Posts Tagged ‘forced labour’

“In keeping with these developments, probationers have been subject  to a growing range of penal controls. During the 1950s, probation involved the offender occasionally meeting with, and reporting to, his or her probation officer, and being bound by the general conditions of probation orders, as well as, no doubt, being subject to a variety of informal local controls. Today, however, many probationers, in addition to the purview and surveillance of a probation officer, and through the more specific and specialized community-correctional conditions of probation orders, encounter members of the Salvation Army and John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies, as well as the numerous church, business, native, and other community groups and volunteers charged with penal processing. It is difficult to conceive that the growth of the Ministry of Correctional Services’ community satellites has not entailed the evolution of increasingly pervasive models of penal control.
Ominous tendencies are…evident in the case of community service orders. They, too, increase the range and intensity of formal conditions of probation. Yet the program has ideological appeal across the political spectrum. Within corrections, it enjoys the support of judges, correctional officials, and numerous private-sector groups who have become involved in the provision of community-service-order programs in Ontario. Much of the appeal of community service orders derives from their perceived reparative effects. But, as Axon has observed in her study of community service orders in Canada, what Community [Service] is, in fact, is unpaid work done by the offender in the community. Whether or not this unpaid labour constitutes reparation is another matter entirely.’

The appeal of community service orders – as with community corrections more generally – also derives from their emphasis on community. As Stanley Cohen has observed, the word ‘community’ is not only ‘rich in symbolic power, but it lacks any negative connotations.’ Different, competing, and even contradictory assumptions can be brought together under the ambiguous concept of community. Leaving aside the problematic issue of how ‘community’ should be define, the extent to which offenders are members of the community that benefits from their own unpaid labour is doubtful. Studies of community service orders in Ontario, and in Canada more generally, suggest that those subject to the program are often young, unemployed males, who are first-time offenders, do not belong to clubs or organizations, and have had ‘poor education with few prospects of obtaining anything but ‘dead end’ jobs” (Axon). What would be the benefit to these offenders, it seems, are better opportunities to become members of the community’s paid labour force, rather than being subjected to forced labour.

At the same time, one segment of the wider community has clearly benefited from, and been remunerated through, community service orders: private-sector groups have derived financial as well as ideological benefits from the development of programs. They pressured the Ministry of Correctional Services to develop community-service-order programs and to make contracts with them for operating the programs. Following from this, community service orders have more to provide jobs for those affiliated with the John Howard Society, the Elizabeth Fry Society, the Salvation Army, and other groups, than for offenders. In the process, the incomes of these groups increased. They and their quasi-civil service staff benefited from the perception that community service orders ‘helped humanize the correctional system while providing them with worthwhile jobs (Menzies). In a variety of ways, and similarly to the situation of community-service-order programs elsewhere, ‘in reality, the service which the offender gives is not to an abstract ‘community’ but rather to those agencies and individuals who are willing to be involved with offenders’. (Axon) Overall, community service orders strengthen the net of penal control not only by formally extending probation conditions, but also in expanding the range of non-state agencies becoming involved in – an financially dependent on – the exercise of control.”

– Maeve W. McMahon, The Persistent Prison? Rethinking Decarceration and Penal Reform. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992. pp. 120-122.

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“On referring to the report of the Montreal Jail, it will be seen that the continued increase in the commitments forms a lamentable feature in it. In 1861 the commitments were 3,436; and in 1862, 3,974; an increase of 538, or 15.6 per cent. The same remark which is applied to Toronto is equally true of Montreal. There is a jail population in the latter city, as in the former, which circulates through the streets to the city courts, and from the city courts to the City prison, where it sojourns for a specified number of days, to issue again from the gates and make the usual circuit.of the streets and courts as before. Of the 3,974 committed, 1,526 were persons recommitted.

There has no record been kept here, unfortunately, of the re-commitments of the same person, except for 1862. I cannot, therefore, go back upon previous years, as I have been able to do with respect to the corresponding class in Toronto; but I have taken from the books a list of 649 individuals of those’recommitted during last year.

