempted escape, one or more employees must follow the fleeing
prisoner at once while the supervisor brings back the other prisoners to the
buildings and, if necessary, shuts them up in their cells.  The Director must be informed at once by
telephone or messenger.  If on
investigation the attempted escape is due to lack of caution or negligence of
an employee, he is punished.  He may be
imprisoned or eventually dismissed.

On the other hand, it is the duty of the employees to see that the prisoners
get their share of food, both in quantity and quality, according to the number
of people sharing it. They must also see that no bread is wasted, that the
dishes are well taken care of, and that the food remnants that are left over
from the meal are brought back into the kitchen.

Employees are required to keep themselves clean, to look after the cleanliness
of the house, the dishes, and the clothes of the prisoners.

Each week the prisoner is entitled to a shave and frequently to a haircut. It
is the duty of the guard or supervisor to see that the men under his care are
conducted to the barber shop where they are not only shaved but have their
shoes cleaned and oiled. Quiet must be preserved in this shop. Smoking and
bartering of victuals, tobacco, etc., are not allowed among prisoners.
Employees are not permitted to smoke during working hours. The employees also
have the responsibility of seeing that on Saturday evenings the cells and
living rooms are clean. A prisoner may obtain audience with the Director by
appointment. He must also make his appointment to see the doctor except in
cases of emergency. Employees are cautioned to be careful about their keys.
They have the responsibility of seeing that all doors are properly locked and
other precautions taken to prevent escape.

Very strict requirements are laid upon the employees as to their own personal
conduct. Indecent language, cursing, and vulgar talk are to be avoided. Neither
they nor their families are permitted to receive any gifts, presents, or loans
from the prisoners or from the prisoners’ relatives or acquaintances.  They may not buy from or sell to
prisoners.  Without permission they
cannot order work to be done on their own account.  They are required safely to take care of any
objects which belong to the prisoners.
Both they and their families are forbidden to trade with goods produced
in the institution.

Furthermore, upon the employees rests the responsibility of keeping the tools
in good order and seeing that they are properly repaired. During working hours
employees are not allowed to leave the institution without permission;
tardiness and absence are excused only because of special accidents or
sickness. Each employee is required to work every fourth Sunday and during the
week following in what is called supervising service. These minute regulations
on the conduct of the employees and their duties have grown out of experience
and have been made necessary by the increased number of prisoners in the

The Institution Guards. Special
regulations are in force concerning the guards who look after the buildings and
the men Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and other holidays. These are the
so-called house regulations of the institution. This service begins on Saturday
afternoon and lasts until the next Saturday by the same group of guards. Thus
the employees take turns at this work. These guards are under the supervision
and orders of the chief guard (Hutchef).

The duties of these institution guards are the opening and shutting of cells
and rooms, the distribution of meals, supervision during recess inside and
outside the institution, looking after the cleaning, bathing, shaving, etc.,
guard duty during the night, and doing whatever other work is necessary on
Saturday afternoons and Sundays, such as cleaning the courtyards, getting
vegetables, etc.

The Hutchef assigns the various kinds of work to each of the various guards,
such as the cleaning of the yards, mowing of the lawns, etc.  He also assigns the proper number of
assistants to help in this kind of work.
Another crew takes charge of the change of clothing, supervises the
cleaning of the cells, the clothes, the shoes, and looks after the shaving and
hair-cutting of the inmates.  

Every Saturday night there is a
thorough inspection of the cells. If there is not time then, on Sunday morning.
Every guard has to inspect all the cells of which he is in charge and any other
rooms under his care. The Hutchef is charged with the responsibility of seeing
that these underlings do their work properly. Those prisoners who are not housed
in the main institution take care of all these kinds of work themselves under
the supervision of the man in charge of the particular building or camp in
which they live. In short, the responsibility of the Hutchef is to see that all
buildings are properly taken care of in their physical arrangement, as well as
the proper physical care of the prisoners. These prison guards also have the
responsibility of seeing that their prisoners attend church, lectures, and
other similar meetings.  Another crew has charge of the
opening and shutting of the cells and other rooms in the morning, afternoon,
and evening. They also supervise the feeding of the prisoners. One of the
guards with the necessary assistants takes charge of the kitchen crew for a
week and sees that the food is properly and promptly prepared. These prison
guards under the supervision of the Hutchef also are responsible for quiet
during the recess period especially on Saturdays, Sundays, and at night.  The Hutchef also, at least once a
week, must inspect the kitchen and the stables and other outside places to see
that they are in good condition. After a week’s service of this sort, every
married employee is entitled to a free week day while those who are not married
have a free half day or whole free day after two such weeks. In short, the
institution on Sundays and holidays is immediately controlled by this chief
guard or Hutchef. The Foremen.
The foremen also have printed for them special instructions relating to their
duties. These foremen, who are in active charge of the men while they are at
work, are the immediate superiors of the supervising guards and of men who are
in immediate charge of gangs doing a specific kind of work.  Their business is to supervise not only the
activity of the groups and services especially under their guard, but lend a
hand in assisting and ordering what shall be done when quick instructions are
necessary . These foremen report any misdemeanor in the industrial activities
and the functioning of the institution at the morning report each day. They
also, at the weekly meetings of the particular group, discuss important events
and point out problems and how they may be met for the improvement of the
service or of the economic conduct of the institution. They have special duties
with reference to the newly arrived employees in teaching them their duties and
to report to the Director flaws in character which would make the new employee
unfit for service. These new employees are taken on for service only on
probation. These foremen stand next to the superintendent or his representative
in authority, and in the absence of the Director or his representative they
carry the responsibility . The foreman who is oldest in point of service or who
is especially appointed for that purpose by the Director is the superior of the
other foremen and gives instructions to them at any time. The chief foreman has
general oversight over the agricultural and industrial activities of the
institution and makes a report each week to the superintendent on the state of
affairs.  Thus it is apparent that the
institution is carefully organized from top to bottom both for guarding the
prisoners and for carrying on the activities of the institution. The
responsibility is placed in gradations from top to bottom among the employees
so that there is no question as to where the authority rests.

Rules for the Prisoners. Regulations
are also worked out for the government of the prisoners in their cells and
rooms. Every prisoner is given the following pieces of furniture: 1 bed, 1
straw mattress, 1 pillow, from 2 to 3 blankets, 1 rug, 1 pitcher for water, 1
wash basin, 1 saucer for soap, 1 pail, 1 mop, 1 cleaning rag, 1 bedside table,
1 table (only in the cells), 1 electric bulb, 1 salt cellar, 1 calendar, 1
spittoon, 1 bucket with cover. It is the responsibility of the prisoner when he
moves into his cell to see that this inventory is complete. Any damages which
occur have to be reported to the guard of his hall. Books, bread bags, and
other objects are not allowed in the cell except after special permission. In
case other things than those in his inventory are found there he will be
punished. Prisoners are not allowed to keep in their cells or rooms, mice,
birds, or any other kind of animals.

The responsibility is upon the prisoner to keep his cell always clean. Every
morning he must dust it with a mop and every Saturday he must wash it. He is
forbidden to treat it with oil, petroleum, or anything of the kind. Every
Saturday all the furniture, windows, doors, and walls are to be cleaned
thoroughly. Modern sanitary provisions are not found in this institution, for
the famous old night bucket still prevails there; however, it is strictly
required that it be emptied every morning and evening as well as at noon, if it
has been used, and must be flushed out thoroughly.

Regulations go even further. Without permission, nothing in the equipment of
the cell can be changed, pieces of furniture, nothing in the equipment of the
cell can be changed, pieces of furniture cannot be moved around.  Prisoners are not permitted to fix boards or
shelves in the cells.  They may have
pictures, but only decent ones are allowed, and the parts of the walls covered
with pictures must be cleaned periodically.
Otherwise,  the pictures will be
taken away . The electric lights must be put out when the prisoner leaves and
change of bulbs is forbidden. Beds must be kept in order by attention every
morning. No one is allowed to trade things from his cell for those of another
man in another cell. Every Saturday night, in some cases also on Wednesday, the
bed clothing also is changed.  Prisoners are not permitted to
climb to the cell windows to talk with neighbors or outsiders. The prisoners
must be quiet in the cells and rooms; they are forbidden to sing, whistle,
scream, or make any other noise. If the prisoner does not feel well enough to
go to work he reports this to the guardian of his hall and goes back into his
cell. The prisoner who wishes to talk with the Director sends word through the
guardian of his hall and on up through the other ranks to the Director. It is
apparent from these rules and regulations that rather strict control is
exercised over the prisoners in the institution.  As I observed the men at work,
however, I saw no evidence of such severe repression as I have seen in institutions
in our own country. If I had not known that the institution was a prison, I
should not have been aware, from the conduct of the men, that they were not
ordinary laborers carrying on the activities of the place. Here was a group of
men out in the fields planting potatoes. So far as I could observe they went
about their business very much like a group of hired men. In a building was a
group of older men cutting the potatoes ready for planting. Conversation was
going on that would go on among any group of men except that there was no
laughing or loud talking. The men are given to understand that they are there
to work and to obey orders in the interest of the sobriety and the industrial
activity of the institution. There was not the quietness of the tomb which neither
is to be seen in some of our institutions, nor was there any of the hilarity
which I saw in one of our Southern prisons and which may be seen at recreation
periods in almost any of them. I would say, therefore, that the repression in
Witzwil is present, but not severe. Everything, so far as I could tell, went
forward with orderliness and efficiency as on a well-regulated farm, and in the
shops as in a well-regulated factory.”

–  John Gillin, Taming the Criminal:
Adventures in Penology.
New York: The MacMillan Company, 1931. pp. 171-182.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »