Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘canadian history’

1974 Occupation of Anicinabe Park.

The year 1974 was seen by some as the turning point in the Red Power movement in Canada. One of the key events was the occupation of Anicinabe municipal Park in Kenora, Ontario, in July 1974. Louis Cameron from the nearby White Dog reserve organized a conference in the park, participants decided they needed to do more to assert their rights and make their demands heard. They were demanding better living conditions, education and access to land.
The July conference created an atmosphere to articulate other objectives including an end to police harassment in Kenora, better medical and dental services, cultural training for white police, creation of a local human rights committee, and appointment of First Nations justices of the peace. Ojibway Warrior Society Including dozens of young First Nations people from across the continent joined the protest in 1974.

One of the original protestors, Lorraine Major, said the people who were there with her should be remembered and honoured. “They had the guts to stand up for their rights. They had the guts to speak out against leadership.“

The occupation lasted 39 days, involving a stand-off between 100 First Nations participants and police. There were dozens of arrests but subsequent acquittals.

– Anthony Melting Tallow, November 18, 2018.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

George Meeres, “Road building at Mara Lake [British Columbia] by prisoners of war [sic. interned enemy aliens].” Black and white photograph, 1916. Enderby Museum, #3377

Read Full Post »

“Mountain Prison, known as "Buchenwald” to the Sons of Freedom Sect, is situated five miles northwest of Agassiz, B.C. in the Fraser Valley on a prison reserve of one hundred and fifty-eight acres. The prison itself is situated at the foot of Burnside Mountain overlooking fertile farm land and just north of a section of the Fraser Valley which suffered considerable flood damage in 1948.

Construction of this $300,000 maximum security prison commenced in May 1962 and the prison was in operation by July of the same year. All buildings, and their furnishings are metal on cement slabs. The male and female sections are separated by an eight foot barbed wire fence and the two sections are encircled by an eight-foot mesh fence.

The female section is comprised of a combination washroom and hospital, combination kitchen and mess, and one dormitory; is built to accommodate fifty inmates, and has a population of 13. This section is staffed by 9 matrons and supervised by the male administration.

The male compound consists of four dormitories, combination hospital and washroom, and a combination kitchen and dining area. This section is built to accommodate two hundred inmates, has a population of 86 and a total staff of 22.

All administration buildings, including male and female staff quarters, workshop, two-stall garage, stores, visiting room and officer, are constructed outside the perimeter mesh fence overlooking the prison compound.

Immediately after the prison was opened in July 1962, the staff was confronted with a display of stripping and nude parading followed by a fourteen-day fasting which the rebellious inmates would not even pick up their own bedding. All buildings in both compounds are equipped with old fashioned, pot-bellied, wood-fired stoves. The inmates are expected to cut the wood which is hauled in four foot lengths from the nearby Experimental Farm to be used for heating, cooking, etc. This is resented by the inmates who do not believe they should be doing any work. As a result of their attitude, it has been impossible to introduce a proper inmate training programs and, consequently, the inmates are not provided with newspapers, books, radios, tobacco or sports equipment.

The Freedomites prepare and cook their own meals which consist mainly of vegetables, eggs, cheese, etc., and contain no meat or meat products. The majority of them eat more than is required and consequently are over-weight and flabby. 

They are a communal sect and during visits between the two sections which are limited to one half-hour visit each month, their general topic of conversation pertains to discussions on the welfare of their relations.  These unpredictable people refuse to think as individuals and all requests and demands made upon the administration are made as a group. 

Almost  one  year to the day after Mountain Prison  commenced operations, and after many meetings and a prayer service  by  the  inmates, they requested to see the Superintendent.  The officer in charge  realized the precariousness  of the tense situation and contacted the Superintendent immediately, who returned to the prison from Victoria.  Upon his arrival all  the  inmates gathered around him and their declaration of a ‘fast unto death’ was read by one member. This was received in writing and was later to become  a  legal document.

