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“LE CENTRE FEDERAL DE FORMATION: Une prison sans barreaux ou les jeunes
détenus deviennent des hommes,” Le Devoir. November 12, 1955. Page 1 &10.  

par Jean Benoit

C’aurait fort bien pu être le pavillon d’un club de golf, ou encore un chic restaurant pour fins. gourmefs. N’eût été les hautes murailles, flanquées de tourelles aux quatre coins, l’édifice de l’administration du Centre fédéral de formation, à St-Vincent-de-Paul, m’aurait fait penser à certaines maisons cossues de Laval-Ouest.

La porte d’entrée à peine fermée derrière moi, je devais aller de surprise en surprise. Je
m’attendais à traverser deux ou trois grilles de fer cadenassées à double tour, avec à chacune un garde
armé en faction. En fait, j’ai franchi trois seuils, trois portes qui se sont ouvertes devant moi au
signal d’un bouton électrique, comme I’on en trouve dans n’importe quelle maison de rapport de
Montréal. Un garde, dans un bureau vitré, contrôle les entrées et les sorties. Comme tous ceux que je
verrai circuler dans les bureaux et dans l’enceinte de l’institution, il n’est pas armé.

Comme il m’avait fallu une permission
spéciale du Commissaire
fédéral des pénitenciers, j’étais
loin de m’attendre à visiter une
prison sans barreaux. Je me doutais
bien d’y trouver un régime
moins rude que dans les pénitenciers
proprement dits, puisqu’il
s’agit d’un Centre de formation,
mais je ne croyais pas y découvrir
un mode de vie identique à
celui des pensionnats ou des casernes
militaires

 

Car. c’est bien. Là l’impression
générale qui m’est restée des quatre
journées entières passées au
Cenlre fédéral de formation de
St-Vincent-de-Paul. J’y ai vu les
jeunes détenus en classe, au travail
dans les ateliers d’apprentissage,
au jeu dans le gymnase et
aux exercices militaires dans l’enceinte
des murs. J’ai vu les dortoirs.
le réfectoire, le parloir, tout1
comme dans les collèges. J’ai vu
des professeurs, des surveillants
en uniformes de gardes. En aucun
moment je n’ai aperçu de gardeschiourmes.

La fonction du Centre fédéral
de formation est comme son nom
l’indique, de pourvoir à la réhabilitation
de jeunes gens condamnes
au pénitencier et susceptibles d’è
ti e réadaptés à une vie honnête et
normale à l’expiration de leur peine.
Ce Centre n’est pas une école:
de réforme ou une ferme industri
elle. Tous ses pensionnaires vieil
lient du pénitencier voisin de StV’inccnt-dc-Paul,
où ils avaient été
incarcérés pour des sentences minimal de deux ans.

Deux fois par mois, cl plus souvent
si nécessaire, une commission
sélective, composée des sous-directeurs
et des préposés au classement
du pénitencier et du Centre
de formation, étudie les dossiers
et interroge les nouveaux venus
dans le but de découvrir ceux qui
donnent le moindre espoir rie réhabilitation.
Les sujets choisis seront
par la suite transférés au
Centre et soumis au programme
de formation. 

J’ai eu le rare privilège d’assister
à une de ces séances de sélection.
On m’avait énuméré les quatre
facteurs servant de base au
choix: peine maximum de cinq
ans: première condamnation pénitencière;
âges minimum et maximum
de I8 à 25 ans: détenus susceptibles
de réhabilitation. Mais,
j’ai pu constater que les membres
de la commission ajoutent à ces
facteurs un sens profond de la
compréhension humaine qui fait
que chaque détenu est certain d’obtenir
le maximum de chance pour
son transfert du pénitencier au
Centre.

A la séance particulière où j’ai
assisté, sept détenus sur neuf ont

été choisis. Dans les sept cas la
décision a été unanime. Quant aux
deux rejets, ils furent décidés
non pas d’après les dossiers des
détenus mais d’après leur altitude
devant les questions posées. 

Le rôle de la Commission sélective
est d’une importance capitale,
puisque lout le succès du Centre
de formation repose sur elle. Que
les membres choisissent un trop

grand nombre de détenus indésirables tout le programme de réhabilitation
est alors fortement
compromis.    

Les lieux

Le Centre fédéral de formation,
peut-on lire dans une brochure
rédigée par le directeur de l’Institution,
n’cxiste en réalité que depuis
le 1er août 1952. Cependant,
on en a conçu l’idée en 1929, alors
que le gouvernement fédéral décida
de faire l’acquisition du vaste
terrain situé immédiatement à
l’est du pénitencier de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.

Les travaux d’excavation débutèrent
en 1929, et en 1930-31 commencèrent
les travaux préliminaires
sur remplacement tout d’abord appelé l’établissement Laval.
Des détenus étaient employés comme
niain-d’oeuvre ci au début, les
travaux de construction furent plutôt
lents. A cause du conflit mondial.
qui éclataon en 1939, et pour
d’autres considérations, le projet
lut abandonné à ce moment-là.
pour être repris activement en
1959. Des contrats furent alors
adjugés pour la construction des

principaux édifices, dont la plupart
furent, achevés à l’hiver de
1952. Le 1er avril de cette année-là, 149 détenus furent transférés du
pénitencier de St-Vinecnt-de-Paul:
ce fut la date officielle de la naissance
de celte nouvelle institution,
connue depuis 1951 sous le
nom de Centre fédéral de Formation.