Those 649 persons had been consequently 2,146 times before the courts in 186 The keeper of the jail, Mr. McGinn, and his assistant, Mr. Laurie, were also kind enough to go over the books with me, and point out tome a list of 75 of the most notorious inhabitants of the prison, giving me the length of time for:which they have been regular frequenters of it, and the number of days generally intervening between their discharge and their re-commitment. Although those officer communicated the facts from memory only, there is not the slightest doubt of their general accuracy.

I confess that – until my duties led me to inquire into and reflect upon the state of crime, as shown by the Common Jail Returns – I had no idea of such results; and I only fear that I will fail in conveying to the minds of others the convictions now impressed upon my own with such force as to induce remedy. Truly do the officers of the prison, who are brought daily and hourly into contact with this moving mass of, crime, declare that prison reform is not to be looked for, so long as the remedy is not applied at its source. The present state of the law, and the custom of the Police and Recorder’s Courts, actually tend to foster crime, and to train up families of criminals to, the second and third generations, in the practice of their profession.

l order to show how the present system acts, I may give a few instances, as related by Mr. McGinn and his deputy, whose known reputation for accuracy and truth places the facts beyond a question.

Mary R., wife of Michael R., was committed, with a child at her breast, as a loose and disorderly person by the Recorder, on the 27th October last, for one month. When in prison she was visited by her husband and a son of about eleven years of age. On the 27th November she was discharged. On the following day, the whole family husband, wife, son and infant – were committed as vagrants, on their own confession, by the Recorder, for another month. On the 28th December they were discharged, and on the 12th January last they were all again re-committed.

John D. was first committed for larceny in 1840, and, frequently afterwards. After a few re-commitments of himself, his wife was committed along with him, having a child in her arms. D. at last was sent to the Penitentiary, and the wife made the jail her home by means of the short commitment system. The child became prostitute at eleven years of age, and the time that she is not now on the streets, she is in the prison.

J. D. and his family were committed as vagrants about eighteen years ago. Two daughters, being then more children, were reared up in jail.’ The parents are now dead, but the girls became prostitutes at thirteen years of age, and are still frequenters of the prison. One of them ‘has now a bastard in her arms, to be trained up in the same steps in which the grand-mother and mother had walked.

John F. became a vagrant about fifteen years ago; and his son has been reared principally in jail. He turned out an expert thief and is now in the Reformatory.

Thomas M. and Pierre L. became inmates of the jail, and had also each a son, who after training in jail, are now in the Reformatory.

In 1848, J. C. was sent to the Penitentiary, after being a regular inmate of the Montreal Jail for some years before. His Montreal Jail life was shared also by his wife and three children. The mother and two children left Montreal soon after the father had been sent to Kingston, but the oldest girl, about eleven years of age, was already a prostitute, and remained.

J. T., senr., was sent to the Penitentiary in September last, after being an inmate of the jail for some time. His son, 15 years old, was sent five years to the Reformatory, and his wife was sent five times to jail during the last year. There are two other children of. whom the oldest is eight years. They will, in all likelihood, follow in their parents’ stops.

Instances might be multiplied to any extent of the efficiency of the Montreal Jail as an academy for crime. A very considerable number of the criminals now about the city, as well as many in the Penitentiary, have spent terms of imprisonment in this jail, before they reached 12 years of age, some of them at first with one or both parents. At the present moment, there are about a dozen children in the prison with their mothers, who, ten years after this, will be thieves and prostitutes on the streets of the city. They will have acquired – all their education, at the government expense, in the school for crime established in this province.

What is the remedy for all this? The first step, undoubtedly, is to put an end to short commitments. If offenders make it clear, by their frequent appearance before a court, that they cannot keep out of jail, the law ought to take them according to their acts, and make a previous sentence a portion of the fresh crime, increasing the imprisonment every time to adults, and in the case of boys sending them to the Reformatory before a second crime is committed. It is not to be wondered at that the expense of the administration of justice reaches the figure which the public accounts exhibit from year to year. I have shewn from the books at Montreal, that 649 worthless vagrants have been tried 2146 times! These re-commitients proceed from the Recorder’s and the Police Courts, and if we reckon the expense of the police, the witnesses and the clerks, and assume them at the moderate rate of $5 for each arrest and trial, we have the sum of $16,560 expended in producing crime, instead of repressing it!