The subsequent fast which began on July 21, 1963, and lasted one hundred and two days hospitalized ten inmates and resulted in the death of one Freedomite. On the advice of the attending physician, the staff  was forced to feed one hundred inmates for approximately two  and a  half months. Because of the limited staff force and acts of violence by some inmates, it was necessary to call upon  the parent  institution, a medical team, and a number of prevailing
rate employees for assistance.

A crucial time during the fast period came with the arrival of approximately seven hundred trekking Doukhobors from Vancouver  and the  interior of B.C. They arrived in cars, trucks, and  buses,  and set up camp at the east entrance to the prison, less than one-quarter of a mile  from  the prison compound. Visits and corresponding privileges with the inmates are not allowed and the trekkers, therefore, resorted to climbing the nearby mountains from where the shout and signal greetings to the inmates. 

Now with winter approaching, activity in the tent town has been brisk. Approximately one hundred and ninety of their crude shelters are being covered with wooden frames, cardboard  and  plastic,  or any  other material that can be gathered from the countryside and from the nearby garbage dump. They are gathering wood for heating and cooking on the makeshift stoves with pipes from old one-quart fruit  juice and oil cans.

Weekends find the road to Mountain Prison and "tent town" jammed with Canadian  and United States tourists seeking a glimpse of these poor confused renegades who have defied all the laws of our land. 

What happens next to this radical  sect is unknown.  The forthcoming winter, with its rainfall and winds which could reach a velocity of sixty miles an hour will, no doubt, test the will of the trekkers to remain at the gates of Mountain Prison.

One thing appears certain, unfortunately. The leaders of the Sons of  Freedom Doukhobor Sect will continue more vigorously than ever to rule the rest of the sect by terror, threat  and  indoctrination. They will continue to despise man-made laws, destroy property,  and  seek public sympathy. All for a cause which we — or  they themselves — cannot understand.”

– Superintendent Raymond Wilson, Mountain Institution, “Mountain Prison’s Fanatical Sons,” Federal Corrections. Volume 2A – No. 4. September-October-November 1963.

Photograph shows two elders of the Sons of Freedom

‘trekkers’ outside of Mountain Prison, in the Agassiz camp, protesting the death of an inmate on fast. Source is

Doukhobor Genealogy Website. From the private collection of the George Henry (“Timothy”) Eaton family, West Vancouver, British Columbia.

Read Full Post »

The Eatonville Roadhouse – built as an early motel, then used as housing for agricultural workers and a Japanese-Canadian internment camp during World War 2. // Near Rondeau Park, Kent Bridge Road, Chatham-Kent

Read Full Post »

“As to the accusation of lavishness and extravagance in the expenditure of the Penitentiary, such a statement disappears before an honest examination of the facts ; for to sustain it, our detractors affect not to take into consideration that nearly a fourth of the sums voted under the name of Penitentiary is expended at Rockwood for the benefit of another institution. In other words, they charge against the current expenditure of the Penitentiary the entire outlay for the erection of vast and costly buildings for the use of another, and, to all intents and purposes, entirely distinct and separate institution. The Provincial Penitentiary is neither the least costly of institutions of the class, nor is it, on the other hand, amongst the more costly; it ranks, in fact, as will be shown, amongst those that are most economically managed. The question of cost will be considered hereafter, with statistical information taken from official documents.

The Mercury has a pet argument, which is repeated by him very often as a masterpiece of cleverness, I suppose. Here it is:—

“prison and reformatory management, together with prison inspection, entail upon the Province burdens amounting to $155,612 03.”

It is a good deal, but it is not all. All the asylums, hospitals, prisons and reformatories, under the inspection of the board , do cost a great deal more than that sum; and still it is no argument against the board. One thing may cost a large sum and be cheap; another thing may cost a sum, small in itself, and yet be very dear. The support of indigent and dangerous classes is everywhere a very heavy burden upon society, but it is an unavoidable one. I am really astonished at the short-sightedness of the writer of the Mercury on this point if, instead of expressing the above-mentioned sum in dollars, he had done it in farthings, he would have gathered such figures as to astonish every one of his readers disposed to be satisfied with his argument as it stands.

