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“Guards Use Tear Gas: Reformatory Riot Follows Open House,” The Globe and Mail. September 25, 1962. Pages 01 & 12.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Guelph, Sept. 24 – The first open house in history at the Ontario Reformatory here last weekend affected about 30 inmates today – they rioted.

Superintendent Charles Sanderson said some disturbance usually follows any unusual program, such as the open house that attracted more than 10,000 persons to the institution.

The prisoners were subdued within 15 minutes after guards pumped large quantities of tear gas into the dining room. There was considerable damage, but no injuries were reported.

Mr. Sanderson said the prisoners did not attempt to leave the dining room, but smashed crockery and windows. They were removed to a prison yard after the outbreak and more than 350 inmates eating in an adjoining room were also removed for safety.

There had been a couple of incidents in the dormitories during the weekend that led him to expect trouble, the superintendent said, ‘but I didn’t expect anything as serious as this.’

About 30 inmates overturned and broke about 25 windows Saturday night and there were a couple of fights between prisoners, Mr. Sanderson said. One guard received a broken nose attempting to break up one fight.

‘Their fun involves vandalism,’ the superintendent added.

About 15 men involved in the dormitory disturbances were today transferred to the maximum security at Millbrook.

The men in the large dining room were brought back into the building just before 5 p.m. They had been confined in a prison yard since noon.

About 250 men who were in the small dining room remained in another room.

Mr. Sanderson said the 250 inmates of the reformatory will spend the night in the prison yard and will not be given any food until morning.

‘It is unfortunate that we have to leave all the men out because we are not yet sure who all the troublemakers are,’ he said.

The staff at the reformatory was doubled in strength tonight with about 80 men on duty. Guards are watching from rooftops and other locations with tear-gas guns ready.

Mr. Sanderson said that it was the prompt use of the tear gas that prevented the trouble from becoming more serious.

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“A New Home for Tough Guys,” The Globe Magazine. August 30, 1958. Cover and pages 03-05.

Millbrook has a bad name, and its officials are just delighted

…a big bit is preffered

By DAVID MacDONALD

It was a sunny morning in June, the traditional time for graduations. In a rambling red-brick building overlooking the Ontario village of Millbrook – a building with the glass, tile and pastel decor of a modern high school – superintendent Hartley Paterson shuffled a sheaf of papers and glanced up at the youth who stood before him.

‘You’ve done well here,’ he said. The compliment was acknowledged with a quiet smile. ‘So you’re going to have the honor of becoming Millbrook’s first graduate. Tomorrow we’re sending you to Burwash. Congratulations.’

Though the prospect of going to the provincial prison farm at Burwash is normally not cause for rejoicing, the youth in faded blue denims broke into a wide grin and took the superintendent’s outstretched hand. After the months he’d spent behind the towering walls of Millbrook, Ontario’s tough new maximum security reformatory, the chance to serve out the rest of his sentence somewhere else seemed almost as welcome as a parole.

A petty but promising criminal and never a model prisoner, he’d been among the charter inmates of Millbrook when it was opened last September to isolate troublemakers from other reformatories in the province. Some had been released earlier after completing their time – one has since returned for a second stretch  – but this was the first to win a good-behavior transfer.

That same day, a few minutes later, another inmate came before Paterson with a special request. Soon due for release, he wanted to complete the last few days of his term in a regular reformatory. ‘Just having a record is bad enough, he explained with feeling, ‘but a discharge from Millbrook is a worse black eye.’

WITH the men who know penal institutions best – i.e. residents – Millbrook is scarcely the most popular, a fact readily acknowledged by its superintendent. ‘This isn’t the nicest place to do time,’ says Paterson, former governor of Toronto’s DDon Jail,’ and it’s not meant to be.’

What Millbrook is meant to be, what it was specially designed for shortly after an outbreak of rioting at Guelph reformatory in 1952, is a place of stern no-nonsense discipline for the more difficult inmates of other provincial institutions. It differs from most reformatories about as much as Dorchester Penitentiary differs from Disneyland. Unlike the unfenced so-called open institutions – where prisoners usually live in barracks-like dormitories, eat together and enjoy comparative freedom of movement and communication – Millbrook is tough, and a man imprisoned behind its 23-foot wall has a monastic time of it.

