Posts Tagged ‘guelph reformatory’

“The Central Prison Farm, consisting of about eight hundred and thirty acres, is situated in the Township of Guelph, in the County of Wellington, about two miles east of the City of Guelph. The property, which is capable of magnificent development, is traversed from South to North by the River Speed and its beautiful valley. The Railway facilities are excellent, the Canadian Pacific Railway right through the Farm, and paralleling the River, while the Grand Trunk Railway passes immediately to the North. After an exhaustive examination of a number of properties in different parts of the Province, the purchase of the present site was directed by Order-in-Council, approved by His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor on the 21st of December, 1909.

Qualifications for a Prison Site
In selecting a site most adaptable for a Prison Farm, there were many qualifications which were requisite, namely: good agricultural land; an inexhaustible supply of stone suitable for road and building construction; sand and gravel for building purposes; proximity to the centre of population, so as to minimize as far as possible the cost of transporting prisoners; convenient railway facilities; and a building site which would have good drainage and a plentiful supply of fresh water. While these essentials present a difficult combination, the location selected possesses all the necessary qualifications for an ideal Prison Farm.

The Initial Stages – Temporary Quarters
Possession was taken in April, 1910, when fourteen prisoners and two officers were quartered in one of the farm-houses. As the former owners of the farms moved out and more farmhouses were available, the number of prisoners was increased to fifty. General farm work and land improvement were vigorously carried on, roads were made, swamp-land was drained, and tangled morasses were cleared and converted into garden spots. In the latter part of the following June, the erection of a temporary structure, having accommodation for one hundred and fifty prisoners and a sufficient number of officers, was completed. This structure will be used pending the completion of the permanent building.

Much has already been done in the way of economic improvement and development of the property. To connect the Farm on either side of the River Speed, and as part of the scheme of permanent roadways, a reinforced concrete bridge, designed by the Provincial Engineer of Highways, has been erected by Prison labor. This bridge is one hundred and sixty feet in length and has three arches, a centre one of fifty feet and one of twenty feet on each end. The approaches to the bridge, measuring approximately twelve hundred feet, have been filled in with refuse from the quarries, which was transported by the Farm Railways in dump cars and dumped from a temporary wooden trestle.

Plant and Equipment
About two and a half miles of telephone line have been built for the purpose of connecting the different parts of the Farm with the Central Office. In addition to this, waterworks have been installed for construction and domestic uses, supplying the purest of spring water from a thirteen thousand gallon concrete reservoir to a ten thousand gallon tank, from which it is distributed by gravity to the different points of consumption.

A narrow-gauge railway about two and a half miles in length is in operation, over which dimension and crushed stone and other building materials are hauled to the different building sites.

An orchard of eighteen hundred apple, cherry, pear and plum trees and fifteen hundred small fruits was planted in the Spring of 1911.

As the Prison Farm has superior agricultural land, good pasture on the low lands, the best of water, plenty of shade, and possibilities second to none for producing hay, fodder and root crops, dairy farming will be made a feature of the work, with profit to the Prison Farm and with advantage to the other Provincial Institutions. The dairy herd now consists of over one hundred and twenty-five Holsteins, and a thoroughly modern dairy barn is in course of erection, which, when completed, will provide accommodation for eighty milch cows. In designing this stable, special care has been taken to secure one that will be absolutely dry and will have an abundance of fresh air and sunlight.

Having in view the utilization to the best advantage of the natural resources of the Farm, and in order to construct the permanent buildings in the most economic and efficient manner, a number of industries have been established, a brief description of each being given below:-

There is an abundance of dolomitic limestone rock in high cliffs on both sides of the River Speed, which is of superior quality and suitable for building purposes, lime manufacture and roadmaking. Two quarries have been opened up, from which all stone used in construction, lime manufacture and stone-crushing is quarried.

Stone-Crusher Plant
A stone crusher, having a daily capacity of four hundred tons, has been installed, the product is screened to two and a half inches, one and half inches, three-quarters of an inch and dust, and is used for concrete, road making and the other industries on the Farm.

Experimental Work – Limestone as a Fertilizer
Experiments conducted at various Agricultural Experimental Stations throughout the United States and elsewhere have warranted arrangements being made to carry on a number of experiments during the coming year at the farms of the Provincial Hospitals for the Insane, with a view to ascertaining the benefits to be derived from the use of ground limestone as a fertilizer. The result of these experiments will be at the disposal of the farmers of Ontario, and ground limestone will be furnished them at a minimum cost.