La superficie à l’intérieur des
murs d’enceinte est de quelque
25 acres, dont près d’un tiers
sert de préau réservé à la récréation et la pratique des sports
en plein air. Physiquement, le
Centre Fédéral de Formation se
compose des édifices suivants:

Bureaux de direction et du
conseil d’administration, de classement
et de comptabilité; cour
du directeur; services anthropométriques; salle des surveillants
et parloir;

Deux chapelles, d’une capacité
totale de 609, pour les détenus
catholiques et protestants: 

Une infirmerie de 18 lits et
une clinique dentaire, sous la
direction d’un chirurgien et
d’un dentiste; 

Un centre d’admission et d’orientation
pour les nouveaux
venus; 

Un bloc cellulaire (actuellement
en construction); 

Trois centres d’apprentissage,
d’une capacité de 200 élèves,
pour renseignement primaire de
17 métiers; 

Un gymnase, servant également
de salle de récréation, de
théâtre et de cinéma, d’une capacité
de 600 personnes; 

Une bibliothèque, contenant
plus de 3,000 ouvrages divers,
et de nombreuses revues locales
et; étrangères; rédigées en français
et en anglais; 

Une école de trois classes,
d’une capacité totale de 60 élèves,
sous la direction d’un maître
d’études et de deux adjoints; 

Une cuisine principale, flanquée
de deux réfectoires d’une
capacité totale de 600 personnes,
où les détenus prennent
tous leurs repas; 

Un magasin central, pour la
réception, vérification et distribution
des approvisionnements; 

Une lingerie et une buanderie; 

Des ateliers d’entretien et de
construction générale;

     

Quatre dortoirs d’une capacité de 100 lits chacun. Les dortoirs ont dix étages. Chaque
étage comporte deux ailes distinctes,
composées chacune d’une
salle d’ablution, d’une salle
de récréation, de trois chambrées
de six lits chacune, de
sept chambrettes individuelles, auxquelles les détenus sont assignés au mérite. Les deux ailes
de chaque étage sont séparées
par un bureau cloisonné à l’usage
des surveillants en service.
Les détenus font eux-mémes le lavage et le repassage
de leur linge personnel, dans
les salles d’ablution, qui sont
munies de cuves, séchoirs à la
vapeur, planches et fers à repasser.
La literie est lessivée
à la buanderie centrale. Les
salles de récréation servent de lieu de réunion durant les heures
libres, soit pour lire, écrire écouter la radio, jouer aux cartes, aux dames, aux échecs, etc…

Programme formateur

A leur admission au Centre Fédaral de Formation, les nouveaux venus, qui sont transférés en

groupes d’une vingtaine par mois

s’ont d’abord admis au centre d’orientation, ils sont interviewés dès le debut par le directeur et par la commission de classement. 

Cette commission est le pivot de l’application du programme de traitement des détenus. Elle se compose du sous-directeur, de l’aumonier du maître d’études, du chef de cuisine, et des préposés au classement, à l’apprentissage et aux travaux. Elle se réunit hebdomadairement, pour déterminer le programme d’orientation des nouveaux arrivées; étudier certains cas particuliers; modifier le programme de certains autres; examiner les demandes de clémence et suggérer la liberation prématurée et conditionelle des cas méritants.

Au cours de cette période d’orientation de quatre semaines, les réglements, privilèges et obligations sont expliqués à fond aux nouveaux venus. Ils suivent des cours de culture physique, participent à des jeux organisés, reçoivent des instructionss en sociologie, en hygiene physique et mentale, etc. Ils sont soumis à des tests d’aptitude, en vue de les
diriger diriger vers l’apprentissage d’un métier de leur choix. A la fin de cette période de quatre semaines, ils sont assignés à une

chambree et sont habituellement placés dans une équipe de travail comme manoeuvres en attendant l’occasion de commencer leur apprentissage. Lorsque ce moment est venu, en leur enseigne

d’abord les éléments du métier choisi, et ils sont ensuite versésà un cours de formation proprement dit.

On enseigne, l’apprentissage des métiers suivants:

Ajustage mécanique

briquetage

dessin industriel
ébénisterie

électricité

finissage

forge

maçonnerie

mécanique automobile

menuiserie

métal en feuille

plâtrage

plomberie

rembourrage

tuyauterie

vernissage

soudure.

Ces cours, d’une durée moyennes de dix mois, correspondent à ceux donnés par les centres d’aprentissages provinciaux, subventionnes par le gouvernement provincial, les entrepreneurs généraux en construcction de batiments, et les syndicats ouvriers. Ces cours sont donnés dans de vastes ateliers, eclairés à profusion, munis d’outillage des plus moderne, par des techniciens diplomés d’écoles techniques d’arts ou de metiers, à la solde de l’institution. Ces instructeurs avaient acquis de l’expérience pratique dans l’industrie, avant leur engagement: après leur entrée au service pénitentiaire, ils ont reçu une formation pédagogique solide. Les classes se composent d’un nombre maximum de 15 élèves dont les progrès sont notés et enregistrés mensuellement. A la fin de leur apprentissage, les élèves sont affectés aux équipes d’entretien et de construction, pour y acquerir de l’expériencce pratique, jusqu’au jour de leur libération.

Lcs détenus travaillent de 8 h.

à 5 h., du lundi au vendredi inclusivement. Le samedi avant-midi est réservé au nettoyage général des locaux. Les offices religieux ont lieu vers 8 h. 30 le dimanche matin: immédiatement apres, les détenus obtiennent, de la cantine, des cigarettes, du tabac,des friandises, et autres menus articles, à même le résidu de à leur pécule. Les détenus sont rémunières à raison de 12, 18, ou 24 sous par jour, selon leur anciennete, leur conduite, leur travail et leurs bonnes dispositions.