The Inspectors, it is said, do not give enough of detailed information in their reports, and those reports are not distributed widely enough. The answer to that charge is as simple as it is conclusive. The Inspectors have no control whatever in the printing and distributing of their reports, which are so printed and distributed under the supervision of the Printing Committee of the House of Assembly. No matter how concise are the appendices of those reports, where the details of information are to be found, they are always curtailed for the printers. Furthermore, it would appear that the British American, who utters that complaint, is, after all, very little interested in the question, as he is always asking questions, the answers to which are given, at length and in print, in reports evidently in his possession. It will be seen, hereafter, that the printing of Provincial Statutes, in full, has had a small influence on his knowledge of the questions he undertakes to expound.

In relation to the increase of the salaries of officers and guards of the Penitentiary, and of creating new offices, the answer is, that the Inspectors have no power to do it, and have in fact not done it. The salaries were, indeed, increased to the extent of nearly a fourth of the whole, several years before the appointment of our Board; and what those able and practical writers believe, in their conscience I suppose, to be a discovery, is nothing more than a display of ignorance.

On that score the editor of the British American puts on his best appearance and lets out a little of his constitutional knowledge. After having said, in the number of the 30th November last :—

“The additions made to the salaries of the guards by the Inspectors, apparently without any a authority, represents an annual expenditure of $6,720. He adds, on the 1st December. "Possibly there may be some authority which does not appear on the face of the statutes, for the deviations we have noted from the statutory provisions ; but we know of no authority, except Parliament itself, which has a right to override the enactments of ” an act of Parliament.‘”

For the peace of mind of the dutiful watchman of public interest and parliamentary privileges, I can happily inform him that the increase of salaries alluded to was ordered by His Excellency the Governor in Council, agreeably with the dispositions of the Act 18th Vic, chap. 89, (1855,) which is commonly called the Percentage Act . .

So the editor of the British American can enjoy a comparatively comfortable sleep! True, these horrid Inspectors do hold offices coveted by others; but they are not guilty of the usurpation of the powers of either the Parliament or the Executive.

As far as the number of subordinate officers is concerned, and the aggregate amount of their salaries, including the percentage, it has always been brought within the letter and intention of the law. True, the number of employes called guards is apparently more numerous, but. the number of a superior class, called keepers, is much less than allowed by the law —the transfer from one class to another less paid being in the interest of the institution. Astonishment is expressed at the increase of the salary of the Inspectors, as compared with that of the former Penitentiary Inspectors, who had nothing else to do than to look after the Penitentiary but the appointment of the present Board is not made in virtue of the Penitentiary Act alone, but agreeably to the Aet 20th Vic. chap. 28th. Moreover, the subsection on which the British American (the writer of the Mercury being a little wiser or more elevated in the estimation of himself, does not object to the salary of the Inspectors) bases his argument, has been formally repealed by an act of Parliament.

But the most astonishing of all those accusations, perhaps, is that to which the Mercury, in his issue of the 9th January, gives a form in the following terms :—

“We cut off all charges for materials and labor on account of the asylum at Rockwood, because the buildings in progress there afford one of the strongest illustrations of the waste and folly which have disgraced the management of the Board. Whatever fate awaits them, the Rockwood Asylum will be a lasting monument of their recklessness or incompetence. Year after year it has absorbed large sums. There  is, however, absolutely no necessity for it; from its inception to this day it has been a job that would be ludicrous but for its costliness. The Inspectors cannot but be aware that for the accommodation of the insane prisoners, a ward of the Penitentiary would be ample; yet these buildings have been allowed to go on, year after year, although their inutility for Penitentiary purposes has been notorious from the outset. To reach the truth of the credit side of the amount, even approximatively, the $35,050.90g which are charged as for the Rockwood buildings must be transferred to the debit side, as representing so much materials and labor thrown away—literally wasted, thanks to these vigilant inspectors.”