Good Roads Material
Shipping facilities will be available next year to permit of crushed stone being supplied in large quantities to the Municipalities of the Province for road-making purposes.

Lime – Hydrate – Lime used in Concrete
As an enormous quantity of lime will be used in the construction of the permanent buildings on the Farm, as well as in the construction and repair of all other Provincial buildings, a Lime-Kiln has been erected. In conjunction with this, a thoroughly modern Hydrated Lime Plant is being operated. The advantages of hydrated lime over the ordinary lump lime are many, but the most important of all are, the purity and uniformity of product, complete hydration or ‘slacking,’ and the storage of product indefinitely without loss. The lime manufactured is of the best quality, and, being high in Magnesia, is unexcelled for building purposes. In all concrete construction on the Farm, ten per cent. of Cement is displaced by ten per cent. of Hydrated Lime.

Structural Tile
Structural Tiles of Concrete are now being manufactured, and with the exception of cement, all materials entering into their manufacture are available on the premises. As many of the buildings to be erected will be of the skeleton type of reinforced concrete with curtain walls of tile, the cost of construction, with tile manufactured on the premises by prison labour, will be reduced to the minimum. As these tiles are hollow, they are non-conductors of heat and cold and are damp-resisting. The walls and buttresses in the first story of the Dairy Stable are constructed entirely of these structural tiles.

With the great diversity of work in quarrying, manufacturing, building in all its branches, farming, gardening and dairying, referred to before, it is apparent that there is employment suited to the various inclinations and aptitudes of the complex element that composes the usual prison population.

Central Prison Farm, Guelph – Ontario. Corner stone of Administration Building laid by The Honorable Sir James Pliny Whitney, Prime Minister of Ontario, the 25th day of September, 1911. Toronto, King’s Printer: 1911.

Guelph Museums collection, 


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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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‘Conscience Bothered Him,” Toronto Globe. September 7, 1916. Page 05.

Escaped Prisoner Returned to Canada – Conduct Will Determine Term.

(Special Despatch to The Globe.)
Guelph, Sept. 6 – John McDonald and Timothy Ryan, escaped prisoners from the Reformatory here, appeared before Magistrate Watt this morning to answer the charge of jail breaking. Each pleaded guilty, and agreed to be tried summarily by the Magistrate. Each got a determinate sentence of three months and an indeterminate sentence of two years less one day. The time they will serve now depends on their behavior and the Parole Board. Ryan escaped from the Farm here on June 18th and made his way to the United States. He says his conscience bothered him and he decided to return to Canada, and was captured at Welland on August 26th, shortly after he returned to this country. He was doing a year for theft at the time of his escape. McDonald escaped on December 15, 1915, and was not recaptured until the 16th of August, 1916. He had been doing six months for vagrancy, being sent from Kingston.

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The remains of the Ontario Reformatory at Guelph // East cell block (at Guelph, Ontario)

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“It’s the Last of the Prison Labor,” Toronto Star. August 2, 1910. Page 01.

The Final Contract of the Central Will Expire With This Month.

It Will Not Be Renewed

150 Prisoners on Guelph Farm and 150 for Roadmaking in Newer Ontario.

By the beginning of next month there will be no prison labor contracts between private firms and the Ontario Government. The Taylor-Scott woodenware contract, the only survivor of a long list, expires on September first, and, according to Hon. W. J. Hanna, Provincial Secretary, will not be renewed.

The firm itself was expecting this announcement, for it is in accord with the general policy of the Government.

The cordage contract with Converse and Company did not run out legally until yesterday, but in reality it was closed on June 1st. Half of the men were relieved of their duties on May 1st, and the rest one month later. The Government asked the cordage company if they had any objection to giving up the contract earlier than specified. They were quite willing, for they said that they were not making a cent out of it.

The establishment of the new Provincial prison farm at Guelph means the end of the contract labor system.

Of the four men at Central Prison fully 150 will be kept at Guelph from now on, in construction and general farm work. One hundred men will be used in the north in constructing roads and colonization work.

The 150 who remain will make goods, but not for public sale. They will be sold only to state-aided and supported institutions.