In connexion with the repression and punishment of crime is the employment of the prisoners in the common jails; and it is a question of no small importance to the public.

Under present circumstances, it may be said that the employment of male prisoners is next to nothing. At times, when the corporation of Toronto feels inclined to purchase broken stone from the jail, the prisoners are set to work, and so with respect to Montreal. At this moment, however, there have been about 3000 loads of stone in, the yard at the latter city for some time, which the corporation will not purchase, for some reason or another, as it has been suggested, connected with the letting of contracts by the Road Committee.

The females in the Toronto Jail are employed in sewing to an unlimited extent, and at Montreal they are also engaged in picking oakum. The total amount earned from all sources is stated at $500 for Toronto, and $850 for Montreal.

The county jails afford no employments any description for either males or females, with the exception of sawing wood for the stove; and the small towns in which they are situated seem to be as careful not to encourage work being-done in them, as tie corporations of the larger cities. The town council of Guelph, for instance, was offered the lab or of the prisoners at that jail in breaking stone, if they would pay for the transport’ it to and from the prison yard; but they have not yet acted upon the offer.

In a young country like Canada, where labor is of so much value and where the taxes are paid entirely by a class which does labor, it becomes a question of some moment to consider what is to be done with the mass of idleness which is housed, fed and clothed in our prisons. Setting aside the cases of first commitments, in which the sentences may probably be for short periods of imprisonment, and consequently beyond the reach of regular systematizing, there must be; according to my computation, from 1200 to 1500 vagrants and petty depredators, who come and go from the jails as from their home. and, it is to this class that, I think, the attention of the authorities ought to be at once directed. One would think, as all reason would suggest, that an evil so palpable, and of daily occurrence to so great an extent, in every part of the Province,would have forced itself upon the consideration of intelligent men, and compelled a remedy. On the contrary, however,the legislation of Parliament, and the practice of courts of justice have been directly exercised for producing and nursing it. For the class of habitués,the idea of a jail, instead of presenting an aspect of terror or discomfort, offers them one of a pleasing absence of work, and a certainty of warm lodgings, with abundant food. Every now and then, a paragraph may be seen to the effect, that parties named applied the Court to be committed to prison,and it is of frequent occurrence at the Montreal Jail that the vagrants are entrusted with, and alone carry to the prison, .in their own arms, the warrants under which they are committed.

The first stop, it appears obvious, that should be taken, is to make every recommittal itself a crime, as in Scotland it is a crime to be habit and repute thief. Even under the present system, this would afford relief, first, to the public, who suffer from the depredations of this class of offenders; 2nd, to the police force of the cities and-towns which they frequent, affording to the officers, more time for the duty of protecting the peace and preventing offences on their regular beats; besides diminishing the cause.of complaint. now so frequently brought against the police, that they are never to be found when wanted; 3rd, to the inferior Courts, the principal expense of which is rendered necessary by perpetually having to try the cases in which the class referred to are parties.

The next step is, to set these culprits to some description of work, by which the expenses they have thrown upon society may be lessened, if not reimbursed. This may be done, it appears to me, in two ways: either by the establishment of Central Jails (as already recommended by the Board of Inspectors and favorably entertained by the. late Administration), in which their labor may be systematised and rendered productive; or by employing them in the construction of public works.

The system of central jails could be the soonest established, as there are now jails nearly completed well adapted for the purpose. It would also be attended with less expense for supervision and security against escape than the other. But it would have this disadvantage, that only a few descriptions of occupations could be carried on within them, and a considerable time would necessarily elapse before expertness could be looked for, or consequent, profit.