A tous ceux qui n’ont pas obtenu leur brevet d’études de sixiéme année, on enseigne au minimun les elements de la langue francaise, de la langue anglaise, et de l’arithmétique. Plus de 150 détenus poursuivent, dans leur  temps libre, l’étude de coins divers. 

Par correspondance. Exceptionnellement, on enseigne également à l’école le solfege,la musique, la peinture, le dessin artistique et commercial, le dactylographie, la sténographie, comptabilité et les écritures.  

Des offices religieux ont lieu

tous les dimanches et jours de fêtes
religieuse. Les détenus catholiques et protestants y assistent, 

dans deux chapelles distinctes. Une retraite d’une semaine est prêchée annuellement à tous les détenus par des prédicateurs étrangers, durant la première semaine du carême. L’aumônier est en service régulièrement tous les jiours. Il circule à volonté dans l’institution, les ateliers et parmi les équipes, et accorde des entrevues particulières aux détenus

qui le demandent. Le Centre Fédéral de Formation est le seul pénitencier canadien où le Messe de Minuit est célébrée.

  

Les détenus sont autorisés à recevoir la visite de leurs parents immédiats une fois par mois. 

Normalement cette viste est d’une durée d’une demie heure. Ce privilège est accordé 

sur semaine et, exceptionnellement, le dimanche, lorsque les parents demeurrent à une distance considerable de l’institution 

ou que leurs occupations les empechenent de venir sur semaine. Les détenus ont la permission d’écrire une lettre par semaine

à. leurs parents de qui, cependant, ils peuvent recevoir autant de lettres que ces derniers veulent leur en écrire.

Les détenus de conduite, travail et disposition» exemplaires profiteront à peu près tous du privilège d’une libération conditionnelle surveillée. Depuis la fondation de l’institution au 31 mars 1955, de 499 détenus libérés, 329, soit 66%, ont bénéficié d’une réduction moyenne de trois mois de peine.

….      

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“Prison sans barreaux,” Le Soleil. October 8, 1960. Perspectives Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 41. Pages 18-21.
—   

Au Camp de pré-libération de Valleyfield, on fait confiance aux détenus et la porte reste ouverte

Textes et photos d’Alain Stanké


QUAND, en février 1959, les citoyens de Valleyfield ont appris que le ministère de la Justice allait ouvrir une “succursale" du pénitencier de Saint- Vincent-de-Paul dans leur ville, ils ont manifesté fort peu d’enthousiasme. Dans une industrie voisine de l’emplacement prévu, les femmes des employés ont prétendu que travailler dans les parages d’une prison — et sur ­tout d’une prison dont les portes resteraient ou ­vertes — était risqué, sinon dangereux.

Voilà pourtant un an et demi qu’existe le Camp de pré-libération et il n’est pas encore survenu d’incidents fâcheux à cause d’un seul détenu! Cette “prison sans barreaux" était la première institution du genre au Canada. Devant le succès de l’expérience de Valleyfield, le ministère a orga ­ nisé un autre camp du même genre à William’s Head, en Colombie britannique, et les autorités laissent entendre que d’autres camps analogues seront bientôt inaugurés à travers le pays.

Autour de celui de Valleyfield. il y a une clô­ture, qui ne sert cependant qu’à éloigner les visi ­teurs importuns, assure M. Michel LeCorre, l’instigateur de la création du camp. Aucun garde ne la surveille. D’ailleurs, les gardes ne sont jamais armés dans l’enceinte du camp; les détenus n’ose­ raient pas violer le code d’honneur qu’ils ont accepté de respecter.

Dès l’arrivée d’un nouveau pensionnaire, le directeur, M. René Lalonde, lui fait toujours re ­marquer que “au-dessus et au-dessous de la clôture, il y a du fil de fer barbelé. Si vous projetez de vous évader, empruntez donc de préférence la porte principale, qui est toujours ouverte. Ne ris ­ quez pas inutilement de déchirer vos vête­ments …”

A Valleyfield, la règle repose sur la confiance mutuelle. “Voilà le secret de notre succès, note le major Grégoire Surprenant, assistant-directeur du pénitencier de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. On peut dire que plus de 95 p.c. de nos détenus ont bon coeur. Ils feraient l’impossible pour rendre service, à condition qu’on le leur demande. Malheureuse ­ment, personne dans leur vie ne leur avait jamais rien demandé …

"Dans notre camp, nous faisons confiance aux  détenus. Une confiance entière. La chose est d’autant plus possible qu’ils sont peu nombreux: il n’y en a jamais plus de 100, que surveillent 50 gardes. C’est dans un climat de responsabilité et d’initiative per sonnelle que ces hommes préparent leur retour dans la société. Des 258 prisonniers sortis de ce camp, seulement 12 p.c. ont récidivé.”

Il n’y a pas de cachot à Valleyfield et on n’y impose pas de sanction. Les détenus savent qu’une seule preuve d’indiscipline leur vaudra automatiquement l’unique châtiment: le retour au “pen” de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. Ils sont d’ailleurs si fiers de la confiance qu’on met en eux qu’ils font tout leur possible pour prouver qu’ils la méritent. 

Depuis l’ouverture du camp, on n’a enregistré qu’une seule évasion. Capturé deux heures plus tard, le fuyard a sup­plié les autorités qu’on le ramène à Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. “Si je retournais auprès de mes compagnons de Valleyfield, ils me tueraient!” a-t-il expliqué. 

Cet homme avait trahi la confiante qu’on avait mise en lui. Il savait que ses compagnons de détention ne lui pardon ­neraient pas son geste. Son témoignage prouve bien l’existence d’une sorte d’entente tacite chez.les détenus.

Les pensionnaires de Valleyfield sont choisis d’après la nature de leur infraction et de leur bonne conduite au péniten­cier. “Encore faut-il, ajoute le major Surprenant, que cette bonne conduite n’ait pas pour seul motif le désir d’être libérés au plus tôt afin de récidiver.”

Les détenus coupables de

violences ou de tentatives d’évasion sont au ­ tomatiquement éliminés de la liste des candidats. Le prisonnier n’est d’ailleurs jugé digne du transfert que si l’aumônier, le médecin, le psychiatre, le psychologue, l’instituteur, le responsable des loisirs et les gardes ont remarqué chez lui une volonté sincère de se réhabiliter.

En général, au pénitencier, le détenu passe près de 17 heures par jour dans sa cellule, où il dort et prend ses repas. A sa libération, il trouve souvent difficile de se réadapter à un régime de vie normal. Il risque de ne plus pouvoir fournir une pleine journée de travail.

Valleyfield sera donc pour lui une étape intermédiaire entre le bagne et la liberté. A Valleyfield, on prend ses repas en commun, on dort en commun dans un immense dortoir et on passe ses soirées en commun à des activités qui développent chez le prisonnier l’esprit d’initiative. Les autorités s’efforcent sur tout de le réhabituer au rythme de vie qu’il devra suivre, une fois libéré. 

Dès son arrivée au camp, il perd son numéro matricule. Il redevient un “homme”, que ses compagnons et les gardes n’appellent plus que par son nom propre. On l’occupe à des travaux divers: cueillette des légumes, préparation des repas, entretien des bâti ­ ments, réparation de boîtes postales pour le compte du ministère des Postes, fabrication de lits pour les prisons, rembourrage, couture ou réparation d’autos. Il n’y a jamais deux spécialistes d’un même métier, de sorte que les détenus sont forcés de manifester une plus grande initiative personnelle.

Aux repas, on mange autant qu’on le désire, mais tous sont avertis que, s’ils s’empiffrent, la table sera moins bien garnie le len­ demain. 

Quand ils reçoivent des visiteurs (une fois par mois), les prisonniers ne se rendent pas dans une salle commune et parlent sans la surveillance d’un garde Ils se promènent, bras dessus bras dessous, avec leur femme dans le jardin du camp ou bavardent sur une banquette, à l’ombre d’un arbre.

Ici, pas de murs froids, pas d’odeur de renfermé. Par les fenêtres du dortoir, on entend chanter les oiseaux et, près de son lit. le détenu a une berceuse à sa disposition. Sur les murs, les plus habiles ont dessiné des animaux ou des paysages. Sur les tables de chevet, presque ou pas de photos de pin-up. Elles ont fait place aux portraits de la famille, de l’épouse, du bébé qui doit avoir tellement changé depuis …

Ici, pas de regards atones; pas d’hommes hagards, le visage rongé de haine; pas de mise débraillée. Les pensionnaires sont en bonne santé, souriants et sympathiques. Quand on les questionne sur leurs délits, ils ne répondent pas comme ceux du “pen”, qui vous ré pliquent, chaque fois; ‘‘Moi, c’est une erreur judiciaire … ”

SYMPATHIQUE, ce Yvon P ……… devenu pâtissier du camp et qui sera libéré dans six mois. “ Moi, c’est idiot, dit-il, un peu gêné. Vous savez, les 25 autos américaines volées à Trois-Rivières? … Eh bien, c’était moi.” Et, le sourire aux lèvres, comme s’il se moquait un peu de lui-même, le jeune homme ajoute: “Mais c’est bel et bien fini, ces folies-là!” 

Sympathique aussi, ce “Lucky" L… . qui, malgré son prénom, n’a guère été chan ceux dans le passé. Il doit purger deux ans de  prison pour extorsion de fonds. Un gaillard costaud, une vraie armoire à glace! Pendant que les autres s’attablent, il relit la dernière lettre qu’il a reçue de sa femme. Aujourd’hui, il n’a pas faim et pour cause … Il s’en va demain! Il a passé neuf mois à Valleyfield. C’est un homme nouveau. 

Lucky a fait un premier séjour derrière les barreaux, en 1946. pour avoir tué un matelot. “ Cetait plus ou moins de ma faute, avoue-t-il. Une sorte d’accident … Je revenais de la guerre, on a bu et un gars m’a traité de “pigeon”. Je lui ai flanqué un coup de poing et il est allé se fendre la tête sur le trottoir. A quatre heures du matin, la police  est venue me réveiller pour me dire qu’il

était mort. On m’a libéré provisoirement, sous caution, mais, “pas fin", je n’ai pas comparu à mon procès et j’ai été automatiquement condamné à deux ans de prison.” 

— Y pensez-vous parfois à ce gars sur le trottoir?

— Tu parles! Depuis, je suis l’homme le plus paisible du monde.

Sympathique encore et attachant, ce détenu de 74 ans qui se plaint de maux d’estomac qu’on n’arrive pas à guérir, semble-t-il. “Ça se comprend, d’expliquer le major Surprenant. Il doit être libéré bientôt et la perspective du retour à la vie normale lui fait peur.” 

Notre vieux détenu a le trac. II fait partie de ceux qui ne veulent plus quitter la prison parce qu ’ ils se sentent trop vieux et trop seuls pour affronter de nouveau la vie incertaine d’un monde où il n’y a plus d’horaire et plus de gardes.