‘For example,’ said Mr. Hanna to The Star this afternoon, ‘the 102 hospitals in the Province will be expected to get our price on supplies before they order elsewhere, and if they find the price and quality favorable, they will be required to buy from us. This will apply also to asylums and other State institutions.

Among the articles to be manufactured for this purpose will be beds and blankets and similar supplies.

‘We had no fault to find with the Taylor-Scott Company,’ said Mr. Hanna. ‘Their contract was as good as any prison labor contract can be. It is simply a part of our avowed Provincial prison policy.’

The Taylor-Scott Company have been manufacturing for general sale only, eleven lines of woodenware, as compared with sixty-five which formerly entered into competition with free labor. These eleven lines are as follows: Washboards, children’s sleighs, stepladders, Indian clubs, dumb-bells, clothes horses, broom and mop handles, pantry and skirt boards, toy chairs, toy carts, croquet mallets.

Much of their output has gone outside of the country to Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand.

The whole system of prison reform, including the doing away with prison contracts, was foreshadowed in the now widely-known speech of W. J. Hanna, delivered in the Legislature on February 26, 1907. The following is an extract from that speech:

‘The problem is to reduce the competition of convict labor to a minimum and especially to reduce the proportion of prison-made goods that are sold in the open maarket. From that date (1874, the establishment of the Central Prison) we have had prison labor under contract in this province – always under protest always without any satisfactory solution.’

Even at that early date, Mr. Hanna outlined the details of the new prison farm scheme.

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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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“300 ‘Sit Down’ in Prison Yard,” Toronto Star. July 13, 1948. Page 01.

Work Or Starve Order Given 300 at Guelph – ‘Rebels’ Defy Tear Gas

Special To The Star
Guelph, July 13 – Prison officials said today they were prepared to ‘starve out’ 300 prisoners at Guelph Reformatory who are staging a hunger and sit-down strike in the exercise yard. The prisoners remained throughout the night in the yard with every available guard on duty.

Officials declared the situation is tense, but said they did not think it would break into a riot. Armed guards circle the exercise yard where the men met after the noon-day meal yesterday. Tear gas used to attempt to rout them had little effect and it was decided that it would not be used again, but that the policy of ‘No work, no food’ would be adopted.

A. R. Virgin, director of reform institutions, said in Toronto today that this already has had some effect on a number of the men who had asked to rejoin the majority of the prisoners inside. Almost 500 had no part in the strike, officials stated.

Armed Guards Leave Posts
From outward appearances everything at the reformatory was peaceful and normal. About a dozen men working in two and threes were cutting grass and trimming shrubs along the main driveway.

At the back of the building on a playing field another dozen or so were playing ball. About 50 inmate spectators at the game were sitting in the tiers of seats that line the field.

Only 50 men could be seen working in the fields at 10.30 a.m. today. There were 20 in a hayfield, 20 doing landscape gardening and 10 cultivating fields. An occasional shout could be heard from inside the exercise walls. Guards who earlier had been patrolling the walls with shotguns had left their posts.

The 300 in the yard looked to passing air passengers as if they were being prepared for barbecuing. Sprawling in a courtyard surrounding by three-storey stone walls, the prisoners steaming in their dark clothing as a mid-morning sun began beating down.

Less than one in 50 of the prisoners who were lying in disorganized clumps bothered to look up as planes passed overhead. Over 100 stood or lounged against one end of the shaded south wall as if it were a corner pool hall.

None of the 300 gathered in any sort of group, none were walking or strolling. A few seemed to have taken off their jackets to bathe in the sun beating into the abre dusty stone box of the square court. The hottest looking spot on the landscape was the steaming ‘pit’ where the 300 prisoners were put to ‘cool off.’

Slept on Ground
Col. Hedley Basher, once a Toronto policeman and former governor of the Toronto Jail and jail farm, is superintendent at Guelph reformatory. He would not make any statement on the strike, referring inquiries to the reforms branch at Toronto.

The prisoners in the exercise yard, which is surrounded by the cell block, slept on the ground, officials here said. Conditions for outdoor sleeping were described as ideal. There was plenty of space, officials said, because the yard will accommodate between 700 and 800.

Guards were kept on duty throughout the night. A bus load of close to 30 go home to Guelph every night, but their trip back was cancelled last night.

Complain of Food, Heat
There was considerable shouting when the strike first started after the noon meal. Leaders urged prisoners to refuse to go to the fields and they were able to get more than 300 volunteers.