In a central jails, trades might be carried on, in which males and females could be em ployed, as is now exemplified in tho Penitentiary. And with respect to females, especially I seec no reason why they should not be set to work by the Government, in making up clothing for the Volunteers and Militia, of whom there is every prospect now of there being a standing force in the country. It is only the other day that contracts were given out by the Government for 10,000 pairs of trousers for the Provincial troops, the expense of making which might have been readily saved to the public by collecting the females now scattered through the various prisons into one central jail, and giving them that work to do.

The other mode of employing male prisoners – that of constructing public works –  might be attended with ,perhaps, more expense, but, as I view it, with more direct and visible profit to, the community. From the nature of forced labor and-especially that’ criminals, it can be most advantageously carried on, both in respect to its efficiency, and the expenses of supervision, where a good deal is required within a small space. In the construction of harbors, in the building of locks, or in the excavation of heavy cuts, where a large number of hands can be kept under the eyes of a few overseers or guards, such labor can be employed to advantage.

The public have now to employ policemen to watch, to track, and to arrest them, jailers and turnkeys to guard them, and, under any circumstances, to house, to feed and to clothe them. What more would the Govérnment have to do for them, if it compelled them to do some labor in return? Nothing that I can see.

The whole Canadian shore of Lake Erie is destitute of harbours, to which the storm surprised commerce on its waters can flee for refuge: why not set to work a sufficient gang of the able-bodied men now wasting their own lives, and the hard-earned money of fhe industrious classes in the prisons, and keep them at work until, at every favorable point a harbour of refuge is constructed?

…I cannot bring myself to think that it is right that the criminal portion of the population should be the only one not only exempted from exertions, but supported in plenty at the public expense when the country requires the labor of every available man for opening up and improving its communications.”

–  Inspector James Moir Ferres, “SEPARATE REPORT for the year 1862,” from Annual Report of the Board of Inspectors of Asylums, Prisons &c for the year 1862. Sessional Papers of the Province of Canada, Sessional Papers No. 66, 26 Victoria, A. 1863.

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“We have no doubt, but that the habits of order to which the
prisoner is subjected for several years, influence very considerably
his moral conduct after his return to society.

The necessity of labour which overcomes his disposition to
idleness; the obligation of silence which makes him reflect; the
isolation which places him alone in presence of his crime and his
suffering; the religious instruction which enlightens and comforts
him; the obedience of every moment to inflexible rules; the
regularity of a uniform life; in a word, all the circumstances
belonging to this severe system, are calculated to produce a deep
impression upon his mind.

Perhaps, leaving the prison he is not an honest man; but he has
contracted honest habits. He was an idler; now he knows how to work.
His ignorance prevented him from pursuing a useful occupation; now he
knows how to read and to write; and the trade which he has learnt in
the prison, furnishes him the means of existence which formerly he
had not. Without loving virtue, he may detest the crime of which he
has suffered the cruel consequences; and if he is not more virtuous
he has become at least more judicious; his morality is not honour,
but interest. His religious faith is perhaps neither lively nor deep;
but even supposing that religion has not touched his heart, his mind
has contracted habits of order, and he possesses rules for his
conduct in life; without having a powerful religious conviction, he
has acquired a taste for moral principles which religion affords;
finally, if he has not become in truth better, he is at all their
vices, much in common with ourselves; but they never are redeemed by
laxity; on the contrary, they are hardened by it. Few, very few cases
indeed, ought to be excepted, viz. those in which neither jury nor
judge could help condemning according to the positive law, but in
which, nevertheless, a number of circumstances render the law for
this individual instance unjust; case which no human wisdom can
entirely prevent….if he has not become in truth better, he is at
least more obedient to the laws, and that is all which society has
the right to demand.”

–  Gustave de Beaumont & Alexis de Toqueville, On The Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France. Translated by Francis Lieber. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchford, 1833. p. 56.

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Thomas Fulljames, Architect & County Surveyor, Gloucester, “Elevations and Section of the Treadmill in the Penitentiary House of Gloucester County Prison,” from the Appendix to Evidence Before Select Committee on Gaols and Houses of Correction. Ordered by the House of Commons to be Printed July 28, 1835. James & Luke Hansard & Sons, Printers.

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