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Posts Tagged ‘life without parole’

“12 autres années de bagne pour Racine,” La Presse. November 21, 1980. Page A4.

Les tribulationsjudiciaires de Denis «Poker» Racine, 24 ans, en marge de toutes les frasques qu’il a commises ces derniers mois, bien qu’il ait été en prison depuis près de quatre ans, font partie de l’histoire ancienne depuis sa condamnation à 12 années additionnelles de bagne par le juge Jean-Guy Boilard, en Cour criminelle de Saint-Jérôme.

Cette peine, qui est consécutive à toute autre que peut purger Racine,vient de lui être imposée après qu’il eut été reconnu coupable, au terme du procès qu’il a subi au début du mois, pours a participation à une prise d’otages qui a duré 57 heures, au pénitencier Archambault de Sainte Anne-des-Plaines, en septembre 1979. 

Enprononçant cette sentence qu’il a qualifiée de sévère, le juge Boilard a expliqué qu’il avait pris en considération l’important rôle qu’avait tenu «Poker» Racine au cours de l’événement. L’un des trois mutins qu il’accompagnaient, Pierre Thibault, âgé de 20 ans, avait notamment été acquitté, après qu’il eut été établi qu’il avait justement été forcé par Racine à prendre part à la mutinerie.

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“Chicago Courts Drive Back The Mounting Wave of Crime,” Chicago Sunday Tribune. October 15, 1933. Pages 4 & 5.

The ‘War on Crime’ – frequent arrests, violent shoot-outs, harsh sentences, anti-corruption drives, mass incarceration – to break ‘commercialized crime’ in Chicago.

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“«Poker» Racine en voie de réhabilitation?” La Presse, September 20, 1980. Page F-28.

LEOPOLD  LIZOTTE

Denis «Poker » Racine, 24 ans, déjà douze
années de démêlées avec la justice derrire
lui. ballotté tout au long de son adolescence
d’une maison de correction à une autre, pour
finalement aboutir à Pinel et au bagne, aurait-il
compris, au cours des dernières heures,
que les juges n’étaient pas nécessairement
rancuniers, et la justic e fatalement
vengeresse? 

Airs qu’il y a quelques mois, il n’avait
apparemment en tête qu’un projet, celui de
quitter le pénitencier par tous les moyens,
hier, il a reconnu sa culpabilité à trois accusations
graves qui lui vaudront peut-être
deux ou trois autres années, à cet endroit.

Et le jeune homme super-agressif qui
avait fait pied de nez à la cour et aux autorités
policières, le 24 mars dernier, avait même
un certain air de repentence, lorsqu’il a reconnu
s’être évadé de la Cour d’appel en pointant
un «pic» sur la gorge d’une greffière pour
sortir de la sall e d’audienc e sans ennuis,
après avoir «désatmé» un garde, et quitter le
Palais de justice dix-sept étages plus bas,
après avoir retenu son otage pendant tout ce
temps.

Que s’est-il donc passé entre-temps?

C’est très impie, pourrait-on dire.

Lundi, son avocat. Me Dominique Talerico,
de l’Aide juridique, plaidait justement
devant cette même Cour d’appel son pourvoi
contre la condamnation à vie qui lui avait été
imposé e pour le meurtre, commis en 1977,
d’un adolescent à qui l’on avait voulu voler sa
veste de cuir.

L e verdic t du jury en avant été un de
meurtre au premier degré, il faisait face à la
détention ferme pour vingt-cinq ans.

Mais devant trois juges du plus haut tribunal
québécois, différents il est vrai de ceux
qui avaient ét é témoins de son évasion du
printemps, il plaida que la préméditation
n’avait pas ét é été prouvée , dans ce cas, et
que, partant, c’était un verdict de meurtre au
deuxième degré qui aurait dû être rendu.

La cour se déclar a du même avis, et la
condamnation fut conséquemment modifiée.

Restait à déterminer la sentence. Ou, tout
au moins, la durée minimale ce celle-ci.

Jeudi, les trois magistrats décidaient
donc, dans un autre temps de ne prononcer
aucune ordonnance, sur ce sujet. Ce qui veut
donc dire que Racine, au mieux-aller, pourrait
être remis en liberté après dix années
seulement de sa peine à perpétuité.

Et, selon son avocat, c’est ce qui a tout
changé.

Alors qu’il voulait combattre, et tout seul
au besoin, les accusations à la preuve aussi
évidente que suabondante, la double décision
de la Cour d’appel semble avoir tout changé
chez lui, a-t-il dit hier au juge Guérin.

Ce n’est plus le jeune homme qui faisait,
face à un quart de siècle au bagne, et qui n’a
pratiquement rien à perdre.

Il peut maintenant espérer.

Quant au procureur de la Couronne, M e
Contran Chamard, il n’a aucunement
«chargé» contre le prévenu qui, pendant deux
jours, avait été littéralement considéré
comme l’ennemi public no. 1, dans la métropole,
avant qu’il ne soit coincé dans une luxueuse
chambre de l’hôtel Bonaventure, où sa
bombance avait pris fin plus rapidement que
prévu.

Il a réclamé une année de détention pour
son évasion, deux autres pour la séquestration
de la greffière, et une autre pour avoir
tiré un coup de feu dans l’un des murs de
l’austère salle d’audience principale du plus
haut tribunal québécois.

Ces peines seront-elles concurrentes entre
elles? Ou s’ajouteront-elles à la peine à vi e
qui peut prendr e fin après dix ans, maintenant?

C’est ce que le juge Guérin décidera le 30.

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“Maximum Insecurity,” The Globe and Mail. September 5, 1980. Editorial. Page 06.

The recent hostage-taking at the Laval Penitentiary in Quebec has left behind it a chorus of voices offering quick and easy answers to an extremely irksome question: why are there disorder, violence and despair in Canada’s large maximum-security penal institutions? The culprits, if we are to believe these voices, are long prison sentences, especially the mandatory 25-year term for first-degree murder. According to the protesters, these sentences breed hopelessness and frustration; they produce desperate deeds by desperate men. The solution? Reduce the mandatory sentence by 10 or even 15 years. The result? We shudder to think.

There can be no denying the gravity of the problems that exist in such prisons as Laval in Quebec or Millhaven in Ontario; nor can there be any doubt that solutions are urgently required, before more hostages are seized or more lives taken. But the problems lie not with the prisons themselves. Huge, fortress-like institutions, containing hundreds of inmates, these compounds have always been and always will be plagued by disorder. It makes little difference whether a man is sentenced to five years or 25 years: imprison him in subhuman condition and he will respond accordingly.

There is nothing radical in this observation, and there is certainly nothing new. In 1938, the Archambault Royal Commission of Inquiry into Canada’s penal system recommended the establishment of much smaller, more manageable prisons. So did the Fauteux Report in 1956. So did a penal study commissioned by former Justice Minister Guy Favreau in the mix-Sixties. So did a 1971 federal task force headed by J. W. Mohr. But no heed was taken. The current ailments, and their recurrent eruptions, are nothing if not predictable; they are natural thread in the Canadian penal fabric – a fabric that fundamentally has remained unchanged for decades.

There are many who argue that the establishment of a 25-year mandatory sentence for first-degree murder was little more than a sop to those who opposed the abolition of capital punishment, that its purpose was exclusively political, and that it has no penal value. But consider the matter in another light. First-degree murder – the deliberate, calculated taking of human life – is a crime of the utmost horror and must be met by the severest punishment. If this is not to take the form of capital punishment (and we firmly believe that it must not), then what punishment will answer? Society in general and potential murderers in particular must be left in no doubt that this crime, above all crimes, a repudiated utterly. There is neither justice nor safety in the proposal that convicted first-degree murderers be returned to the streets before they have shaken off their murderous intent. Common humanity and civil order both demand that the punishment be long.

And, so, the punishment must be long. But it must also be humane. So long as we continue to dump huge numbers of men into the great, unwieldy cauldrons that in Canada pass as penal institutions, we must shoulder the blame for the bloody consequences. The present federal Solicitor-General, Robert Kaplan, can and must change that – by breaking Canada’s hulking prisons into smaller units, by locating them near large urban areas where they will have access to extensive rehabilitative resources, by giving them a human face. The shame is not that there is no solution; the shame is that the solution has so long been apparent, and so long been ignored.

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“25-year murder term a ‘time bomb’: Is the law incubating prison violence?” Globe and Mail, September 1, 1980. Pages 01 & 02.

By VICTOR MALAREK

Mandatory 25-year prison terms for first-degree murder are creating a time bomb in Canada’s network of maximum-security penitentiaries, according to both prison officials outside the penal system.

In a series of interviews, guards, criminologists, lawyers and Government officials agreed that unless the law is amended the institutions will be plagued increasingly by riots, murders, attacks on guards and hostage-takings such as the one this past week at Laval Penitentiary in Quebec.

All but two of the nine convicts who took 12 people hostage in the Laval incident are serving life sentences, and at least three are in for the mandatory 25 years for first-degree murder. (Another prisoner who was killed at the outset of the Laval incident was also serving a life sentence.)

Most critics say the only way to defuse the situation is to reduce the mandatory sentence by 10 or 15 years, with parole a likely prospect after that period. Although prison guards’ representatives do not openly advocate it, they favour a return to the death penalty.

Statistics show that 116 convicts, slightly more than 1 per cent of those now in penitentiaries across the country, are serving mandatory terms for first-degree murder. Another 279 convicted of second-degree murder are serving at least 10 years before they are eligible for parole.

Critics argue that unless something is done about the 25-year mandatory sentence a string of maximum-security institutions will have to be built across the country by the turn of the century to accommodate first-degree murderers.

Alan Gold, a criminal lawyer in Toronto, called the present law ‘a sham…a fraud. It was a political tradeoff for capital punishment and it’s obvious it will have to be changed.

‘It will have to be changed by 1985 or the Government will have to build three, four or five Millhaven-type prisons (referring to maximum-security prison near Kingston that holds about 300 convicts)…It’s obvious that is not going to happen. Simple mathemaics will show you that the law cannot stay in effect.

‘And 25 years is just too long to keep someone in jail without a chance of parole. It creates a sense of hopelessness, which leads to frustration and then to violence.

‘It’s like a time bomb waiting to go off when you have a large number of inmates sitting around with no hope,’ said Mr. Gold, who prepared a brief for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association that was presented to a parliamentary subcommittee studying the penitentiary system in 1976-77.

William Westlake, senior deputy commissioner of the Correctional Services of Canada, said ominously that the full effect of the law that replaced capital punishment ‘is just starting to rear its head.’

Although studies do not indicate that inmates serving 25-year terms are the sole source of serious outbreaks in penitentiaries, he said, ‘if they are not up front there is good reason to believe they are operating in the background.’

He said these inmates are ‘hardcore, manipulative and very aggressive. Their population is increasing every day.’

Gaston Bernatchez, an executive with the Union of Solicitor-General Employees, said: ‘That law must be amended because conditions will be impossible in a very short time.

‘To do 25 years is nonsense, no matter what the person has done. These inmates see no hope, no future…Their only alternative is to escape and in their attempt they will take hostages.

‘In the meantime, they terrify other inmates and threaten guards. The inmates live in fear and the guards work in fear because they know these guys have nothing to lose,’ Mr. Bernatchez said.

‘I have had many inmates tell me they would rather be hanged than serve a minimum of 25 years inside.’

Real Jubinville, associate director of the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Crime (an organization of professionals and laymen formerly known as the Canadian Criminology and Corrections Association), said that ‘men serving such sentences become desperate, and when you get many of these people in the same institution from what may have been a relatively relaxed atmosphere to a highly tense place.

‘This tension affects even those prisoners doing shorter terms, who then begin to see their own life in the same desperate light,’ he said. As tension rises among prisoners, ‘there is a mounting fear within the security people in the institutions. The more desperate men you have in cages, the more fearful the watchers get.’

Mr. Westlake said it has become obvious that ‘these are the people our service will have to pay particular attention to.’

He said that a stricter and more elaborate method of security classification for prisoners has been designed and will be introduced over the next few years.

Prisons now are classified as providing one of three levels of security – minimum, medium, or maximum. The new system will have seven levels, and all prisoners serving the 25-year mandatory term will spend a major part of it under the most stringent security.

Mr. Westlake predicated that the change, which probably will take two to three years to complete, ‘will have a significant impact on exerting control and turning around problems.’

Although the 25-year term was singled out as the most serious cause of unrest in maximum security prisons, those interviewed pointed to myriad other factors.

Prison guards say that discipline has gone out the window, and as a result inmates are out of control, gangs are running the prisons, and drugs and alcohol are easily obtained.

Inmates and prisoners’ rights groups counter that guards wield too much power, that correctional officers are overzealous at times in exercising authority.

Allan Manson, professor of law and director of a correctional law project at Queen’s University in Kingston, pointed to the Government’s ‘failure to address very fundamental questions…in particular, the effects on the soul of long-term confinement.’

Prof. Manson agreed that the Giivernment has carried out many changes in the past 10 years. ‘They have dealt with a lot of the cosmetic difficulties…but they have failed to come to grips with an environment that is repressive and coercive. You can never escape the fact that the very structure of prisons promotes frustrated, hostile and dangerous environments.’

Graham Stewart, executive director of the John Howard Society in Kingston, agreed that many of the changes made have been superficial. ‘The major concern of all prisoners is not food or clothing. It is release. And that major concern is totally lost in a huge complex maze in which a large number of people are now involved. There is an absence of clear criteria on release, and the tension that builds up from that is incredible.’

Mr. Stewart said that rules on such things as day passes, unsupervised visits, transfers, and paroles have ‘become so complicated and complex. The authority to grant anything that requires a positive deciision has risen higher and higher…Negative decisions can be granted quite readily at the lower levels of authority.

‘And all the time, you’re dealing with someone’s life.’

Politicians and Government administrators have raised the expectations of inmates but have not delivered on the promises, Mr. Gold said.

‘They have been promising smaller institutions with less emphasis on warehousing people…that the massive penitentiary of the olden days would be gone. Yet the Government continues to pour money into building Millhaven-type institutions.

‘The Government keeps sending out the message hat ‘we’re not going to treat you like the animals, we’re not going to warehouse you, we will treat you right’ and yet, for a long time, nothing of substance happens,’ Mr. Gold said. ‘It’s the frustration of not having those promises met that leads to violence.’

Mr. Beratchez, who worked as a prison guard for 16 years, said that ‘prisoners have been given too many rights. That’s the general feeling of all the guards. There is practically no discipline. You cannot operate a prison without discipline.’

He said prison wardens are bending over backwards to meet convicts’ demands. ‘The warden wants to keep the peace. He knows if he keeps refusing the inmate demands they will blow up his place. It’s nothing but blackmail.’

Mr. Westlake, who has worked in penitentiary services for 32 years, said that in the past decade ‘life in institutions has become liberalized. It’s a reflection of the more liberalized approach society has asked us to take to the prisons. Once you liberalize, then it’s inevitable that those problems will come.’

One result is that ‘the kind of inmate you’re dealing with today is quite different from the individual we got 15 or 20 years ago,’ he said.

‘Inmates today expect more from the system. There is a lot of emphasis on human rights. Inmates have a lot more free time…’

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“Laval penitentiary has long history of violence,” Montreal Gazette. August 28, 1980. Page 04.

The Laval Institute, where late last night nine prisoners were still holding 11 hostages, has often been the site of prison violence.

The history of the 107-year-old prison, formerly known as St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary, is dotted with riots, hostage-takings, escapes, suicides and murders of both prisoners and guards.

In the last four years alone there have been five hostage-takings, including the current one. The most recent occurred last February when three prisoners, armed with ice picks, held three guards hostage for eight hours.

The hostage-takings have all been resolved without violence, but in other incidents several guards have been attacked by prisoners, and one guard has been killed.

In July, 1978, prison guard Guy Fournier was shot and killed as five inmates made an escape attempt. One prisoner was killed in the incident and the other four were recaptured within weeks. They are currently serving life sentences, with no opportunity for parole before 25 years.

Conditions at the Institution, which has housed approximately 200,000 inmates during the last century, has been called deplorable by prisoners, politicians and prisoners’ rights groups. 

The prison has been condemned by at least three royal commissions of inquiry and one government subcommittee.

A 1977 report by the federal sub-committee that examined Canada’s penitentiary system called the institution uninhabitable and said it should be ‘demolished and rebuilt.’ 

But the report did nothing to lessen the violence there.

In September, 1978, for example, 29-year-old inmate Roland Simard, a known associate of Edgar Roussel, one of the prisoners involved in the current hostage-taking, wounded two guards with a home-made knife.

Simard, who was serving two life terms for murder, got another year for the attacks.

But during his trial several other inmates testified that guards in the solitary confinement unit where Simard was being held harassed him by restricting his food and taunting him for about a month before the incident. 

Over the years, prisoners’ protests of conditions in the jail have ranged from hunger strikes to suicides to riots.

Earlier this summer, seven prisoners from the solitary confinement unit slit their wrists in the prison exercise yard to protest conditions in the unit.

Two were hospitalized and the others were treated in the prison infirmary. Authorities used tear gas as they cleared the exercise yard.

Four years ago almost 300 inmates went on an hour-long spreed, smashing sinks and toilets, setting bedding and mattresses afire and breaking windows. Approximately $500,000 worth of damage was done, but no one was injured.

And in 1962 Laval was the scene of the worst prison riot in Canadian history. Several inmates were killed in a riot that destroyed almost 400 cells and cost more than $3 million in damage.

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“«Poker» s’est rendu
• Deux mutins détienne
encore quatre otages,” La Presse. September 26, 1979. Page 22.

par Raymond GERVAIS

La nuit dernière, au moment
de mettre sous presse, deux mutins détenaient toujours quatre
employés de l’Institut Archambault de Sainte-Anne-des-Plainés en otage .

Le suspense a
commence vers 8h30 lundi matin et les négociations entre deux
représentants de l’institution
carcérale et les deux ravisseurs
se poursuivaient toujours, mais
à pas de tortue.

Hier soir, Denis «Poker» Racine,
âgé de 23 ans, que l’on croit
être l’instigateur de la prise d’otages,
s’est livré aux autorités
du pénitencier. Plus tôt dans la
journée, un autre mutin avait fait la même chose: il s’agit de 

Pierre Thibault, 19 ans; les deux
prisonniers ont été conduits sous
bonne garde au Centre de développement correctional situé à
Laval.

Prise d’otages

C’est la quatrième prise d’otages à survenir à cette institution depuis 1976.

Le 4 mai 1976, Michel English
et Léopold Mercier s’étaient
emparés de deux gardes pendant
13 heures. L e 20 juillet 1978, Serge
Roberge et Maurice Paquette
ont pris quatre employés de l’école
en otage et cette prise d’otages dura 70 heures. Le 9 mai
dernier, Alain Fortin et Richard
Cusson se sont emparés de deux
gardes pendant huit
heures. Finalement, le 24 septembre, Denis «Poker» Racine, qui
purge une peine d’emprissonment à perpétuité pour le meurtre
d’un adolescent de 16 ans, survenu à Terre des Hommes, le 28 juin
1976, Pierre Thibault, 19 ans, condamné à 11 ans de prison pour vol
qualifié et tentative de meurtre, Michel Boudreau, 23 ans, incarcéré
pour vol qualifié et pour évasion, ainsi que Serge Payeur, âgé de
24 ans, qui purge une peine de dix ans d’emprisonnement pour
enlèvement et pour vol avec violence séquestrent six personnes à
l’intérieur de l’école du pénitencier.

Au cours d’une conversation téléphonique (enregistré par
les gardes) que le détenu Racine
a eue avec sa mère, lundi soir,
celui-ci lui a dit: «Je ne peux rester ici, je ne suis éligible à une
libération conditionnell que
dans 22 ans. Quand je sortirai de
prison, j’aurai 40 ans, c’est im possible, je dois sortir avant ça.»
A plusieurs reprises au cours
de la conversation téléphonique,
sa mère a tenté de lui faire entendre raison et qu’il n’obtiendrait rien en menaçant la vie des
gens innocents, mais «Poker» ne
voulait rien entendre.

 

Meurtre

Rappelons que Racine purge
présentementune peine d’emprisonnement à vie à la suite du
meurtre de Roger Arsenault qui
avit été poignardé au coeur,
pour un manteau de cuir.
Au moment du meurtre de l’adolescent,
Racine était accompné
des trois freres Johnston,
Gary, alors âgé de 21 ans, Murray, 19 ans ainsi que d’un adolescent.
La victime était accompagnée
d’un ami, Alain Tétreault,
16 ans, qui lui aussi a été poignardé
à deux reprises par l’assassin
de son ami.

Hier soir, les quatre personnes
toujours détenues en otage
par les deux mutins étaient Michel Paré, 35 ans, John Bronkman dont on ne connaît pas l’âge, deux professeurs, le gardien
Serge Geoffroy, 28 ans, ainsi
qu’un préposé à l’entretien, Martin Chevarie, 30 ans environ. 

Hier après-midi, Lise Roger,
âgée de 23 ans, professeur à l’Institut Archambault, a été libérée
par les détenus, pour prouver
leur bonne foi aux négociateurs
du pénitencier. Un autre otage,
Jacques Lecompte, 25 ans, avait été libéré lundi soir et a dû être
traité pour un choc nerveux et
des blessures mineures.

Demandes

Hier matin, les ravisseurs
avaient demandé aux autorités
de leur fournir un autobus aux
vitres teintées, des cagoules, des
bottes, des vêtements pour passer
inaperçus parmi les otages
ainsi que la morphine. Ces demandes des prisonniers ainsi que toutes les autres ont d’ailleurs
été refusées parles autorités.

Les mutins ne pouvaient d’ailleurs
espérer obtenir quoi que ce
soit, la consigne des pénitenciers
fédéraux étant de ne laisser sortir
aucun prisonnier sous aucune
condition. 

Tout ce que les détenus peuvent
espérer lors d’une prise d’otages,
c’est un transfert dans
une autre institution carcérale. 

Selon l’assistant-directeur du
pénitencier, M. Laval Marchand, «il est évident que les
mutins sont divisés puisqu’ils se
rendent un par un.»

Un psychologue qui travaillé
en milieu carcéral a précisé,
hier, que les prisonniers qui participent à des prises d’otages le
font souvent pour se revaloriser
aux yeux de leurs co-détenus.
«Lors qu’un prisonnier perd du
terrain vis-à-vis les autres, souvent il veut participerr à quelque
chose pour reprendre la «pôle»
qu’il a perdue. C’est la loi du milieu
qui veut ça.» 

Le

psychologue

a de plus déclaré que «lors qu’il y a des prises
d’otages et que les mutins se
rendent un à un, c’est fréquement par ce qu’ils ne sont
pas d’accord avec les autres,
que ce soit pour exiger quelque
chose de l’administration ou une
décision à l’égard des otages qui
pourra it en traîner une offensive
de la part des gardes.»    

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