 

Photo captions:

1) 

Voici rentrée principale du Camp de pré-libération de Valleyfield. La porte de l’immeuble de droite reste toujours ouverte, de même que ia grille d’entrée. L’homme au

dehors est un pensionnaire qui rentre sans trop se faire prier.

2) Deux prisonniers réparent le fer d’une pioche, dans un atelier du camp, avec le même zèle qu’auraient des ouvriers libres.

3) M. Michel LeCorre a été l’instigateur et le premier directeur du nouveau camp.

4) Avec ses gravures et ses photos aux murs, le dortoir (à gauche) rappelle plutôt un collège qu’une prison. Les fenêtres ont des carreaux mais pas de barreaux! Si celles du réfectoire (à droite) sont si élevées, ce n’est pas pour décourager les évasions  mais pour mieux éclairer la salle.

5) Vu ici de dos, le major Surprenant cause avec un vieux détenu, qui  éprouve beaucoup d’inquiétude à l’idée de sa libération prochaine.

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“Inside Kingston Penitentiary – Ten Years After Canada’s Most Infamous Prison Riot,” Saturday Night. September 1981. Pages 34 & 35.

Part onePart two.

.

 

TERRY Decker, Thirty-Six, Was Attacked and Taken Hostage During The 1971 riot. ‘First they moved us into an air duct. They kept us there for a couple of hours. Then they started locking us away, three to a cell. They made us take off our uniforms and put on inmate clothing. They figured there wouldn’t be any trouble if the people outside didn’t know who was an inmate and who wasn’t. They moved us every couple of hours from one range to another. I don’t know if they did it to confuse our guys, or the inmates who might have wanted to get at us.’

The hostages were treated with an unpredictable mixture of violence and consideration. ‘I was punched pretty good,’ says Decker. ‘They flattened a disc in my back and burst a blood vessel in my eyeball.’ At the same time, he and the other hostages were given double rations. ‘If the inmates got one sandwich, we got two. And tobacco – we had more than we could ever have smoked. I have no complaints there.’ Decker was released as a show of good faith during the negotiations. He’d been held for forty hours. ‘As I was coming out, one lifer said to me, ‘It pays not to be a dog, eh?’

Four months after the incident, he returned to work. He required extensive physiotherapy and cortisone shots in the spine, but since 1973 his health has been sound. Of the six guards held hostage, Decker is the only one who still works in security – he’s now at Collins Bay penitentiary. Two of the hostages have died; one quit; one took a medical pension; one works as a groundskeeper at Millhaven. Only a portion of the prison has been restored. Several ranges have never been reopened, and the top two tiers of the functioning ranges remain sealed off. Prior to posing for this photograph, Decker had not set foot in the part of the prison where he was held hostage since the riot ten years ago. ‘I was in fear for my life all the time.’

‘THERE’S No Call For This Trade Outside,’ Says The Instructor In the Mail bag repair shop, where these inmates were photographed during a coffee break, ‘but it helps the guys do their time and provides a few dollars for upkeep.’ Last year inmates in the shop repaired five thousand bags a week. The penitentiary earns a dollar for each mailbag it repairs, but eighty four cents goes to materials. Work programmes at Kingston – like hobby and recreational activities – are curtailed by outdated facilities. The only work of rehabilitative value is data processing. Inmates are coding the records of the National Museum of Science and Technology into computer banks. ‘We’re going to get a lot more terminals,’ says Andrew Graham, the warden. ‘It’s a popular programme, and it’s a skill that’s very much in demand on the street.’

Inmates used to be paid a pittance. Last May, however, the federal pay scale was revised to coincide with civilian minimum wage rates, less the eighty-five percent of income that Statisticcs Canada calculates a single man would spend on food, lodging, and clothes. Depending on the nature of his work, a prisoner in a federal institution came between $3.15 and $5.90 a day in maximum security, $3.70 and $6.45 in medium, and $4.80 and $7.55 in minimum. Twenty-five per cent of his pay is withheld as compulsory savings. An inmate serving a lengthy sentence now has the opportunity of returning to civilian life with a few thousand dollars, rather than a few hundred.

There are good reasons for the graduate pay scale. The first is the cost of incarceration. To keep an inmate in maximum security costs $35,800 a year, versus $22,600 for medium security and $18,400 for minimum. (In a community correctional centre – where inmates work at civilian jobs and return to custody each night – the cost is $11,500. The cost of parole is $1,600 a year.) The graduated pay scale also encourages inmates to behave well in order to qualify for an institution with a lower security rating – and a higher pay scale.

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“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.

Improvements
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.

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

Dairying
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.

Industries
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:-

Quarries
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.

Possibilities
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, 

2004.32.101.

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“Inside Kingston Penitentiary – Ten Years After Canada’s Most Infamous Prison Riot,” Saturday Night. September 1981. Pages 32 & 33.


Part one. Part three.
—-
‘THE Cells Are Opened at 7 In the Morning,’ Says An Inmate Sentenced To life. ‘Breakfast is at 7.30. You go the kitchen by ranges, then back to your cell with your tray. You’re locked in with your food until 8 while the medication trolley comes around. From 8 to 11 you work. Back to your cell at 11, lunch and maybe a sleep until 1, then back to work until 3:30. Supper, until 6. After supper, you can be out on the range, playing cards or watching TV. Or you can go to the exercise yard in summer, the gym in winter. Lockup is 11 o’clock. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year.’

Routine, repetition, numbing boredom. The inmate’s lot is grim; but less so than it once was. One of the major reforms of the past decade is a programme of family visits. At present these are restricted to maximum-security institutions (whose inmates are ineligible for the termporary absences available to medium- and minimum-security inmates), although they may soon be extended to medium-security prisons. The programme was introduced last year at Millhaven, where a white mobile home stands inside the security fences. There is a small fenced yard for children, with swings and a teeter-totter. The authorities provide food and other necessities. The purpose of the programme, an official explains, is ‘to keep the family together, to maintain some continuity so the inmate’s got something to go back to. It’s not to dangle a carrot for good behaviour. It’s not even to cut down on homosexuality in the institution – those are side effects.’ A similar programme was started in Attica in New York State three years ago. ‘It’s early to make any sweeping statements,’ says the official, ‘but the people there the recividism among the men who got visits is way, way down.’

At Kingston, there is no programme of conjugal visits. Inmate’s contact with family and friends consists of letters and supervised visits. The inmate above asked to be photographed so that his girlfriend could have his picture.

WITH Waxed Moustached, Medal Ribbons, and Military Bearing, Tom Rathwell, the supervising keeper (or head guard) at Kingston, appears as anachronistic as the penitentiary itself. In fact, he is respected – even liked – by virtually all the inmates. ‘I don’t know who they’ll get when he goes on retirement,’ says a bank robber. ‘I mean, he’s a man you can trust. I remember one time we had a sit-down strike in the gym. The guys wanted to kill the warden – they had iron bars and they were ugly. Then, after a day-and-a-half, the door opened – boom! – and in walked Tom Rathwell, right in among us. He went around to all the ringleaders and wagged a finger under their noses – ‘This is your doing, don’t think I don’t know that.’ He made them feel like kids. After that, we all caved in.’

A veteran of the Second World War, Rathwell, sixty-one, joined the penitentiary service in 1947. Except for a few months at Millhaven, he has spent his entire career at Kingston. ‘Things were much tougher before ‘71,’ he says. ‘Everything was very military. Men marched everywhere in lines, they weren’t allowed to dress sloppily, they had to be very polite with the guards. If they called you by your first name, you were supposed to charge them. It didn’t help. You can’t treat people like that. I try to be straight with them. If they ask about their parole, or what their chances are of a move, and I don’t think they have a hope, I tell them. If you say, ‘That’s up to the classification officers,’ it just makes them mad.’

A Kingston inmate handed a note to the photographer and asked that it be given to the writer. The note reads, ‘While speaking with Mr. Rathwell the other day he made a comment which I thought worth passing on to you. He seldom uses bad language, but this is what he said: ‘They told me when I started here thirty-four years ago to treat all prisoners alike. It was bullshit then and it’s bullshit now.’

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“Inside Kingston Penitentiary – Ten Years After Canada’s Most Infamous Prison Riot,” Saturday Night. September 1981. Cover and Pages 30 & 31.

Part two. Part three.

By TED WOOD

On the evening of Wednesday, April 14, 1971, half of the nearly 600 inmates of the maximum security penitentiary at Kingston, Ontario, were in the gymnasium. At 10:30, the gymnasium guard began assembling the men into batches of twenty – the occupants of a single tier on one range. His procedure was to unlock the gym door for each group in turn, passing the twenty inmates to Terry Decker, the guard in the corridor. ‘It was the same as any night,’ recalls Decker. ‘ Just routine. Until two of them jumped me.’ The most infamous prison riot in Canadian history had begun. Inmates had control of the institution for nearly four days. They took guards as hostages, destroyed much of the interior of he penitentiary, tortured, maimed and murdered protective custody inmates.

The Kingston riot was followed by unrest and disturbances at other prisons in the early and mid 1970s. Francis Fox, then the solicitor general, ordered a parliamentary investigation. In 1977, the parliamentary sub-committee, chaired by Mark MacGuigan, tabled a report that began. ‘A crisis exists in the Canadian penitentiary system,’ and went on to offer sixty-five recommendations for large-scale reform.

A majority of those recommendations have now been implemented. Reforms include the upgrading of qualifications for correctional officers; the wearing of name identification by prison staff; the employment of women on the same basis as men; the use of independent chairpersons to preside over disciplinary hearings; the provision of ‘adequate material for legal research’ in institutional librariries; a grievance system for inmates, and a system for electing inmate committees; an end to the use of Mace and tear gas except when absolutely necessary; and a system of work incentives based on labour productivity. Several other major reforms have been effected as well. Robert Kaplan, the present solicitor general, has put an end to censorship of reading material (’There’s no reason why people on the inside shouldn’t get everything that’s available on the outside’ – revolutionary manuals excepted). Inmates are now permitted open visits, and a programme of conjugal visits is being tested at one Ontario penitentiary. Whipping was abolished the year after the Kingston riot, and punitive diets were done away with in 1979.

These reforms are most evident at modern institutions such as Warkworth, a medium-security facility in Ontario whose warden is a women and whose ‘living units’ bring to mind college accommodation – except for the seatless toilet in each cell. Kingston, by contrast, is the oldest and perhaps the most oppressive of the country’s fifty-three federal institutions. Opened in 1835, it was built originally of wood, and modelled on the prison at Auburn, New York. The first inmates constructed the existing limestone prison. Kingston was due to be phased out when the riot took place; ironically, one cause of the riot was inmate anxiety about being transferred to Millhaven, a new maximum-security prison near Bath, Ontario.

Today, once again, Kingston’s days are numbered. A maximum-security facility under constriction at Renous, New Brunswick, should be in operation by 1986. Kingston will likely then become a msueum. In the meantime it remains a monument to the day when illiterate guards enforced a rule of absolute silence, twelve-year-old prisoners were regularly flogged, and anyone who condemned to its dismal confined forfeited all claim to human decency.

Andrew Graham, the Acting Warden of Kingston, Is A Former Inmate Counsellor at Warkworth. He hold’s a Master’s degree in political economy. When he came to Kingston in 1979, the facility was being used primarily as a reception centre. All new federal inmates in the Ontario region came here for assessment before being assigned to an institution with the appropriate level of security. ‘The criterion is what we usually refer to as dangerosity,’ says Art Trono, regional director of Correctional Services of Canada. ‘At a minimum-security prison you may have inmates doing life for murder, and in maximum you may have young guys doing the bare two years.’ (Inmates serving less than two years are incarcerated in provincial institutions.)

Last spring Kingston ceased to serve as the regional reception centre. It reverted to a maximum-security institution, and is used exclusively for protective-custody inmates. These are men who, at another prison, would have to be segregated from the general population for their own safety because their crimes are considered heinous by other inmates, because of prison debts, or because of their reputation as ‘snitches.’ In some ways the Kingston inmates are more easily managed than other prison populations. ‘Most of these guys don’t want to see a riot or any big flareups,’ a guard explains, ‘so they very quietly rat on anything that looks dangerous. For instance, we’re generally tupped off when a bunch of home-brew’s being prepared. Guys realize that if somebody gets drunk, he’s likely to start thinking that’s somebody else’s crime is dirtier than his.’

‘Without this move,’ says Graham, ‘bringing together all the protective custody people into one institution, they’d be deproved of the programmes open to them here. In the average institution, the PC population is a small, locked-away group that lives in fear. Here they can mingle with comparative safety. After all, they’re all tarred with the same brush. They live and let live.’

[Ted Wood fills his own writing with all the tired clichés of mainstream journalism on prison, and the photo used on the cover is 100% racist ‘look at the scary Native man’ bait, but the rest of the photos are pretty great.]

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The Canadian Carceral State
The Canadian prison system — which includes the country’s immigrant detention regime as well as the federal and various provincial correctional systems — is plainly awful. Canada is one of only a few countries that indefinitely detains immigrants, a practice decried by the UN. While recent anti-ICE protests in the US have drawn attention to the detention of immigrant children, much less has been paid to the fact that Canada also detains migrant children, some of them “unaccompanied.” For years, immigrant detainees in Ontario have drawn attention to the problems of the country’s immigration system and the conditions of their confinement by engaging in intermittent hunger strikes.

Canada’s incarceration rate is around 118 per 100,000 people. While this is significantly lower than that of the United States, it remains higher than most Western European liberal democracies. It’s also notable that this rate is close to that of the United States in the early 1970s, at the height of the prisoners’ rights movement. Although it’s hardly insignificant, the size of a prison system should not be the determining metric of its efficacy or character.

In its latest annual report, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, Canada’s federal prison watchdog, identified a host of issues in the federal system including deficiencies in health care provision, especially in relation to mental health; low pay and high expenses; and lack of effective educational, vocational, and rehabilitative programming, as major issues facing Canadian corrections. While the annual report of the Correctional Investigator is helpful in understanding the nitty-gritty of the problems in the country’s prisons, it rarely spurs a meaningful government response.

Like the US, racial disparity is also evident in Canadian prisons, with indigenous people in particular being hugely overrepresented. Indigenous people make up about 5 percent of the population, but account for around 27 percent of federally incarcerated adults. This trend is even more disturbing in Canada’s women’s prisons, where indigenous women account for 38 percent of the prison population. The youth justice system is even worse — nearly half of incarcerated youth in Canada are indigenous. These rates of incarceration have caused some commentators to assert that Canada’s prisons are its new residential schools. Black Canadians are also vastly overrepresented in Canada’s prisons and jails. Only 3 percent of the general population, Black Canadians account for 10 percent of the federal prison population.

Canada’s prisons shouldn’t be understood simply as instruments of racial dominance — they also warehouse the country’s poor and mentally ill. A 2010 study by the John Howard Society of Toronto of provincial prisoners in the Greater Toronto Area found that one in five were homeless at the time of their incarceration. Half of men entering federal prisons are identified as having “Alcohol or Substance Use Disorders.” and over 40 percent of sentenced prisoners and those remanded into pretrial custody are unemployed at the time of their admission. The 2016 Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator states that “federal prisons now house some of the largest concentrations of people with mental health conditions in the country.”

The consequence of these issues can sometimes be fatal. Several high-profile deaths have triggered inquiries, such as that of Ashley Smith, a young mentally ill woman who hung herself in 2007, in full view of guards who were ordered not to intervene until she lost consciousness. In a 2015 case, Matthew Hines died after a “use of force incident” with guards. Initially, Corrections Canada told Hines’s family that he had died of a seizure after being found “in need of medical attention.” It was later revealed that he had been beaten, restrained, and pepper sprayed by guards. Ten guards then placed him, handcuffed and with his t-shirt over his head, in a decontamination shower where he fell and hit his head. A video taken by prison staff shows Hines, laying on the shower floor pleading to officers that he couldn’t breathe: “Please, please … I’m begging you, I’m begging you.” The incident resulted in charges being laid against two of the officers involved. In April of this year, both of the accused officers entered not-guilty pleas.

Meanwhile, prison walls haven’t been a barrier to Canada’s escalating overdose crisis. Rates of drug-related deaths doubled in federal prisons between 2010–2016. Due to variations in data collection, it is difficult to tally overdose deaths in Provincial jails, but it is likely that the numbers are even higher. In 2017, twenty-seven prisoners died of overdoses in Ontario’s jails alone.

Provincial prisons, like the one in Halifax, are notorious for their poor conditions — something so widely accepted that upon conviction, judges routinely reduce sentences for time-served in pre-trial detention. Staff shortages plague jails, commonly resulting in lockdowns. Solitary confinement — despite its tendency to cause and exacerbate mental illness — is used frequently and with little regulation. The tragic case of Adam Capay, a young First Nations man awaiting trial in the Thunder Bay Jail, caused national controversy in 2016 when it was discovered that he had spent fifty-two months in solitary confinement in a Plexiglas cell, lit twenty-four hours a day.

The United Nations has declared that more than fifteen consecutive days in solitary confinement constitutes torture. The case only came to the attention of the press and Provincial correctional officials after a guard — the president of his union local — requested that Ontario’s chief human-rights commissioner look into Capay’s conditions, set off a review of solitary confinement in Ontario, and prompted federal rule changes.

Burnside has faced many of these issues including overcrowding, fatal overdoses, prisoner-on-prisoner violence, overreliance on solitary confinement, and staff shortages that result in routine lockdowns. These issues are reflected in the demands of the prisoners striking at Burnside.

Resistance and Prisoner Protest in Canada
The striking prisoners in Burnside acknowledge that they are far from the first in the country to protest, stating “we recognize the roots of this struggle in a common history of struggle and liberation.” Indeed, Canadian prisoners have a long history of collective resistance against inhumane conditions and treatment. Sometimes this resistance has taken the form of hostage-takings and large-scale riots — such as the deadly ones at Kingston Penitentiary in 1971, British Columbia Penitentiary in 1975, and Archambault Penitentiary in 1982. However, there is another, less-examined history of nonviolent collective actions by prisoners, including sit-down protests, work stoppages, and hunger strikes. As is made clear in their statement, this is the history in which the prisoners at Burnside are situating themselves.

The history of prisoner work stoppages stretches back to pre-Confederation, and although prisoner protests often failed or resulted in only minor improvements, they sometimes had more significant and longer lasting results. In September 1934, striking prisoners in BC demanded wages for prison work. The strike escalated into a minor riot that saw some property destruction and ended with protest leaders rounded up to face corporal punishment. Despite the successful repression of the protest, the demands for wages were won. At the beginning of January 1935, federal prisoners who worked began receiving a five-cent-per-day stipend.

The 1970s were turbulent times in Canadian prisons. One of the longest prison strikes in Canadian history started on January 14, 1976, when 350 prisoners at the Archambault Institution in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec, began a work strike. The prisoners declared their solidarity with striking prisoners at St Vincent de Paul Penitentiary in Laval and demanded better conditions. The Archambault strike lasted 110 days. Although the action was primarily a nonviolent work stoppage, there was considerable violence over the course of the protest. Prisoners were beaten by guards and prisoner-strike breakers, and two guards were jumped by strikers. Most spectacularly, a month after the strike began, two former St Vincent de Paul prisoners blew themselves up in an attempted bombing of a bus station in support of the Archambault strikers. Having been granted several of their demands, including recognition of a prisoners’ committee, the prisoners ended the strike. The next year, the prisoners’ key demand — the right to physical contact with visitors — was made policy by prison officials.

In the fall of 2013, Canada saw a nearly unprecedented strike in the federal system when prisoners stopped working their manufacturing, textile, construction, and service jobs to protest a 30 percent cut to their wages and the elimination of pay incentives offered by CORCAN, the government agency responsible for coordinating and managing prison industries. While unsuccessful at reversing these cuts, the strike demonstrated prisoners’ ability to coordinate protests across the country. Since that time there have been numerous smaller scale protests, hunger strikes, and work stoppages at various federal and provincial institutions across Canada.

Canadian prisoners — like others around the world — have also attempted to organize unions, to advance both their interests in relation to the conditions of their incarceration, and those of their labor within the institution. In 1975, The Prisoners’ Union Committee, an organization of former prisoners and radicals who had cut their teeth in the anti-war and women’s movements, and supported by the American Indian Movement, attempted to represent prisoners who were engaging in escalating work strikes and sit-down protests in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. The effort was unsuccessful, but resulted in the creation of Prisoners’ Justice Day, an annual day of work and hunger strikes initiated in 1975 and held every August 10 since. The date of the first Prisoners’ Justice Day was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Edward Nolan, a prison organizer who died by suicide in his solitary cell in Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ontario. The event continues to serve as an annual day of remembrance of those who have died in Canada’s prisons.

In 1977, prisoners working in a privately run meatpacking plant operating out of the provincial jail in Guelph, Ontario successfully organized a local of the Canadian Food and Allied Workers Union, along with their non-incarcerated coworkers. In doing so, they became the first group of prisoners to be covered by a legally recognized collective agreement in North America. Their unionization resulted in the equalization of pay between prisoners and non-prisoners, among other benefits.

Most recently, in 2011, the Canadian Prisoners’ Labour Confederation (or “ConFederation”) began organizing around working conditions and pay in the Mountain Institution in Agassiz, British Columbia, with the goal of winning union recognition for federal prisoners. The effort fizzled after successive labor boards refused to adjudicate the case, ruling that federal prisoners fell outside of their jurisdiction and that they were not “employees,” but participants in rehabilitation programs.

– Jordan House, “Why Canadian Prisoners Are Participating in the US Prison Strike.” Jacobin, September 5, 2018.

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