The first 16 days of his term there are spent in his closed-in cell, cut off from contact with everyone but his jailers, the reformatory psychologist, chaplain and doctor. His meals are pushed in to him through a small opening in the foot of his cell door and he gets out only for short solitary walks in a small exercise yard.

IF behaves well in quarantine, his life at Millbrook improves slightly. He’s allowed cigarets, visitors, a novel from the prison library and a nightly half-hour period to mingle with the other 25 occupants in his cell block. He also gets to work eight hours a day, scrubbing floors.

In time, he can win other privileges – a thin mattress for his steel bunk, newspapers, mail, movies, sports in the yard, a job making license plates, hobby periods or high-school correspondence classes. At Millbrook, a prisoner has no privileges but those he earned by good behavior. He can lose any or all of them easily – by sassing a guard, loafing at his job, or even swearing at another inmate – and he also runs the risk of solitary confinement ‘behind the little green door’ or, for really serious offences, the strap.

At a time when the trend in penology is clearly toward open institutions for treating criminal offenders rather than merely punishin them, the $3,500,000 stronghold at Millbrook has been criticized for its iron discipline, steel bars, brick walls and bullet-proof glass. As one authority in the field of corrections put it recently, ‘How are you going to prepare a man for the outside world by keeping him in a cage?’

THEN is Millbrook, for all its modern custodial trappings, an anachronism? Far from it, asserts Ontario’s deputy minister of reform institutions, Hedley Basher. You can’t have effective minimum security,’ he says, ‘without maximum security to back it up. Just the fact that there is a place like Millbrook has greatly improved discipline in our other reformatories. Maybe it’s largely a fear of the unknown. At any rate, with the troublemakers moved to Millbrook, we’ve already been able to disarm the guard at Guelph and Burwash and we expect to do a great deal more there in the way of corrective treatment and rehabilitation.’ 

If most reformatory inmates stay in line, and out of Millbrook, what about the others who don’t? There are 125 of them at Millbrook now, in three categories. The first is made up of stars, a misleading term for problem prisoners. Most of these are younger men, in their late teens and early twenties, who have already done time before. Group Two is made up of 25 sex deviates. Not rated as security risks or troublemakers – though sex offenders can disrupt normal prison life – they’re confined to Millbrook chiefly for lack of a better place to keep them. Group Three includes 40 drug addicts.

The youngest convict at Millbrook is a baby-faced 17-year-old who knifed a guard at Guelph, the oldest a sex offender of 61. Most inmates have little education but there are some striking exceptions – a dope-addicted doctor and two high-school teachers, both in for sex crimes.

IT’S worth noting that the star prisoners – the troublemakers – cause little trouble at Millbrook, if only because they get little opportunity. Says Paterson: ‘Most of them come here with that hostile spit-in-your-eye attitude. But after a couple of weeks in their cells, with nothing much to do but think, they usually simmer down.’ One reason for this, the superintendent thinks, is the incentive system of privileges. ‘They soon realize that the kind of life they lead here is entirely up to them. If they behave, it gets progressively easier. If not, they can do hard time. The choice is as simple as that.’

Another reason is advanced by Douglas Penfold, a psychologist with the Department of Reform Institutions who spends most of his time at Millbrook. ‘A lot of these men just can’t seem to adjust to group living in an open institution,’ he says. ‘Here they get lots of time to themselves, away from the influence and distractions of other inmates, and they have a better chance to start thinking seriously about their problems and their future. I’d say the attitude of at least 25 per cent of our so-called disturbers had undergone a distinct change for the better.’

While Millbrook may never set any records for turning out model citizens – since its clients are judged to be the worst of a pretty bad lot – an attempt is being made there to reform them. As well as up-to-date medical and dental clinics, two psychologists, a psychiatrist and a case-worker from the John Howard after-care agency are on hand to help prisoners get at the causes of their criminal behavior and fix on some way of overcoming them.

AFTER careful screening and preliminary treatment at Millbrook, many Group Three prisoners have been sent on the provincial clinic for addicts at Mimico. In addition, one Millbrook psychologist, Gordon Johnson, has recently been working at the forensic clinic of the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital, preparing a rehabilitation program for the reformatory’s sex offenders.

Perhaps the most significant development at Millbrook is the fact that its star prisoners will soon be introduced to group counselling, a form of psychotherapy that has proved highly successful in some of the world’s most advanced penal institutions. Members of the custodial staff, who will act as group leaders, are now attending a series of lectures by psychiatrists and sociologists – on their own time and by their own choice.

All such clinical work has the full approval and support of superintendent Paterson, a breezy 44-year-old onetime Royal Canadian Regiment colonel, and his chief aid, James Rea, a big greying man with 20 years’ experience in prison work.

‘This place could never justify itself,’ Paterson believes, ‘if it was nothing but a lockup for bad actors. True, it’s having a good effect on other reformatories. But we want Millbrook to have some positive value for the men who are here, to help them go straight when they leave. If so, Millbrook could be a big advance in penology in Canada.’

AS for Millbrook’s inmates, its strict discipline and rigid routine affect them in various ways. ‘I guess I’d better behave myself here,’ one prisoner wrote to his wife. ‘They’ve got more strap than I’ve got backside.’ Another, on the eve of his discharge, told Paterson that he’d never, never be back in Millbrook again. ‘Next time,’ he said, ‘I’ll make sure I get a big bit.’ In prison parlance, a big bit is two years or more, a term in a federal penitentiary. Perhaps the most remarkable reaction to Millbrook was expressed not long ago by a 19-year-old star prisoner. He arrived there spouting defiance, paid for it in solitary confinement and wound up meekly asking for vocational guidance and advice from psychologist Doug Penfold. When his behavior had improved so markedly that he was offered a transfer back to an open institution, he astounded all by declining with thanks. ‘I can learn a lot more here and keep out of trouble,’ he said. ‘So I’d like to stay till my time’s up.’

Millbrook officials were secretly delighted at this unlikely testimonial. But they didn’t advertise it. After all, the place just can’t afford to get a good name.

Mr. MacDonald was the author of a recent Globe Magazine article on problems facing the courts

Captions:

1) If he behaves, he’s allowed a mattress, mail, novels, prison company and visitors

2) The design of Millbrook is modern, but the walls that make a prison haven’t changed much over the years; Millbrook’s are 23 feet high

3) The job of making license plates for cars is a privilege, awarded for good conduct

4) Guard Lawrence Wiles keeps watch as one prisoner cuts another’s hair; at Millbrook, an inmate has to win the right of mixing with his fellows.

5) Head man: Superintendent Hartley Paterson; The resident chaplain, Dr. Harold Neal, conducts a service; Deputy Superintendent James Rea

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“Strap Mercer Riot Leaders, Says Official,” Toronto Star. July 19, 1948. Page 01.

Ringleaders in the Mercer reformatory riot were strapped, A. R. Virgin, director of reform institutions, said today. He was commenting on the statement of a woman in police court today that prisoners ‘were beaten black and blue’ and tear gas used.

Asked if this was correct, Mr. Virgin said he was not going to deny or confirm it, but that ‘we do not hesitate to use tear gas whenever we find it necessary.’

There has been no more trouble at Guelph, he added. He said the men are working hard and those kept in the exercise yard and dormitories are punishment for a demonstration agaisnt the food ‘seemed sorry they had caused trouble.’

Lights in the whole of Ontario reformatory were blazing at 11 o’clock last night, but there was no trouble, Mr. Virgin stated. He said lights usually were out at 10 p.m. Passengers on a train that passes near the reformatory said it was unusual to see the lights on at such a late hour.

‘I just got out of the Mercer last Friday,’ the woman, Lillian Johnson, 50, said in police court, when charged with being drunk, ‘and my nerves were shot after the riots.’