The inmates were said to have been pained about the food and balked at having to go to the fields in the hot weather. They have to walk through the exercise yard after the meal to go to work.

Mr. Virgin said a few leaders incited the men to remain in the yard. Tear gas was used. While it caused the men discomfort, use of it in the open was not effective in getting them to leave.

Officials then took an adamant stand that the men would have to work to get their food. Those who asked to give in were refused permission to leave the exercise yard.

‘They must be taught obedience and they are going to take their punishment,’ Mr. Virgin declared.

Claims Food Good
Mr. Virgin laid blame for the trouble on ‘newspapers and radio stations’ which published and broadcast new of disturbances at Burwash and Mercer reformatory. ‘They have radios in their cell blocks,’ said Mr. Virgin. He added newspapers were not a general issue but prisoners have access to them at times.

‘As for complaints about food, the food served is exceptionally good,’ Mr. Virgin declared. ‘For breakfast this morning the men had pancakes, cooked cereal, bread and jam and tea. For lunch they would receive shepherd’s pie, potatoes, and gravy, soup, boiled cabbage, butterscotch pudding, tea and bread.

‘The diet is exceptionally good. I have always observed how well the food is prepared on every occasion I have been there,’ he added.

Mr. Virgin said there would be a thorough inquiry. As yet no one had been sent to investigate.

‘These men have rebelled for no apparent reason and they will take their punishment before they will be allowed to go back to work,’ he said.

The firm attitude taken by officials of the department of reform institutions is reported to be in contrast to the stand taken at Burwash after last October’s riot. In that disturbance, the prisoners took over and were in control for days. Then they were given an opportunity of telling their grievances to Prof. Jaffary of the University of Toronto. No disciplinary action was taken.

Image Caption: From the air, Guelph ‘rebels’ can be seen lounging on blankets, left, and standing in shade of prison wall, right

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“They Are ‘Boys,’ Not Prisoners,” Toronto Star. July 2, 1910. Page 01 & 07.

The New Provincial Prison Contrasted With The Old Central, The
One A Massive and Iron-Barred Structure, The Other a Great Farm Where
The Better Nature of the Prisoners Is Appealed To.

No Bars on…[Guards] Unarmed….tar….


Recreation, Farming…. Treatment…Tried

On Tuesday and Wednesday last week, Hon. W. J. Hanna….Secretary, entertained….of the Toronto papers….provincial Prison near Guelph…institution is the practical result of a scheme of prison….compares favorably with…up to the present time…prisoners do not live in cellblocks…wear striped clothes, nor have their hair cropped, nor are they burdened with any of the signs of incarceration which usually mark a prisoner.

The man who is at the [head of this] movement is Mr. Hanna.

The newspaper trio…the first time that…the press have been…prison property. Until…side knowledge of the…simply fragmentary…but…Hanna took his visitors….part of the grounds…whole of his scheme in operation.

About 800 Acres.
The property purchased for the site of the prison consists of about 800 acres, 2 1/3 miles east of Guelph and embraces several farms bought by the Government.

This land is varied in character. It may be divided into three sections. The centre will be used as the site of the permanent buildings, on account of its elevation and good drainage. There are numerous springs of good water, one of which will be sufficient to supply all the water needed. This section also furnishes good gravel and building sand. In addition there are several quarries, from which stone for hilly roads is being taken now, and dimension stone for building will soon be excavated. There is also an inexhaustible supply of limestone and a kiln is now being erected. The western section, over the River Speed, comprises over 300 acres of the prime agricultural land of Wellington County. Over 100 of these are now in crop, will cereal and vegetables, and are doing well.

To the east are pasture and bottom lands, with thousands of frame posts. This section when it is cleared will reveal a foot and a half of black loam on top, and clay beneath.

Not Called Convicts or Prisoners
This is the property on which ‘the boys’ are working, for that is the name always used by Mr. Hanna in speaking of the prisoners. The biggest undertaking at present is the excavating of stone and the building of a narrow-gauge railway to carry it to the site of the industrial buildings, which are to be erected this summer. There will be stone structures, 56 feet by 180 feet, and in them ‘the boys’ will work in the winter. A derrick is being placed in position to lift the stone to the cars of the miniature railway. All the work for this, as for the other undertakings, is being carried on by the prisoners themselves.

It is the intention that ultimately, after the buildings required are finished, the farm, including to the industrial buildings, farm buildings, administrative offices, etc., are completed that stone will be shipped for use by other Provincial institutions.

Building Roads.
The important work being carried on at present is the building of roads. They have Caesar beaten in every respect, declared Mr. Hanna, and, indeed, the ‘boys’ are making very respectable time and a great deal of good work has been made also in clearing way all the bush on the land at the front entrance of the institution and in various operations….

Minister Hanna special pride is in three subjects: a heard of Holstein cattle, 108 in all, which with the exception of four cows, will provide milk for the establishment, while the rest are yearlings. There are three heads of the milking gang.  Mr. Hanna took the party over the grounds, which are […] miles square, principally to see the Holsteins. They are certainly worthy of his admiration.

Dairying will be one of the chief occupations of the prisoners next summer. Hanna expected that in a couple of years they will be shipping a considerable amount per day of milk to the different Provincial Institutions, for instance, the General Hospital in Toronto.

In addition, the work carried out is the ordinary farm labour needed over 100 acres, as stated already, will provide fruits and vegetables from what is in crop now, and will be able to increase the numbers once the land cleared is extended to 200 acres or more next year.

Treatment for ‘the Boys.’
Over and above the interest in the land, however, are the prisoners themselves. It may be said safely that in this regard a r[….]gh the new Provincial Prison has been doing. It is so contrary to all previous notions to   see convicts, men who the public have thought of with a quivering shudder, living a healthy, comparatively free life in the open air, quite contented and   respectable.

There are at presents over 100 prisoners there. They are from the Central Prison; no one is sentenced directly to Guelph. The one qualification for the new institution is good behaviour in the old. It is not […]stion of the seriousness of the offence, for several men who are guilty of comparatively bad crimes are in Guelph, although, of course, there are some things which would disqualify a man altogether. The main point, however, is whether the man has made a good impression in Central. If he bears himself quietly and is a good worker, he will get to Guelph. There are no long term men, however, in the new prison, and a man is not sent until his sentence is well underway Most of the boys in Guelph have only three or four months to run, although there are a few with much longer. The idea of [restoring the lost…] privileges of the new scheme for short time men is obvious; there is clearly much less danger of a man attempting flight if he has only a short time to serve.

When a man is in on a first sentence or a fifth makes little difference. If he behaves at Central he goes to Guelph. Seveal of the ‘boys’ there have been in and out of prison for years and yet partake in this new system of trust.

The following is a sample list of offences for which some of the men in Guelph are serving terms: Theft, forgery, false utterences, blind pig operation, assault, taking.

No Bars on Windows.
The present headquarters are established in a large frame building of two storeys. There are no cells, and no bars. The windows are large and absolutely uncovered…. Here ‘the boys’ in the place where they sleep use a cot….

Most of the time, however, aside from those prisoners working in the working or those working in the industrial shops, are in the out of doors.

The nature of every day in prison life under the new prison system is an image of contrast with Central Prison, [with its] stone wall, four tiers [of cells], armed guards, lock step, solitary confinement in a cell behind iron bars, and [other]  features of ordinary prison life.

[At Guelph] the men are awakened …for breakfast at six…one it is too. On…the party was up this […] menu for the boys.

…bacon., fried potatoes – lots of butter…..

…[the dining hall] is large and airy, each of the tables covered …. the food is volumnmous and the manners are surprising….anything he wants…matters for the…much better than the Central Prison, meal…behind…ever …[the rest of this paragraph is really difficult to parse]

The menu [for lunch] is beef, beans, muttons, and quite substantial, for the amount of work is great….at 5 o’clock, the supper meal is served…cold roast, black bread, and….[illegible]

They Play Baseball
From tea until bedtime, the prisoners are free to do as they please, within reason. The preffered sport is baseball…some games of it get very competiive…the party witnessed the boys at play, and the game one of the highlights of the trip. It was carried on with the greatest of order…The men finished their game in good spirits, with no one objecting to the return to their bed…and no rowdyism…could show many of us a thing or two about baseball…and the players in many ways…are the equal of those who play in Toronto every Saturday.

[…this paragraph is kind of a confusing anecdote…]

These are but a sample of the remarks handed out by ‘Slim.’ He would roll around in the grass in sheer ecstasy, and his joy was contagious. Altogether it was a happy lively bunch of ball players and spectators.

At 8:30 p.m. Sergeant Lyon’s whistle blew, and at once everybody stopped, and the men lined up for the muster. The roll call was heard, none were missing, and the men dispersed into the building – not in lock step, but as they pleased to go. By 9 o’clock all was still.

‘Come in and see the boys in bed’ said Mr. Hanna, as he conducted his visitors to the dormitories. There were two occupied that night, long high ceilinged airy rooms, with over 40 beds in each. Every man was quiet, and apparently quite satisfied. Along the sides of the room were copies of magazines, which some good friends had sent.

To Reform Them.
Mr. Hanna is most enthusiastic about the scheme. ‘We are treating them like men,’ he said, ‘and they are responding splendidly. They are kept in good condition physically and mentally. When they go out, they are much more likely to become good citizens than if they had been shut up in a cell for several months, and treated as dangerous animals.

‘Of course, make no mistake about this. We are not condoning their misdeeds at all, but now that they have done wrong, we are trying to help them, so that when they are released they will not fall back again.

‘As far as the economic end of it is concerned, it will be a great gain for the province. There will be great productiveness here in cereals, milk, crushed and dimension stone, etc.’

Mr. Hanna’s enthusiasm is well justified, the results from three month’s work (for it was only on April 11 that the first men were taken from Central Prison to Guelph) are most encouraging. As for Mr. Hanna himself, ‘the boys’ have nothing but praise. Whenever he meets any of them, he speaks to them as a friend.

Only Two Were Lazy.
Sergeant Lyons also is optimistic about the new scheme.

‘It is a very heavy responsibility for me, I admit,’ he said, ‘but everything has been satifactory.’ When I came up, I saw that I must be a leader of the men. I played ball with them, worked with them, and showed sympathy all the time.

‘Only two men have had to be sent back to Central. They were too lazy to work, and might have demoralized the rest.’ Some of the officials, in fun, call the institution, ‘The Country Club, cuisine unexelled.’  This is only a joke, however. ‘It is certainly no summer resort,’ said the Sergeant. ‘The men are prisoners, and they have to work hard. They have been very decent, however, and I have no complaint. I have been in prison work for 32 years, and have never lost a man yet, and I certainly hope that I won’t lose one here. There are some interesting stories told by the prisoners. One of them was in on an 18-month sentence for stealing suits of clothes. Another for eight months for forging a check for $25. The latter was a particularly patheic case. He was a young man who had married before he was in a position to support a wife, and had forged this check to get some money. Another man had sixteen months for stealing some coal screenings.

The latter case seemed to interest Mr. Hana especially. At dinner he asked the man who was waiting on the visitor’s table, to tell the whole story. He seemed to be much interested, and to thank that the magistrate’s decision in the had case had been too severe.

Several of the men have appealed to the federal Minister of Justice for a reconsideration of their sentence, and this has brought up the question of a Provincial Pardon Board, which would meat in the Guelph Prison, hear the applications of the men, and in deserving cases shorten the sentence.

But Not A Popular Life.
It spite of all the advantages of the new prison, in spite of the comparatively nice life which the men lead, there is a certain undertone of sadness and wistfulness in many of the faces, which makes the visitor realize that there is no danger that prison life, even of this kind, ever will become popular and that men will want to enter it, however well treated they may have been, they are under supervision, they cannot leave the grounds, in short, they are prisoners. The public need have no fear on this score.

It is a new scheme. As early a February 26, 1907, Hon. W. J. Hanna made a speech in the Legislature, which outlined the essential features of the scheme now in operation. He traced the progress of prison reform, from the time ‘when society dealt with its crimes as a class only to be punished, and if necessary, exterminated.’

He pointed out the gradual amelioration of their condition, until the era of productive labor as at the Central. Here, however, there was not only the conflict between organized and prison labor, but also the health of the prisoners was not helped by their close confinement.

Helps Him On Discharge.
‘Any system adopted,’ says the speech, ‘should be one which will enable the prisoner to earn an honest livelihood on his discharge, and should turn him out in a fit physical condition to do a day’s work. Would the farm be the proper solution here?…Properly directed, how far could this farm go towards giving employment to these prisoners? How far would it go towards maintaining the prison, and maintaining other public institutions of the Province in this city, with the growth of the farm?

In the short term of the sentences,…away the inducements to escape…before the long term man….whould he escape to? To the…..They don’t want him. If …anxious enough to get him…could get him.’

…[the rest are fragments.]

Photo Captions:

1) Tiers of Cells In Central Prison, Toronto. Contrast with Wide Fields of the Provincial Prison, Guelph

2) Hon. W. J. Hanna, and One Of His Favorite Heards of Holsteins At the Provincial Prison, Guelph

3) Sergeant Lyons, Who As Deputy to Warden Gilmour, Is In Charge of the New Provincial Prison, Guelph

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“Two Years’ Sentence On Man For Escaping,” Toronto Globe. June 8, 1917. Page 04.

He Deserted Twice From 254th BN. – Another Man Committed For Trial

(Special Despatch to The Globe.)
Guelph, June 7. – Anatole Quesnell, a Frenchman, was sentenced by Magistrate Watt to-day to two years in the Kingston Penitentiary for escaping from custody. He enlisted in June, 1916, with the 254th Battalion at Kingston, but deserted, and was sent to jail after being recaptured. He was later pardoned by the amnesty granted to all soldiers by the Duke of Devonshire, and went back to his battalion. He deserted again and was once more recaptured. This time he was sent to the Reformatory, and after being there three weeks made his escape. He was caught at Alexandria and brought back last week.

Joseph Yates of Hamilton, who escaped from the Ontario Reformatory nearly two years ago, but who was recently captured, was committed for trial by the Magistrate on a similar charge. He had been working in Buffalo, but came to Hamilton to see his relatives, and was recaptured.

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“Two Years for Escaping,” Toronto Globe. May 31, 1916. Page 16.

“Guelph, May 30. – (Special.) – Fred Carson and David Lee, whom Magistrate Watt last week committed for trial on a charge of escaping from the Ontario Reformatory, were brought before Judge Hates at the Court House this afternoon. They both pleaded guilty to the charge, and were sentenced to two years at Kingston Penitentiary.”

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“Jail-Breaker Sentenced,” Toronto Globe. April 27, 1917. Page 07.

“Guelph, April 26. – (Special.) – Henry Manning, a young man who was sent to the Ontario Reformatory from Hamilton for an offence committed in that city, was before Magistrate Watt yesterday on three charges, first, that of forcibly breaking his way from prison at the Ontario Reformatory; second, escaping from the Reformatory, and third, theft of a suit of clothes from Wm. Haliburton, a guard at that institution. He was sentenced to two years in Kingston Penitentiary for theft and for escaping, and three years for breaking prison; the sentences, however, are to run concurrently.”

[Interestingly, Manning was not sent to the Kingston Penitentiary, and did not enlist in the Canadian military either – without access to the Guelph papers, or the records of the Ontario Reformatory there, it is difficult to know what happened to him.]

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“Prisoners At Guelph,” Toronto Globe. April 12, 1910. Page 07.

Men Already Show Benefit of Outdoor Life.

They are Well Fed, Allowed to Wear Their Own Clothes, and on the Journey Were Subjected to No Bonds – Quarters Are Only Temporary.

(Special Despatch to The Globe.)
Guelph, April 11. – The first contingent of ‘trusties’ were transferred this morning from the Central Prison to the site of the new Provincial Reformatory here. There were fourteen in all, in charge of the Warden, Dr. Gilmour, and a staff of two officers, and they taken off the train just opposite the reformatory grounds. Those who were brought up are out on parole. They will be quartered in a wooden lean-to, which has been built to a little brick cottage left standing on the grounds, as none of the new structures are as yet ready for use.

Eight teams are busily engaged each day, and three seed drills are doing the spring seeding. The inward feelings of the ‘trusties’ were quite apparent as they stepped from the train this morning. Their faces were bright and their carriage free and easy, showing that they were at least happy for the moment. Thye were allowed to wear their own clothes, not the ones used at the prison. They traveled without shackles or handcuffs. This also added much to their pleasure. They have all put in a good, hard day’s work, and feel quite refreshed after the day in the pure, fresh air. Their quarters are adjacent to those occupied by the officials.

Dr. Gilmour intends to treat them in the best way possible. Two good meals were given to them to-day, and hereafter they will be supplied with the local papers. 

The work generally is progressing most favorably.

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