Ignorance and blundering are decidedly getting the better of bad faith in this passage, which evidently proves that one may have the venom of the serpent without its wisdom.

The erection of the Rockwood buildings, proclaimed by the writer to be unnecessary, ludicrous and foolish, owes its origin not to Inspectors, recent or ancient, not to the Executive Government, but to the will of the three branches of the Legislature, as expressed in an Act of Parliament passed in 1857, and embodied in Revised Statutes of Canada, chapter 108. In chapter 111 are contained the legal dispositions authorising convict labor to be employed in erecting the Rockwood buildings, and in the chapters already mentioned, and the chapters 109 and 110, is prescribed what is to be done with that lasting monument of the recklessness or incompetence of the Inspectors.

At the time of the organization of the present Board of Inspectors (in December 1859), the plans of the Rockwood Asylum, prepared by an able architect and approved by distinguished alienists, had been sanctioned by the Governor in Council, and the work was already in progress. Since that time all the sums expended at Rockwood have been voted by Parliament for that very purpose. The Inspectors have no more part in any censure that may be passed on the Rockwood buildings than in the eulogiums pronounced on them by the American Journal of Insanity, (page 240 of the XIX vol.), the highest authority among periodicals on the subject on this continent. All that the Inspectors have had to do with the work has been to render the cost of those buildings (costly in their nature) as little as possible, and, on that point, they have saved on a single item several thousand dollars, by a well-timed and well-directed alteration in the specifications of materials.

As, therefore, the Inspectors have only acted in obedience to the laws, and the orders of their superiors in this affair, it is only just and proper that the Mercury should restore to the credit side of our balance sheet (for the year mentioned) that sum of $35,050 90 which has been so unmercifully cut off by him be transferred to the debit side.

It is with such statements, and something added to them, compared with exaggerated deficits for our Penitentiary, that our detractors are arguing against the present Prison Board. If it was only an error it could be pardoned very easily; but what must one think of men like the writers of the Mercury, for instance, who, after having been shewn the exact truth, after having seen clearly the untruthfulness of their former statements, still repeat them, and continue, notwithstanding, precisely the same arguments for week after week ? I leave it to the conscience of honest people to frame the answer.

The same writer of the Mercury, feeling, after all, the weakness of such arguments, has tried to operate a diversion by accusing us of what he calls cooking accounts, by this is meant attempting to make people believe that the Provincial Penitentiary defrays its expenses out of convict labor, which is exactly the reverse of all we have thought and said on the question. In order to induce his readers to give credit to his assertion, he tries to bring the Board in contradiction with the Auditor General’s accounts, by contrasting the administrative expose of the worth of the labor performed at the Public Works, entrusted to the authorities of the Penitentiary, and the balance-sheet published in the Public Accounts; without reflecting that the said balance-sheet is exactly the same as the one published in the very same report of the Board, which he quotes.

Those two pieces of information given by the Inspectors, in the same report (1862), at pages 21 and 183 of the French, 21 and 184 of the English copy, are simply the completion of one another. The first shows how many days of labor have been employed on public works, and the value of such labor, besides the number of days of labor on contracts, for which cash has been received. The second is the simple summary of cash transactions, in account current with the Province.

The administrative expose of page 21 is as fair and as candid as can be; the balance-sheet of page 184 is also perfectly correct, so correct that the Auditor General has published it, in the second part of the Public Accounts, page 92, with the simple alteration of changing the place of one item, on the same side.
The British American discusses the prices of 40 cents and 50 cents a day, affixed to the labor of our best working convicts, and, to show that we are not justifiable in making it so high, he says:—

“The highest contract price for convicts in the Penitentiary, that we heard of, is 35 cents per day.”