After a list of previous drunk convictions was read by the court clerk, Magistrate Elmore imposed sentence of 40 days.

‘You can’t send me back there,’ said the woman. ‘Why didn’t they print the truth about how we were beaten and given tear gas. I wasn’t in the riot, but I saw those girls beaten black and blue.’

A police matron and a court policeman struggled with accused several minutes before removing her to the cells.

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“Bread, Water Is Diet of 310 Guelph Rioters Held In Auditorium,” Toronto Star. July 14, 1948. Page 03.

Special to The Star
Guelph, July 14 – More than one-third of the inmates at the Ontario reformatory are still undergoing dietary punishment today although officials relented somewhat last evening and allowed them to spend the night in the assembly hall, Col. Hedley Basher, superintendent, said today. Monday night the 310 men who refused to work were locked out in an exercise yard without blankets.

‘There was some noise during the night, but things were reasonably quiet,’ Col. Basher said. He could not state when disciplinary measures would be eased. The men are receiving only bread and water.

When spokesmen for the rowdy prisoners sought an audience with reformatory officials late Tuesday they asked to be taken back into the buildings.

Instead of being returned to their dormitories, as some had hoped, the inmates were ordered into the large assembly hall immediately behind the administration offices. Col. Basher spoke to the group and warned them they would be kept on reduced rations, until the last evidence of their hold-out had disappeared.

The superintendent’s statement that all was not perfectly quiet indicated it was likely some hotheads were still trying to buck authority.

‘Youngsters’ Among Leaders
An inmate said the ringleaders were either ‘youngsters’ who acted spontaneously or in a few instances ‘old timers’ who were ‘little more than bums.’

Again today only a few inmates are working. For the most part, they are trustees who are permitted to wander with only loose supervision as they go about the park-like grounds of the institution. Some are clipping hedges. Others are cutting grass and weeding the many flower gardens. Another inmate and an electrician are finishing their task of repairing a lamp standard near the superintendent’s house some 100 yards north of the main buildings.

Those who spent the night in the assembly hall did ‘some singing and shouting,’ it was learned. Again today they were offered only bread for food and water to drink but officials declined to state whether any or all had accepted this diet.

Although the complete day staff of guards was kept on duty throughout Monday night following the disturbance which started at noon that day, a large percentage were permitted to return to their homes last night. All said they were under strict orders not to divulge information concerning condition in the institution.

Won’t Discuss Outbreak
Storekeepers in the area of the reformatory proved equally close-lipped since they did not want to cast suspicion on their customers, among whom are many guards.

Hon. George Dunbar, minister of reform institutions said, ‘Many persons forget that the type of person we get in the institutions does not take kindly to discipline. We intend to maintain that discipline by such as are necessary. We are not going to have the inmates trying to run the institutions.’

About one year ago the inmates at Burwash farm took over the administration of the reformatory and held possession for several days. Last month women inmates at Mercer Reformatory in Toronto staged one of the worst riots in years when they smashed furniture and beat up policemen and guards who tried to control them.’

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“Ex-Inmate Terms Charge ‘Poppycock,’ Food at Guelph Better Than in Army,” Globe and Mail. July 14, 1948. Page 13.

To one Toronto veteran, who survived two wars and then let John Barleycorn send him down for a one-year stretch at Guelph Reformatory, the sitdown strike there is ‘a lot of poppycock.’

‘I did my time and it represents a chapter in my life I’d like to forget,’ he said last night, ‘but I’ll remember it with some gratitude for it sobered me up.’

The two main grievances of the striking inmates – the food and the weather – he dismissed with a shrug of the shoulder. ‘The weather you cannot control,’ he said. ‘As for the food, it’s better than I can afford to buy on the outside. Our army rations were good as a rule. Those at Guelph are away ahead of the army.’

The strike, he insists, was organized by a few hotheads who bullied their fellow inmates into joining them. They think that, because of the recent trouble at Mercer Reformatory and Burwash Industrial Farm, they should raise a fuss.

‘I remember when the October riot occurred at Burwash,’ he went on, ‘and some of these hotheads at Guelph began to murmur. ‘That’s what we should do here.’ I am a little older than most of them, and I did my best to discourage that talk. But it is easy to understand how the trouble begins.

‘The ringleaders invent an excuse. They are the disgruntled sort who would find something to squawk about if you put them up at the finest hotel free of charge. The others are swayed by both a mistaken sense of loyalty and a fear of being called rats if they don’t fall in line.’

The reformatory has its faults, the veteran conceded. Chief these is its failure to reform. But that’s not an issue in the strike, he commented.

‘My introduction to the reformatory came in March of 1947,’ he said. ‘I was surprised to find that they tried to be decent to the inmates. There is a tendency to lean over backwards in favor of leniency. Now and then you run into guards who are not temperamentally suited for their jobs, but they are soon weeded out.

‘I was also surprised at the quantity and the quality of the food. You are served cafeteria style, with the best of meats and vegetables, and you may ask for more. You receive a tobacco issue every four days. You may have newspapers and magazines, provided they are mailed directly by the publisher. There is a library in each cell block. and dormitory.

‘You may go to Sunday night movies, take part in all sorts of organized sports, and have a shower bath every night if you wish. Every Saturday you receive a complete change of clothing. The inmates may have visitors once a week and on any day except Saturday. The cells and dormitories are always clean. The medical service could not be better. I’ve known the doctor to get up a four in the morning to attend a prisoner who suffered from nothing worse than a slight case of stomach cramps.

‘No man is assigned to heavy outside work unless physically fit. If a driver or a teamster puts in extra time, he is paid with an additional tobacco ration and every night around nine o’clock a fourth meal. Quite often there’s steak on this menu. There is always a waiting list of men wanting outside jobs.’

‘I left Guelph without a grievance, but I plainly observed causes for dissatisfaction. The chief squawk concerns the parole board and the practice of the courts in imposing indeterminate sentences.

‘Some second, third and fourth offenders are sentenced to one year definite and six months indefinite. When they finish the definite term they are eligible for parole. They think the board should let them go, but their past records don’t convince the board.

‘To be reformed, the prisoner does not receive enough individual attention. No matter what the theory is, boys of from 14 to 18 mingle with older offenders. I know these lads from the Ontario training schools have their separate eating and sleeping quarters, but in other respects they are not segregated.

‘Segregation should not be by age, because a prisoner at 18 may be a second or third offender. I met a boy of 20 who was sent to a training school at 10. He was doing his second term in Guelph and in the last 10 years he had practically lived in various institutions.

‘These boys will tell you that the punishment in the training schools is worse than at the reformatory. One confined, ‘After all, it’s not so tough here, and I’m with most of my pals.’ They regard prison life as inevitable.

‘Sex perverts are not segregated and they do not come in for special treatment. It is foolish that these men with twisted mentalities and brutal instincts should mingle with lads who are none too bright. They can be bullied the same way as the majority of inmates were bullied into joining this sitdown strike, blaming the food, and, of all things, the weather.’

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“Constructive Action Required,” Globe and Mail Editorial, July 14, 1948. Page 06.

The second riot at Burwash Industrial Farm in less than a year, following a violent disturbance in the Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women, and now the trouble at Guelph Reformatory, all strongly emphasize the difficulties of administering this type of institution. Obviously, nobody likes being in jail, and there could seldom be noted a general spirit of contentment among the inmates. Nevertheless, experience has shown that conditions in a penal institution are generally poor before mischief-making leadership is able to create trouble. The climax of the outbreak ordinarily comes after a long period of increasing frustration, and represents a degree of desperation. By then, consequences have become insignificant in comparison with the conditions being endured.

The administration of a system of jails and reformatories, therefore, requires a particular sort of person with a high degree of competition. He should be a man who is able to lay down a clear and practical policy, and be certain that it is being carried out. He should be at once stern and kindly; wise in his understanding of human nature, and discerning in his judgement. Above all, he should know his job, and the complex problems of running institutions which are both punitive and reformative, to the end that those who have broken the law will be aware of the penalty, and at the same time desirous of leading a more constructive life upon release.

Despite the disturbances which have taken place recently, we have confidence in the officials of the Department of Reform Institutions, and in their capacity to deal with the situation. Their reputation and experience is substantial, and they are held in respect even by those who have had just cause to be critical of the Ontario prison and reformatory system. Numerous innovations and improvements have been put into effect in many aspects of the system, and the Ontario Plan for reformative institutions has been widely studied.

It is evident, however, that further reforms of a sweeping nature are overdue. Too little attention has been paid to salaries which will attract the right type of person into this important work. There has been an indication that personnel policies are erratic and even unjust. The discipline among prisoners cannot be maintained if morale is not present in the staff. These problems are basically administrative and the public expects the Government to take constructive action before further trouble develops. It is essential that the department’s officials be able to justify the progressive policies they have fostered through their consistent application in all parts of the system.

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“Striking Guelph Inmates Sue for Peace at End of 30-Hour Vigil in Yard,” Globe and Mail, July 14, 1948. Page 01 & 03.

Guelph, July 13 (Special). – After being cooped up in an exercise yard for more than 30 hours on a bread-and-water diet, 311 rebellious inmates at Guelph Reformatory early last night sued for peace and were brought into the assembly hall to spend the night.

The ‘fresh air’ treatment began to have its desired effect during the afternoon when Supt. Hedley Basher was asked to receive spokesmen for the group.

These spokesmen said that practically all of the prisoners involved had changed their minds about not working and promised to behave if the rigid discipline would be relaxed. After considering the matter at length, Supt. Basher ordered the men brought inside and blankets were issued to them.

The punishment diet will be continued for the time being. Its lifting will depend upon the conduct of the group during tonight and the early part of tomorrow.

The men, who comprise slightly more than one-third of the total prison population, refused to go to work after the noon-day meal Monday. While no official protest had been made, some of them shouted: ‘What about the food?’

After the officials talked to the men and insisted they go to work there was a minor demonstration of singing and shouting which was quelled by the use of tear gas. After that there was order and no further demonstration.

Some of the prisoners changed their minds early Monday afternoon, but it was decided to keep them out in the open as a disciplinary measure. They remained there throughout last night without blankets. However, as the weather was warm, none experienced any discomfort other than the fact they had to sleep on concrete.

Pictures taken from the air by a Globe and Mail photographer yesterday showed the men lounging in small groups, while others were standing in the shade of the four three-story walls forming the yard.

Officials were at a loss concerning the remarks about the food. They insisted the food is on par with that served in any other institution on the continent.

At Toronto, Reform Institutions Minister George Dunbar confirmed that the men were kept in the open purely as a disciplinary measure.

‘Many persons forget that the type of person we get in the institutions does not take kindly to discipline,’ he said. ‘We intend to maintain that discipline by such as are necessary. We are not going to have the inmates trying to run the institutions.’

He declared that complaints relating to food were ill-founded. Meat and fresh vegetables prepared by trained cooks are served daily.

He said that about 20 men had caused the trouble by persuading others in the group not to leave for their work in the fields and the workshops.

Image Captions:

Left: Bread and water and lots of fresh air was the treatment accorded 311 prisoners at Guelph Reformatory who refused to work. Here’s an aerial view yesterday afternoon of the rebellious inmates who have been kept in an exercise yard since theyr struck after noon-day meal Monday. Officials decided to keep them there as disciplinary measure. From the air it appeared as if bread had been scattered around in corner of yard.

Right:  One of the more modern reform institutions on the continent, the reformatory at Guelph, where 311 prisoners are on strike, is shown in this overall aerial picture. (1) Administration building. (2) Yard where striking inmates are being detained. (3) Main wing. (4) Recreational field. (5) Power house. (6) Workshops. (7) Abattoir. A few of those who refused to work are said to have complained a bout the food.

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