The only thing I can say is, that any one attempting to discuss such questions with the knowledge of what he has heard of, must necessarily commit many blunders, as we have already proved to be the case with the British American. For his information, then, we convey the intelligence that there have been at the Penitentiary several contracts at 40c, one at 45c, one at 50c. and one at 54 cents.

Let us now cast a look on the question of receipts and expenditure, beginning with the latter, in order to know whether there is or is not lavishness and gross mismanagement, as alleged by our detractors.

To facilitate the examination, it is necessary to classify the expenditure under different heads, namely: 1st, salaries; 2nd, provisions; 3rd, clothing and bedding; 4th, fuel and light; 5th, building and repairs; 6th, miscellaneous, which includes, as well understood, a variety of small items not comprised in any of the others.

It is well to explain, at first, that the Inspectors have no control whatever over the salaries; that they have scarcely any control over the supply contracts, which are given out by public advertisement; that, in fact, with very little exception, the responsibility of the Board is confined to the surveillance of the proper usage and consumption of articles.

It would be altogether too long to enter into a full discussion of the multifarious questions connected with feeding and clothing prisoners, and in warming, lighting and otherwise providing such institutions as penitentiaries, and to consider all that in relation with the climate, situation and habits of the people. The simplest way of dealing with the question will be to show, by figures taken from the proper sources, that, notwithstanding many disadvantages, the Provincial Penitentiary occupies a distinguished rank amongst institutions of the same nature; for I suppose that our adversaries do not mean to say that all penitentiaries are illmanaged, and that they ought to be appointed Inspectors of all of them.

I have no complete series of reports of the American prisons, so I make use of the most recent in my possession, giving, of course, the year and the mean annual population: that mean is established, for all in the same way, by adding the numbers at the beginning and end of the year and dividing by two.

The Provincial Penitentiary is the only one in which lunatics of different kinds are kept, fed, &c, &c. It has been the case for several years at Kingston. All the male lunatics of the so-called criminal asylum of Rockwood have been maintained out of the Penitentiary stores; it was only during the year 1862 that, a part of the new buildings at Rockwood having been temporarily tied up, the crowding of the insane ward at the Penitentiary was a little relieved. I give this information to explain to the reader that in the mean population of the Provincial Penitentiary, for 1862, are included 44 male lunatics, who, while they give no work, being added to the number of consumers, must necessarily be counted with them. This is a very important element in the calculation, which has been completely, overlooked by sundry writers on the subject the more so that, for several years past, the mean number of male lunatics so kept to the cost of the Penitentiary has been over sixty.”

– Letter of Mr. J. C. Taché, The Board of Inspectors of Asylums, Prisons and Hospitals and ITS ACCUSERS. Reprinted from the ‘Morning Chronicle.’ Quebec, 1864. p. 8-13.

Read Full Post »

Remembering #KimberlyRogers, found dead Aug. 11th, 2001, in her 3rd-floor-attic apartment in Sudbury, Ontario, during a heat wave, 8 months pregnant, and under house arrest.

This is part of her story:

► In April 2001 Kimberly Rogers was convicted of welfare fraud for receiving $13,648.31 in student loans while collecting social assistance.

► The money helped pay for 4 years of community college. (She earned her diploma in social services in April 2000.)

► After her conviction, she was automatically suspended from receiving Ontario Works benefits for 3 months.

The #Penalty was harsh:
→ 6 months under house arrest
→ allowed out of her hot 3rd floor apartment only 3 hours a week
→ expected to repay $13,648.31
→ 18 months probation
→ loss of the right to have part of her student loan forgiven
→ no income at all for 3 months.

On May 14, 2001 Kimberly Rogers launched an important case under the Charter of Rights that challenged the constitutional validity of Ontario Works regulations that suspended benefits after a conviction of welfare fraud.

The grounds for the #CharterChallenge were:
→ Cruel and unusual punishment
→ Charter infractions
→ Violation of Canada’s international covenants

• On May 31st Justice Epstein granted a temporary injunction reinstating her benefits (pending the appeal).

• Even after her benefits were reinstated Kimberly Rogers did not have enough money to support herself and her unborn child.

• Her Ontario Works Benefits were $468.00 / mo. (after the deduction to repay the overpayment was deducted from her $520 monthly benefits – the maximum benefit for a single OW recipient.)

• $18.00 a month left to purchase food, pay utilities, transportation, telephone, and everything else, after $450.00 Rent

• Alone, pregnant with no money. Is starvation a suitable penalty for any crime?

This #Tragedy didn’t have to happen. We need to ask:

• Why are social assistance rates so low that people cannot feed, clothe and otherwise support themselves and their children?

• Why is it so difficult for poor people to attend post-secondary education?

• Why has the number of homeless people increased so dramatically?

• Why do so many people – including students – need to use food banks?

• Why are we making criminals out of people who are desperately trying to get by on inadequate benefits? #CriminalizationOfPoverty

The #InquestJury made 21 recommendations, including:

1. end to both the temporary and lifetime welfare bans

2. amend the Act to allow Local Ontario Works Administrator to exercise discretion

3. ensure that adequate housing, food and/or medications is provided to the person serving a sentence under house arrest

4. assessment of the adequacy of all social assistance rates – allowances for housing and basic needs should be based on actual costs within a particular community or region

The City of North Bay was the first municipality in Ontario to pass a resolution on January 2000 to petition the Ontario Government to withdraw the Welfare Ban policy as “harsh and unfair treatment of citizens of this province”.

– shared from Facebook post by

Barbara Anello, August 10, 2018 

Read Full Post »

“To this very moment I have endured with a good deal of patience those
aspersions, and I would have probably continued to despise those vituperations,
had I been alone concerned in the matter; but, as others are involved
in them, as my family has a right that I should defend for them my position as a functionary, and, moreover, as the authority of our Board is suffering and may suffer still more from the tactics adopted against us by those papers, I thought it my duty to cease being silent.

Let it be well understood, however, that my intention is not to battle with our accusers for any length of time ; I intend simply to show, in as few words as possible, once for all, the fallacy of their arguments and the total inaccuracy of their statements.

To answer seriatim to the numerous columns written against the Inspectors by the above designated writers, would require a volume.
Fortunately there is no necessity for such labour to show the animus
of those writings, and to upset the whole fabric of their indictment against
the Board.

To bring, first, some order in writings in which there is none, let us make an abstract of all the accusations referred to.

We are accused, in one place, of culpable negligence or incapacity, in another place of incompetency or something worse; here we are taxed of
ignorance
, there of want of vigilance, elsewhere of extravagance and folly. A
little further we are accused of lavishness in the expenditure, of a want of
watchfulness and of unbecoming familiarity with the convicts during our visits.

They complain that our reports do not contain all the detailed information
desirable, and that they are not distributed in sufficient number and in good time ; that the Inspectors have created new offices at the Penitentiary, have appointed a greater number of guards than that fixed by law, and have
increased the salaries of those same guards to a collective amount—asserted
to be $11,070 in one article, and $6,720 in another—in the face, too, of the laws and the statutes provided in the case : and, at last, comes the accusation, which is not the least grave, of having erected, at Rockwood, an immense and costly building, without necessity and without authority.

…A comparison is drawn between the Provincial Penitentiary and the
,; State prisons" of the State of New York, which, by the bye, are represented as being a source of great profit to their State; hence is assumed the bad management of our own Penitentiary.

After the comparison between the Penitentiaries’ of New York and the Penitentiary of Canada, comes an alarming comparison between the Inspectors
and Messrs. Brown and Bristow—or rather Bristow and Brown,
according to the order of names in the Mercury, whose writer in the premises
is supposed to be a man interested in that very question of precedence.—
Messrs. Bristow and Brown, then, are said to have effected wonderful improvements in the internal and external economy of our Penitentiary;
improvements which had never been dreamed of before, and which, unfortunately,
have only lasted just the space of time during which Messrs. Brown and Bristow—pardon—Bristow and Brown remained Inspectors of
the above-mentioned, and, ever since, very badly managed institution. “Verily ye are wise, and wisdom will die with you!”

From all that is drawn, as an unavoidable consequence, purely on public
grounds, …that the situations of the Inspectors are wanted by somebody else
!
To attain such a desirable end, the writers sometimes seem to recommend
a rigid enquiry, the sole object of which, according to the Mercury, should
be—without begging the question—to answer simply to the following query: —" Why have the Prison Inspectors failed to secure profitable" employment of Penitentiary labor, and the proper efficiency of the Penitentiary officers?“ But sometimes, however, (merely for economy and expedition,)
they appear to be of opinion that a change may be resorted to with-out the enquiry. The British American intimates, in its number of the 9th November : —"They (our friends) call aloud for a change in the managing
” board, and the Government are looked to to effect it.“

I have no inclination, in the least, to answer to the accusations of
ignorance, laziness, and others of the same description; but there is amongst
them one passage that I cannot allow to go unnoticed; it is the one in which
the British American declares the Inspectors guilty of incompetence, or something worse. I really do not understand what the writer wishes to convey by that mysterious expression, unless I put it in conjunction with a sentence escaped from the pen of his confrere of the Mercury, in which a job is spoken
of in relation with the Rockwood buildings, and interpret those expressions
as an insinuation that the Inspectors might have some pecuniary interests in the Penitentiary transactions. If that is the meaning, I would not have terms strong enough to denounce such a vile calumny, nor scorn adequate to the baseness of those who could fabricate such an unplausible
suspicion; because I look at the cornmission’of such villainy as absolutely
impossible for the Inspectors; unless, indeed, you suppose, at the same time, a profound degradation in them, in the Warden and officers, and in the dealers with the institution. No money nor bills pass through the hands of the
Inspectors, and they are no party to any contract ; the law says : ”The
Inspectors shall have no executive power* * * All purchases and contracts shall be entered into, conducted and executed by and in the name of the Warden.“

Now about the familiarities with the convicts. This accusation is nothing more than gossip, the source of which is very well known to the
Inspectors, and constitutes one of the annoyances from which Penitentiaries
are less exempt than any other establishments in the world. The fact is that Inspectors have with the prisoners no other conversation than those of strict duty or charity. Very often the only means in their possession of knowing
what is going on is by interrogating the convicts. Let us suppose the case
of an irregularity on the part of an employe of the institution, committed
before the convicts alone, (which is ordinarily the case); a case of brutality, an unjust report, an unbecoming demeanor, whatever you please, and let us suppose a constant repetition.of such acts detrimental to the discipline and
ultimate aim of the institution : Who is there to give us information, if it is not one or more of the convicts ? * * * Does any one believe that
the guilty party will ? * * * Certainly such evidence is to be received with a great deal of caution, and acted upon only with a great deal of
discretion, and only when corroborated; but Inspectors that would not
search for such information will learn but little of things that it is their duty
to enquire about. This fact is well known to writers on the subject of
prison discipline.

On that score, no matter what the gossip and who the gossipers, the Inspectors regret only one thing : it is that they cannot have more time to speak with the convicts ; whether those conversations have for their object some soothing words of consolation, some kind reprimand, some good
advice, some encouragement to do well, or questions in relation to what
is going on in the institution. * * * If we were not to understand the
necessity of such a coarse, we should be deficient in those qualities of heart and mind absolutely required for the discharge of the duties of our
office.

The whole accusation of culpable negligence and want of surveillance on
our part is founded on the fact that one of the convicts has succeeded, with
the supposed participation of an officer of the establishment, in coining
counterfeit money; and on that the Mercury exclaims, in his number of the 6th November last: —” It is not simply that crime, requiring time and labor, and more than common facilities for its perpetration, has been
“ committed where it might have been least expected. * * * It is that
"an employe of the institution is implicated, in a manner which establishes "an utter want of discipline, and an absence of that watchfulness on the part of the superior officers without which proper control and management are impossible.”

It is well to remark, at first, that in the supposition, even, ofsome want
of watchfulness at the time, such want could not be attributed to the Inspectors,
who have no executive power to exercise, and do not and cannot undertake the task of daily and hourly surveillance. Secondly, the
counterfeiting, in the way it has been done, in this case, requires neither complicated apparatus, nor great time or great work, nor more than “ com- mon facility.” I have been, for my part, really astonished at the little preparations with which false-coiners can manufacture some of the products
of their abominable industry; but I have been much more astonished at the sentence in which the Mercury expresses the opinion that a Penitentiary
is the very spot from which evil doings are the least expected
.

Now, the fact is that crimes, of a much worse character than the one above spoken of, are constantly committed in penitentiaries through the world every week ; prohibited and dangerous articles are almost daily confiscated in penitentiaries, whether they have been manufactured in shops,
or introduced stealthily from the outside.

It would be a very easy task, indeed, to go abroad and to recite hundreds
of analagous occurrences in foreign institutions; but I prefer to quote a
case justin point, from the annals of our own Penitentiary. The circumstances
took place under the very eyes of Messrs. Bristow and Brown, so it must be conclusive evidence. Messrs. Bristow and Brown were Extraordinary
Commissioners or’ the Provincial Penitentiary, with almost unlimited powers, well paid, and had been and were at the time in session, enquiring about the discipline and affairs of the institution, and giving orders which
were at once and without fail sanctioned by the Government of the day.

It was in the month of November, 1848. Several convicts had been
for a length of time plotting, with the intention of setting fire to the whole
establishment ; setting at naught the watchfulness of guards, overseers,
officers, including the Inspectors and Commissioners Extraordinary. They
had, for a long time, with a deal of labor, and more than common facilities manufactured torches, firepots, containing, amongst other things, tallow and spirit of turpentine, procured candles and matches, cut the hose and
otherwise damaged aud rendered useless the fire engines, penetrated under
the roofs, where they had no business to be, deposited their apparatus,
lighted them, and finally burned to ashes, on the 25th of Nov., the large roof of one of the prison wings, several other parts of the buildings having
previously escaped by happy chances, as was subsequently discovered.

Does all this prove that Messrs. Brown and Bristow are ignorant, lazy or something worse? Not at all. But it proves that watchfulness is not
unfailing, and that the penitentiaries are the very place from which evil doings
are to be most expected
.

If another argument was wanted to establish that with the best of motives and earnestness, there are irregularities and evils which are difficult to prevent, even when they are easily foreseen, again the high authority
of Messrs. Bristow and Brown could furnish it. In their report of 1850, speaking of the constant introduction amongst the convicts of prohibited
articles, they say : —"The Warden and his subordinate officers have used every exertion to put a stop to this improper and injurious practice; but not, we fear, with success. We suggest the propriety of introducing into the new Penitentiary Act a clause, making it penal to bring such articles into the Penitentiary.“ It would have been better to ask for a clause to discover the guilty parties, for there lies the whole difficulty!

Who, then, are to succeed, where Messrs. Brown ana Bristow have signally
failed? But not only are we reproached for not having prevented a convict from imposing upon his guards, but we are also accused of having not
anticipated the supposed culpability of an officer of the institution, and of not having prevented its perpetration. It would be just as reasonable to accuse a Government for the defalcation of an employe, the directors of a bank tor having been robbed by an absconding clerk, a general for the act of a
sentinel leaving his post, or delivering the pass-word to the enemy. Such
reasoning does not realy require any refutation ; it falls to the ground of
itself, to the shame of the utterers.”

– Letter of Mr. J. C. Taché, The Board of Inspectors of Asylums, Prisons and Hospitals and ITS ACCUSERS. Reprinted from the ‘Morning Chronicle.’ Quebec, 1864. p. 4-7.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »