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AL: All of the coverage of the shooting incident at Kingston General
Hospital by Millhaven Institution inmate Corey Ward has tended to
focus, understandably, on the effects it has had on the Hospital: staff
are feeling “traumatized” and “violated” according to Dr.
David Messenger, an emergency room doctor and head of the Queen’s
University department of emergency medicine. The
danger to other patients, the shock and fear of patients, their families and friends, and staff, and the need to bring in counselors and support all those deeply upset by the shooting, has been emphasized – again, understandably. The
Kingston-Whig
Standard
ran
with a story November 21
about the security and policy
changes that may take place at the Hospital, as well.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has told the press that both officers feel “shaken up” by the incident, while Correctional Service of Canada officially praised the escort team for being “very diligent and professional.” Ward’s criminal record – 10 years for uttering death threats, violent assault and assaulting a police officer in 2012 – has been released as well.

This local story interests
me for a few other reasons. Initial reports from
CTV via the Canadian Press said Ward was “found unconscious”
in his cell –
this is why he was brought to emergency. But
unconscious
from what? Why? During his arraignment, Ward
asked for a 30-day psychiatric assessment and
complained
that his medications were being withheld – was he on medication?
For what? Is that connected to the medical emergency in his cell?  He
was charged with attempted murder and firing with intent. but
aside from the initial reports saying the firearm was discharged
during a struggle (it’s not unknown for guns to be fired
accidentally during such a situation) and not aimed at anyone
directly, there is no publicly available evidence to back up these
charges. The
Kingston Police claim the escape was not premeditated, either. Again,
during his arraignment, Ward shouted out: “they
[the
correctional officers]
took the cuffs off me and dared me to attack them.”
This
may be a post-hoc justification, of course, and perhaps his escort did nothing of the sort, but given the history and
current relationship between staff and inmates at Millhaven – not
good is an understatement – this is not out of the realm of the possible.

Ward is being transferred to the Regional Reception Centre
in Saint-Anne-Des-Plaines, Quebec, which also houses the super-max Special
Handling Unit – a punitive measure without a doubt. This will also make his legal defense more difficult. Finally,
during the few seconds Ward was taped by CTV being dragged into the
courtroom by the Emergency Response Team escort (doing their best
security theatre routine) he yelled something about “suicide” and
Ashley Smith.” What was he trying to say? Why has this not been
reported on by the CBC or the Whig-Standard in their coverage? Does
this not bear further investigation, that an inmate, no matter how
violent or dangerous, might have a strong historical and communal
understanding of the connection between prison conditions, mental health and suicide?

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“‘Super Max’ – It’s a solitary life of misery for convicts in special unit,” Globe and Mail. September 12, 1980. Page 05.

By VICTOR MALAREK

One at a time a few extremely dangerous convicts trudge out of their cells to exercise by themselves for an hour.

They are being punished, and for about a month their life will be sheer misery in a prison within a prison because they have no physical contact with other prisoners or with their keepers.

But their woes will not end after those 30-odds days of strict solitary confinement. Then they start a long stretch of living under intense security, segregated from the rest of the prisoners.

Their world will revolve around a tiny cell constructed completely of steel, cramped recreation areas that are monitored by cameras and close contact with prisoners, who like themselves, are some of the most violent criminals in the country.

Their world is known as the special handling unit or ‘special max.’ There are only two in Canada – one at Millhaven penitentiary in Bath, Ont., and the other at the correctional development centre in Laval, Que.

According to Millhaven’s warden, John Ryan, the units are used to protect prison society from those convicts who are bent on using violence on both the guards and fellow prisoners.

Rehabilitative value is nonexistent
Until a few weeks ago, the total population at the two units was about 50. That figure got a sudden spurt of new blood as nine inmates, who took part in the hostage-taking incident at Laval penitentiary in Quebec, were transferred to the unit at the Laval centre.

Criminologists, psychologists and prisoners alike maintain that the units have no rehabilitative value.

Pierre Landreville, a professor of criminology at the University of Montreal, said the way the units are run ‘right now, they are inhuman. I think I would have to say their only function is to break the spirit.’

But he added that he thought the units are necessary because ‘some of these people are quite dangerous.’

Fred Sweet, chairman of the prisoners’ committee at Millhaven, said in a recent interview at the penitentiary that the units should be eliminated.

‘Some of the guys they (the administrations) put into SHU are potentially dangerous convicts, but once they’re put in, you remove the potential and then they are dangerous,’ Mr. Sweet said, pounding his clenched fist – the letters F, R, E, and D tattooed on his knuckles – on a bare wooden table.

Bryan Reynolds, a 29-year-old convict serving life for murder at Millhaven, described the unit as ‘a breeding ground for violent animals.’

‘Think of living in a room the size of a toilet (bathroom) day after day after day for months on end, only the cell is worse than a…doghouse. You’d get charged by the humane society for treating dogs the way convicts are treated in SHU,’ Mr. Reynolds said angrily. He has spent nine months in the unit.

Mr. Sweet maintained that if the prisoners were treated with ‘human dignity in the first place, SHU would not be necessary.’

Dragan Cernetic, former warden of the British Columbia penitentiary, who now works in operations at Correctional Service of Canada headquarters in Ottawa, hotly defended the units in a recent interview.

‘There are only two ways you can deal with violent inmates. You can impose stringent security on, the whole prison population or you can segregate three or four of the trouble-makers in a place where they can…rot as far as I’m concerned.’

Mr. Cernetic said the kind of convict he would recommend for incarceration in a special handling unit ‘is a man who I could not take home for dinner and feel safe with him.’

On a recent tour of the unit at Millhaven rarely given to outsiders, David Page, the officer in charge of the unit, tersely described the living conditions.

‘All the cells have been completely converted to steel. A steel desk, steel walls, steels sinks, and steel toilets. All the steel is painted. The beds are bolted to the walls.’

During the visit, the convicts were locked in their cells behind massive steel doors. Lunch was being passed to them through a hole in the middle of the door. Intense security was ever present through a maze of electronically controlled steel portals.

Every movement outside the cells is closely monitored either visually or by television cameras. Guards patrol the cell block about every 45 minutes when the men are locked in their cells and peep through a tiny glass opening in the doors to ensure nothing is amiss.

Red panic buttons, in case of trouble, prominently protrude from the walls in every cubicle in the ranges.

One hour a day to exercise alone
On the Phase I block, the tightest security area, a convict’s wiry hand jutted out of a hole in the door where meals are passed. Another prisoner yelled for a guard. ‘Can you come here for a mine. It’s important. I want to discuss my welfare.’

In Phase I, Mr. Page said, inmates get out of their cells one at a time for only an hour a day to exercise.

Conditions improve as the prisoners graduate to Phase 2 and 3, where periods outside the cells and contact with inmates is increased to a little more than six and eight hours a day respectively.

It’s in those latter phases, ‘other than the fact that their movement is contained, the prisoners are a lot better off in some cases than the other inmates. The other inmates don’t have television in their cells,’ Mr. Page said.

A couple of cells have been converted into recreation rooms and mini-gyms where inmates can either play guitars, listen to music or pound out their frustrations on a heavy punching bag.

Inmates can also go outside occassionally to a yard aptly referred to by the guards and prisoners as a ‘cloister.’ They get movies twice a week.

James Hayes, a psychologist at Millhaven, said that sicne the program was started at the penitentiary ‘we’ve had no returnees. The recidivism rate is nil.

Mr. Hayes said that ‘the inmates knows very clearly what he has to do to get his release back to the normal prison population.’

The operative word is co-operation. Inmates must not be mouthy to the guards and must show they can get along with their fellow inmates in the unit.

No limit is placed on the number of visits by family members to inmates in the unit, but the convict and visitor are separated by a cage, glass and screens.

‘The visits are inhuman,’ said Mr. Sweet. ‘The prisoner sits in a cage while he visits with his family. It’s degrading.’

Of his stay in the unit, Mr. Reynolds said the intense security ‘bothers you at first but you get used to it…We’re human beings. What they’re doing in SHU is illegal…(It) is morally illegal because it is cruel and unusual punishment.’

Frank Steel, a member of the three-man board at the Correctional Service of Canada in Ottawa that decides who goes into units, said inmates who take hostages during an escape attempt are almost automatically sent there.

Other infractions leading to an incarceration are murder or or assault on a prison guard or another convict.

‘SHU candidates are those who are determined to be dangerous…inmates perceived to be particularly violent while under sentence,’ Mr. Steel said.

Confinement in the units is relatively free of bureaucratic red tape. A warden holds an in-penitentiary review of the cases and makes a recommendation that goes to regional headquarters and then to the special handling unit in Ottawa.

The board is made up of the deputy comminisioner of security, the head of offender programs and the director-general of medical services.

‘Once we recommend SHU, the case is reviewed monthly at the institution and every six months at national headquarters. Every six months we go to the SHUs and interview those inmates who wish to be interviewed. Usually they all want to be interviewed,’ Mr. Steel said.

Cases reviewed every month
‘We talk about thee progress he’s been making and sometimes give him an indication of when he can expect to be released to the normal population. Our biggest complaint (from the inmates) is the perceived capriciousness of the system and the uncertainty of when an inmate can expect to be released.’

The average stay in the unit is between 18 months and two years, Mr. Steel said.

One convict, who was involved the hostage-taking incident at the B.C. Penitentiary in June, 1975, in which Mary Steinhauser, a classification officer, was killed by prison guards, was released last June from the Millhaven unit.

Paul Caouette, executive secretary of the Union of Solicitor-General Employees, vehemently defended the use of the units, ‘especially when it involves the safety of the guards.’

Mr. Caouette warned that if politicians ever fell to the demands of prisoners’ rights groups of convicts to ban the units, they would see a rapid dwindling in the number of guards.

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“La prise d ’otages,
l’épouvante moderne,” La Presse. September 5, 1979. Page I-2.

par
Chris MORRIS

DORCHESTER, N.-B. (PC) – Un prisonnier

transféré du pénitencier
de Millhaven en Ontario
à la prison du 19e siècle
à sécurité maximum de
ce village de l’est du
Nouveau-Brunswick a
dit que c’était commes il était passé d’Auschiwtz à un camps de
scouts.

S’ils en est ainsi, pourquoi
ce pénitencier semblable à une forteresse
avec ses murs de pierre
et ses tourelles fu t-il le
lieu de ceré cit d’épouvante
moderne: la prise
d’otages?
Il semble que les deux
drames de ces deux dernières
années ne furent
que des aberrations et
non des manifestations
du mécontentement répandus parmi les 300
prisonniers de Dorchester.

Situé sur une colline
parmi des terres de culture
près de la frontière
entre

le Nouveau-Brunswick et la Nouvelle-Ecosse, 

ce pénitencier sombre , à l’aspect
rébarbatif, est considéré

comme
relativement agréable par les criminels
et l’administration.

Qu’on leur laisse le
choix et beaucoup de
endur cis prisonniers
iront à Dorchester plutôt
qu’à une autre maison
de détention. L’un deux
a déclaré dans une interView
que les conditions y
étaient meilleures que
dans tout autre pénitencier,
prisonniers et gardes
y étant plus amènes.

Depuis janvier 1978, il
y a cependant eu là deux
prises d’otages. — des
gardes.

La pire des deux, selon
le directeur suppléant
Gerald G reen, fut la
deuxième, du 30 avril au
2 mai 1979.

Un fou furieux
Un condamné à 14 ans
pour tentative de meurtre
s’est emparé d’un
garde et d’un professeur
d’atelier et les a torturés.

M. Greene raconte que
le prisonnier Gerald
MacDonald a arraché
les ongles du professeur
au moyen de tenailles et
lui a brûlé les mains. Le
garde a été libéré apres
avoir été frappé à l ’estomac à coup de tournevis.

M. Greene dit que
MacDonald a va it alors
le cerveau dérangé.
Une prise d’otages au
début de 1978 a duré 128
heures. Deux détenus du
Québec ont enlevé un

garde et réclamé leur
transfert à un péniten­cier de leur province
natale.

Personne n’a été blessé
au cours du siège et
les prisonniers furent
plus tard transférés à
une unité spéciale du
pénitencier à sécurité
maximum de Laval, au
Quebec.

M. Greene dit que les
gardes n’en sont pas
devenus amers pour
autant et que l’on n’a
pas pris depuis de pre ­cautions spéciales.

Dorchester est un établissement à sécurité
moyenne plus qu’à sécurité maximum comme
Millhaven à Kingston en Ontario. IL y a une salle
de visite grande ouverte
ou les prisonniers assis à
des tables peuvent causer
avec leurs hôtes et
même les étreindre. Et
les relations sont plutôt
bonnes entre prisonniers
et gardes.

Selon M. Greene, il
serait facile de prendre
des otages, particulièrement au cours de collo ques ou durant les leçons
aux prisonniers dans les
ateliers.

«Ce n’est pas (la prise
d’otages) quelque chose
que l’on peut arrêter par
des mesures supplémentaires
de sécurité: bien
plus, ces mesures mêmes pourraient gâcher
les relations avec les
détenus.

«Si l’on prend trop de
précautions, les prisons
ne deviennent rien d’autre
que des enclos pour
animaux dangereux, ce
qui n’a pas de sens.»

Comparaisons

M. Greene trouve les
détenus des Maritimes
différents des autres. Ils
ne sont pas. en général,
des criminels aussi
«sophistiqués» que ceux
de l’O n ta rio et du Québec.
dit-il.

«Nous n’avons pas
vraim nt de crime organise
et cela compte en
m atière de sécurité.»

Jack McLaughlin, âgé
de 41 ans, vient de Montréal. Il purge une sentence
de dix ans et il
reconnaît que les mesures
de sécurité et la
composition de la population
pénitentiaire sont
différentes de celles des
prisons ou il a séjourné
de puis l’âge de 21 ans.
C’est lui qui a compa­ré Dorchester et Millhaven.
respectivement,
à un camp de scouts et à
Auschwitz.
«J’ai constaté»

dit-il,
que la plupart des prisonniers, ici, viennent disent
des Maritimes. Ils n’ont
pas passé par des unités
spéciales comme celles
du Québec et de Millhaven
où les gaz lacrymogènes et les coups
sont d ’usage courant.

«Les prisonniers d’ici
trouvent ça dur, mais il
n’y a pas eu de vraie sémeutes. Il y a rarement
des batailles, et quand il
y en a c’est aux poings .
Depuis trois ans que je
suis ici, aucun prisonnier s’a été grièvement
blessé.»

McLaulghlin parle avec beaucoup d’amertume
de Millhaven de mauvais traitements et d’actes
de brutalité qu’il attribue
aux gardes.

Faisant à l’envie des
comparaisons entre
Millhaven et Dorchester,
il dit qu’à ce dernier
endroit, contrairem ent
aux autres pénitenciers
et prisons qu’il connaît les gardes disent

«bonjour» le matin aux
prisonniers et s’informent de leur état de santé.

D’après McLaughlin,
s’ il y a jamais des prises
d’otages, des arrêts de
travail, des grèves sur le
tas à Dorchester , ce ne
peut être que par suite
de l’accumulation de
frustrations. Un incident
mineur, la goutte proverbiale qui…

Membre du comité de
liaison entre les prisonniers
et l’administration, McLaughlin dit
qu’il ne se soucie pas des
pénitenciers qui ne peuvent,
de toute façon,
aider à la réhabilitation
des criminels.

«Je ne m’intéresse
plus à rien. Je n’ai pas
de sentiments . Voilà ce
que le système carcéral
a fait de moi.

«Je n’ai absolument
plus de sentiments. Je
suis devenu froid.»

Read Full Post »

“Les jours de grande violence sont-ils
révolus dans les prisons canadiennes?” La Presse. September 5, 1979. Page I-1.

par Gérard McNEIL

de la Presse Canadienne

Un Canadien sur 1,000 se trouvera,
cette année, dans l’une des
prisons municipales ou provinciales
du Canada ou dans un pénitencier
fédéral.

Et beaucoup réagiront comme
Gilbert Rondeau quand il a passé
dix jours dans une prison provinciale
du Québec le printemps
dernier.

Député aux Communes, de
1962 à sa d éfaite aux élections
générales du 22 mai, R ondeau
était fervent partisan de la rigueur
envers les condamnés. La
prison a modifié ses idées.

«C’est une vraie maison de fous,
déclara l’homme âgé de 51 ans
trouvé coupable de fraude. C’est
un système cancéreux que l’on
veut correctif mais qui ne corrige
absolument rien»

Beaucoup de prisonniers seraient
d’accord avec Rondeau.
Les conditions intérieures ne
sont pas adaptées à la dissuasion
ni à la réhabilition. Beaucoup de
prisons sont surpeuplées avec
des installations désuètes. 

Et, ce qui est peut-être plus
important

— du moins pour les

prisonniers

ces établissements symbolisent un avenir
sans espoir.

Souvent cette situation provoque
la violence entre prisonniers,
et entre prisonniers et
gardes. Toutefois, on a lieu de
croire que les jours de grande
violence, les jours vraim ent
m auvais de 1975 et 1976, sont
révolus. Cela peut dépendre du
gouvernement fédéral progressiste-conservateur. 

Vers le calme?

Les spécialistes pensent que si
le gouvernement met en vigueur
la législation recommandée en
1977 par un sous-comité parle ­
mentaire, les incidents graves
seront rares.

De fait, leur nombre a passablement
décru au cours des années
1970, les prisonniers attendant
quelles réformes le gouvernement
instituerait par suite des
recommandations du sous-comité
parlementaire.

En 1976, les détenus menaçaient de détruire le système
pénal en causant de lourds
dommages à trois pénitenciers
fédéraux à sécurité maximum:
Laval au Québec, Millhaven en
Ontario et en Colombie-Britannique.
En 1975 et 1976, il y eut dans
les institutions fédérales 69 incidents
graves dont 35 au cours
desquels les prisonniers prirent
92 otages.

L’an dernier ainsi qu’au cours
du premier semestre de 1979, il
n’y eut que deux événements
qualifiés de graves et, par comparaison
avec ceux du passé, ils
furent bénins.

«Ce que nous considérons
maintenant m ajeur aurait été
ju g é m ineur il y a quelques a n ­
nées», a déclaré M. Howard
Mansfield, principal analyste de
la sécurité du système fédéral.

Après les désordres de 1976, la
sous-comité parlementaire trouve
le système pénitentiaire en
état de crise, sa direction
«épaisse» et inefficace, les gardes
brutaux et sans surveillance,
et les détenus furieux.

Inaction
officielle


Les 13 membres du sous-comité,
représentant les quatre
grands partis aux Communes,
recommandèrent à l’unanimité
65 réformes dont plusieurs ne
sont pas encore en vigueur.

Mais le rapport du sous-comité
est devenu une sorte de bible qui
a enseigné aux détenus comment
le systèm e fonctionne et comment
il devrait fonctionner. Ce
qui importe davantage, il leur a
donné espoir. Ils semblent compter
moins sur la violence et da ­vantage sur la publicité.

D’une série d’interviews de la
Presse Canadienne avec des forçats,
d’anciens bagnards et des
fonctionnaires d’institutions
pénitentiaires, il ressort que l’insuffisance
de la formation de
gardes, les longues périodes
d’ennui et la pauvreté des installations
demeurent les principaux
problèmes.

On semble d’accord que si l’on
ne modifie pas le système pénitentiaire,
il y aura d’autres actes
de violence, d’autres soulèvements.

Mais on n’est pas d’accord sur
la question de savoir si les conditions
se sont améliorées depuis
que l’on a donné suite à quelques

recommandations du sous-comité.

A en croire un ancien forçat de
Laval, le vieux pénitencier malfamé de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul à
Montréal, il y aurait là plus de
répression que jamais et davantage
de tentatives de suicide.
Toutefois, les institutions du
Québec ne constituent pas un
microcosme du système pénal
du Canada. La violence y sévit
plus que partout ailleurs et des
détenus soutiennent que les gardes
sont promis en raison de leur
brutalité.

Les gardes

Un fonctionnaire de Millhaven
dit que les gardes reçoivent
maintenant une meilleure formation
et que les conditions sont
meilleures. Un autre prétend
qu’il reste des gardes très durs
envers les détenus.

A Stony Mountain au Manitoba,
on a formé un groupe de
«living unit officers» (agent vivant
sur place) chargés de rendre
la vie plus tolérable pour les
détenus. Ces gardes ne portent
pas d’uniforme, ils sont en permanence
affectés aux cellules et
conseillent les prisonniers. Des
fonctionnaires louent l’efficacité
de cette mesure; d’autres la
nient.

«C’est une farce, dit un ba ­gnard. Autrefois, ces gens
étaient des gardes norm aux de
tous les jours.

«Et tout à coup on en fait des
conseillers sans qu’ils aient reçu
de formation».

Un fait que l’on ne conteste
pas. C’est que l’autorité pénale
semble écouter davantage les
prisonniers.

«Je pense que l’on profite davantage de la correspondance,
dit M. Mansfield. Les détenus
reçoivent maintenant une réponse,
et qui n ’est pas cavalière».

Quand un prisonnier est accusé
d’un délit, c’est un président
indépendant et non plus seulement
le sous-directeur qui écoule
sa version. On a encouragé la
formation de comités de prisonniers
et de citoyens qui souvent
s’efforcent ensemble de corriger
une situation qui, dans le passé,
aurait donné lieu à un affrontement.

Le «commissaire correctionnel»
Howard Yeomans n’est pas
spécialiste des prisons mais s’y
connaît en administration. Il
exige des rapports suivis et,
dans une certaine mesure, a mis
de l’ordre dans ce qui était un
fouillis.

Formation
inutile


Depuis nombre d’années, les
prisons fédérales avaient des
programmes de formation mais
il a fallu l’enquête du sous-comité
en 1976 pour qu’on sache que
les certificats remis aux prisonniers
ne les aidaient nullement à
obtenir un emploi.

Les cours de métier qu’on leur
dispense sont maintenant reconnus
par les provinces, ce qui
donne aux prisonniers libérés la
chance de trouver du travail.

Le Parlement a amendé la loi
des libertés conditionnelles pour
rendre la vie plus dure aux prisonniers
dont la libération est
annulée. A l’intérieur du système,
on a formé deux unités spéciales
l’une à Millhaven et l’autre
à Montréal.

Quiconque prend un otage,
s’évade ou comme et un acte de
violence en prison se retrouve
dans cet unité pour au moins dix
mois.

Il y est enfermé 19 heures par
jour avec un appareil de télé
comme seule distraction. Les
cellules ont trois murs d ’acier et
un en béton. Elles sont éclairées
24 heures par jour.

Un prisonnier de Milhaven
s’est crevé les yeux dans l’espoir
qu ’on le renverrait aux Etats-Unis
et qu’il y obtiendrait la libération
conditionnelle. Il sera libéré
mais il est aveugle d’un oeil
et voit à peine de l’autre.

L’oisiveté

A la prison de Winnipeg, deux
prisonniers se sont suicidés
après huit mois de réclusion
dans des cellules ressemblant à
des alcôves avec des toilettes à
la vue de tous. Comme dans la
plupart des prisons, ils n’avaient
rien à faire.

Il semble que les installations
physiques, le désespoir et un
ennui mortel portent au suicide
dans les prisons. D’après l’Association
canadienne des libertés
civiques, le taux des suicides
chez les prisonniers est 12 fois
plus élevé que dans le public en
général.

Directeurs, gardes et prisonniers
s’inquiètent du nombre
croissant des condamnés à un
minimum de 25 ans pour meurtre
au premier degré et à un minimum
de 10 à 25 ans pour meurtre
au second degré.

Plus de 1,000 prisonniers croupissent
en prison pour avoir tué
et depuis 1976 une centaine s’y
trouvent en principe pour 25 ans,
ne pouvant être libérés avant le
21e siècle.

D’après des fonctionnaires, vingt-cinq ans dans n’importe
quelle prison rend inapte à quoi
que ce soit quand on est finalement
libre.

Un porte-parole de la John
Howard Society, à Kingston, a
dit: «Un système pénitentiaire
est un milieu où un certain nombre
de forces s’opposent à d’autres…
C’est pourquoi nous recommandons
des institutions
plus petites où les gens (le personnel
et les prisonniers) peuvent
communiquer de l’un à l’autre».

Read Full Post »

THE CORRECTIONAL STAFF

 ‘I would say that the system cries out for a program of staff development, and
this can only occur over three, six, nine, twelve years. However, the program of
staff development should be laid down so that an officer who comes in, shall
we say, as a Correctional Officer I and who is prepared to apply himself can
look forward to a career in the Penitentiary Service and perhaps ultimately go
to the very top, one day be the Commissioner of Penitentiaries.“ 

– Allen J.
MacLeod, Former Commissioner of Penitentiaries (25:32). 

‘I have worked in medium, minimum and maximum, and after 10 years of
that you get a little angry and very suspicious at almost anybody." 

– A witness
from the PSAC, Springhill Institution (9:6) 

"One thing that I have against some of the officers, a lot of them, is that they
have disregarded a code of ethics, and I think a code of ethics is something that
should be more strongly proposed in their training program…. We do not get
help from the guards. If there happens to be a guard in this institution who
wants to be a part of some of the programs inside and give a little bit extra of
his own time, then he is ostracized by the rest of the guards." 

– Gwen Cameron,
Spokesperson, Citizen Advisory Committee, Springhill. 

Staff Attitudes

215. The evidence we heard on the position of the custodial staff convinced us
they too are prisoners of the system and bound into the brutal ethic that dominates
bad prisons. Some manage to rise above it; others epitomize it; but the majority are
simply ordinary decent men and women who take the course of least resistance,
living with an oppressive system with little opportunity to do otherwise. In other
words, they behave very much as most people do in unfortunate conditions. 

216. The worst prisons in Canada’s federal system in terms of reprehensible
behaviour by staff are the Millhaven Institution, the British Columbia Penitentiary,
the Correctional Development Centre and the Laval Institution. In these prisons
there have been a series of incidents involving intentional interference with management
responsibilities in an atmosphere of deliberate harassment and brutalization of
inmates. In Millhaven hoodlum staff go further, threatening and assaulting other officers. The offending guards, although a minority at these penitentiaries, are major
contributors to the atmosphere of confrontation which the Sub-Committee found to
exist in them. 

217. Both the Ontario Regional Director and a former Director of Millhaven
Institution indicated their belief that a small group of guards at Millhaven are: 

—harassing inmates; 
—attempting to subvert the authority of the Director by threatening the
withdrawal of services;

—intimidating staff who would not normally be party to either of the two types
of actions mentioned. (38:15)

218. One P.S.A.C. official in the Ontario Region admitted that he personally
had had a problem. He received harassing telephone calls and there was a "rockthrowing
incident”. As a result he had to move his family (21:74). The Sub-Committee
received other confidential information concerning incidents of employee harassment
by fellow employees. 

219. A similar situation exists at the C.D.C. (13:89). 

220. The Sub-Committee even heard evidence concerning guards who have
given known slashers razor blades and taunted them to slash themselves. On occasion
the inmates have done as they were told. At B.C. Penitentiary at least nine inmates
in one range slashed themselves on Christmas Eve 1976 after a guard left two razor
blades in a cell and told them to “have a Merry Christmas and a slashing New
Year”. 

221. To the inmates, the correctional officers are the visible instruments of the
system that keeps them locked into a life, as well as a place, of directionless and
frustrating idleness. These officers are regarded by some prisoners as “fair game” for
continuing insults, abuse, minor physical annoyances and all the other manifestations
of anger in a system with no constructive outlet and few other targets. In the absence
of the stability and self-assurance that come from good training and a sense of
professionalism, this behaviour has become reciprocal, with the staff and inmates
locked into what amounts to an endless and mutually-destructive low-level verbal
and psychological warfare. This often sparks into violence, as happened recently at
the Millhaven, Laval and British Columbia Penitentiaries. It continues over the
months and years, as each side seeks the empty triumph of goading the other into
reprisals. This imposes an almost unendurable strain on everyone in a penitentiary,
whether employed or imprisoned there. More than any other single factor, it diverts
the energies of all concerned away from any goals essential to the self-esteem of both
sides. 

222. Pressure and tension are constant on staff; the fear of making a mistake
which could result in an escape, a hostage-taking situation, or some other form of
violence, is always present. Threats are regularly received by staff—sometimes from
friends of inmates or former inmates sometimes from fellow staff members. Many of
them keep weapons at home and have unlisted telephone numbers. Reported
incidents are rare but those that have occurred were serious. 

223. Shiftwork, overtime and the fear resulting from the presence of ex-inmates
and of inmates’ families in the community affect the social and family life of
penitentiary staff. Boredom, which destroys inmates has its effect on guards, and
may manifest itself in the destruction of equipment or the harassment of inmates.  

224. Staff perceive themselves as having fewer rights than inmates. They
resent the erosion of their power over the inmates. Increased access by outside
groups to the institutions, open visits, Inmate Committees, new programs, the
presence of contraband and generally the lack of discipline and increased freedom of
inmates are seen by correctional officers as causing a deterioration in security. 

225. The self-image of correctional officers is poor. They do not see themselves
as important contributors to penal justice but only as watchmen who contain
men and ensure that they do not escape or do harm. The job provides little
intellectual challenge or sense of achievement. They blame their poor community
image on the media. They resent the perceived lack of management support. They
admit they are ashamed of their jobs. The result is bitterness, low morale, disloyalty,
loss of confidence and loss of pride both in their work and in the Service, which in
turn accelerate the “burning out” of staff.

226. The ultimate weapon of the custodial officers is “security”, and it can
be—and has been—used quite effectively by the staff to demonstrate, not only to the
inmates but also to themselves, that they are the final masters, in physical terms. We
find when matters have gone beyond the unprofessionally narrow limits of tolerance
of the custodial staff, that their response tends to be an insistence on tighter and
more rigid security. When this happens, not only do the work and socialization
programs begin to suffer, but also the prison atmosphere becomes more than usually
oppressive and potentially explosive. The suggestion given by Dragan Cernetic,
former Director of the British Columbia Penitentiary, put an important point
succintly: “security comes first, but inmate programs are more important” (30:158).
It is essential that this perspective prevail in the penitentiary system, although at
present it unfortunately does not. 

227. Custodial officers’ inclination towards solving inmate-staff problems
through increased security measures is often based on a not-unfounded apprehension
for their own safety. They become trapped in a purposeless confrontation with men,
many of whom have demonstrated an inability to control their potential for violence,
and some of whom, like those imprisoned under the new 25-year-no-parole sentences,
may feel they have nothing to lose. In addition, however, to their own safety and
reasonable considerations of control of movement and function, we find that much of
the insistence on increased security stems from other factors; they all have a
cumulative corrosive effect on the penitentiary system. 

228. Security assumes many forms. Sometimes “security considerations”
become the reason why clean laundry is not available to inmates for weeks at a time.
The sudden necessity to count and re-count, while the inmates wait in frustration
and suppressed rage over what appears to be—and often is—intentional harassment,
is another expression of tighter security. Inmates are sometimes awakened every
hour by a custodial officer’s keys or a boot banging on their cell doors on the pretext
of a check that the inmates are present there and alive. There is an extraordinary
disproportion between any realistic evaluation of the probability of escape and the
zeal with which it is guarded against, and the practice is unknown in U.S. federal
institutions. Inmates are also sometimes awakened at night by a staff member
playing with the lights. We also heard evidence of staff at several institutions
delaying meals and occasionally contaminating the food before it was delivered to
inmates. (Inmates have sometimes also contaminated the food of staff members in
the most gross ways when they have had the opportunity.) 

229. We recognize that discretionary power must be conferred on staff to meet
the legitimate security requirements of a penitentiary. Most staff members are
mature and dedicated enough to use their authority for the intended purposes. Some,
however, clearly abuse it. When this happens, there is almost no way the penitentiary
management has been able to obtain reliable information about such abuse and no
effective disciplinary measures exist to correct the situation. There is evidence,
moreover, that management has not always made the necessary effort to investigate
human lawlessness and subversion of the good order of the institutions. This could
reflect their fear of blackmail in some instances, their collusion in others. 

230. On a larger scale, various work and socialization programs are interfered
with for security reasons—or an excuse of security—or are not allowed to be
undertaken as a result of security pressures from the staff union—the Public Service
Alliance of Canada, Solicitor General’s Component. Such programs were stopped in
the fall of 1976, for example, after the disturbances at the Millhaven and British
Columbia Penitentiaries, and were only beginning to be re-instituted four or five
months later, stimulated by the Sub-Committee’s inspections of those institutions.
We should also note that “security problems” arising out of internal tensions
following a major disturbance were cited to us as the justification—which we were
assured was not punitive—for only feeding inmates twice a day. This is
unacceptable. 

231. The inmates of the Correctional Development Centre, mostly drawn from
the suspected rioters at Laval, have been confined to their cells for 23 hours a day or
more, and denied the usual privileges. Such practices are unacceptable. 

232. The variations on these themes are endless. Increased security may
indeed be required at times, but we find that much of what occurs is flavoured with a
heavy dose of self-righteousness on the part of the custodial staff, in almost the same
way as the inmates, on the other side of a deep gulf of mistrust and non-communication,
tend to assume the self-serving posture of innocent victims in a situation for
which they refuse to acknowledge any responsibility. These collateral uses of security
for purposes not reasonably connected with legitimate requirements have about them
all the elements of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once the zone of legitimacy has been
left behind, the demand for escalating security is the surest guarantee that more will
be needed.

 233. Morale is generally low among custodial staff. We attribute this primarily
to a lack of discipline. By “discipline” we do not mean polished buttons and
military creases in the trousers. Rather we refer to the interlocking trust that every
correctional officer must be able to repose in each of the others, reflecting a
confidence that each person, whether peer or superior, will do his duty. True
discipline is a result of professionalism. 

234. The “guards’ code” appears to be just as strong, and just as destructive,
as the “inmates’ code”. Every custodial officer realizes that his safety, his satisfaction
with his work and his success in the conditions in which he finds himself all
depend not only on his own behaviour but also on that of each of his associates. Yet
officers in more than one of our institutions are genuinely apprehensive about
misconduct, troublemaking or ordinary stupidity by their fellow officers—which, in a
prison setting, can be potentially disastrous. Despite this they are under intolerable
pressure not to break the rule of silence that the custodial staff, in their insecure and
embattled insolation have imposed on and tolerate among themselves. If they report
such breaches of discipline, they are likely to find little support from their colleagues,
46
given that all are familiar with the stories of slashed tires, scraped automobile
fenders and doors, telephoned threats and other forms of reprisals against those who
dare place duty above silence. 

235. We find that the impetus for enforcement of, as opposed to acquiescence
in, this “code” resides in a small number of staff at any given institution. This can be
expected in a service in which discipline and morale are so poor that nominal
authority, both with respect to the inmates and among themselves, has been
displaced by the rule of superior physical force.

236. The raison d’être of the Penitentiary Service, which ought to be primarily
defined in terms of the successful re-integration into society of the inmates, is easily
lost sight of by men whose energies must be mainly devoted to self-protection and
survival in what can sometimes only be accurately described as a nerve-racking
jungle. For a custodial officer to try faithfully to adhere to the official policies of the
Canadian Penitentiary Service which, for all their shortcomings, are an attempt to
ensure correctional success, often places him in an intolerable conflict between the
demands of his peers and the needs of the inmates. In this “them or us” situation, the
choice, according to the familiar operations of ordinary human nature, is generally
dictated by immediate self-interest rather than by any long-term or theoretical
concern for the inmates’ eventual return to the community or for the problems that
Canadian society, however imperfectly, is attempting to deal with through its
penitentiary system. 

237. All this can be summarized by saying that a correctional officer, in the
argot of the prison sub-culture, is under extraordinary peer-group pressure to
demonstrate that he is not a “con lover”. In terms of the psychological reality of the
penitentiary, as opposed to the official picture presented by the Penitentiary Service
for public consumption, a correctional officer can only maintain his personal
integrity, self-respect and the respect of his associates by conforming to the group
attitude of militant and belligerent solidarity. 

238. Given that this is almost on the fundamental level of a personal survival
need, the perceived threats to the custodial officers come not only from the inmates
but also from the administrative staff responsible for directing and managing the
penitentiary system and the institution. There are many directives issued from above
that attempt to implement modern penological techniques and approaches aimed at
fostering rehabilitation of inmates. From the point of view of the staff officer in
contact with prisoners, these often are inconsistent with his experience, and are seen
as requiring him to behave in a way that contradicts his own perception of what he
must do in order to function successfully in the bizarre and twisted world in which he
works. Management is therefore no less of an enemy to the correctional staff than
the inmates. 

239. In coping with this problem in particular, the union has become the
primary refuge of the correctional staff. The Solicitor General’s Component of the
Public Service Alliance of Canada is pervaded by a “garrison mentality” that, as we
have tried to show, it would be simplistic to attribute to selfish obstructionism or to
dismiss as something that is intrinsic to trade unionism per se. Like everything else
about the penitentiary system, there are genuine abuses in the Public Service
Alliance, among them questionable voting procedure in some areas, and failure to
perceive and act intelligently on problems that are capable of resolution even under
the present difficult circumstances. Generally speaking, however, the union presents
the only avenue, albeit an inappropriate one in many cases, for some sort of
resolution of the host of problems facing the staff. Union-management struggles,
ranging from threats of strikes and withdrawal of overtime to bellicose resistance to
necessary disciplinary measures, are consequently endemic in Canadian penitentiaries.
As more than one witness told us, the prisoners are the least problem of all—
although the inevitable result of everything that goes on is that they wind up
suffering the most. 

240. Canadian penitentiaries began to be “opened up” several decades ago
with the gradual abandonment of corporal punishment and the rules requiring
silence and extended time in the cells. These reforms also saw the introduction of
programs of work and socialization that were novel, at least in Canada. Superimposing
these new patches on what remained essentially a monolithic old system did not,
unfortunately, succeed in accomplishing the bright hopes of their innovators—men
and women, who, in retrospect, must be regarded as courageous public servants and
political officials. Instead the changes served primarily to require staff and inmates
alike to behave in some ways that were inconsistent with the overwhelming thrust of
our traditional system, without breaking down the core of repression upon which that
system is built. 

241. The results of our first tentative attempts at correctional reform have
therefore fallen between two stools with a consequent untoward impact on correctional
staff. Their role has become confused, and many staff members—particularly
more senior ones—tend to look back at the way things were before the time of
change as some sort of golden age of regimentation in which everyone knew his place
and what was expected of him. We are convinced, however, that the essence of the
present problem is not that we have gone too far, but rather that we attempted to go
as far as we did without giving up the security, such as it was, of a system that
placed almost exclusive reliance on external coercion and superior physical, as
opposed to moral, force. Much of the current union effort is devoted to throwing off
the present stifling web of frustrating ambiguity by reinstituting, both on a person-to-person
and on an institutional level, practices that have been officially abandoned
or condemned by the Canadian Penitentiary Service for a decade. By and large, this
effort has succeeded, and our correctional efforts, as opposed to our custodial
practices, are consequently paralysed in the middle of this union-management
deadlock. 

242. We heard much evidence, tinged with more than a bit of unobjective
nostalgia, about the experience of custodial staff in the pre-reform years when
corporal punishment, “closed” institutions, and the rest of the old ways and the old
certainties existed. As one witness from this era testified, however, the result of such
policies was not only absolute order but also an absolute and settled expectation of
“100 per cent recidivism” (32:5). It is obvious that whatever may have been the
situation in the past, to attempt to deal with the problems facing custodial staff
today by acceding to pressure to turn back the clock would deny any hopes in this
country to achieve a humane and effective correctional system. 

Principle 5 

Ways must be found to enlist the commitment, the reservoir of correctional
expertise, the basic humanity and the capacity of the custodial staff to act as
successful role-models for inmates in a cooperative effort to accomplish the
great tasks that lie ahead for the Canadian Penitentiary Service. 

243. We do not suggest that the custodial staff is the only aspect of the system
that must change. The problem is in fact three-sided, involving staff, management
and prisoners, each of which is separated from the others by entrenched attitudes of
confrontation, mistrust and deep suspicion. These mutual antagonisms stem from
factual causes that can and must be corrected by a significant reform effort involving
all levels of the penitentiary system. Penitentiaries have been subjected to a great
deal of tinkering, which has done more to unsettle matters than to improve them. At
this point, success will only be achieved through a determined, far-reaching and
courageous commitment to fundamental reform. 

244. With respect to inmates, we have already proposed a re-defining of the
purposes for which individuals ought to be imprisoned. This, coupled with an
examination of the criminal justice system as a whole, and in particular, its
sentencing practices, along with further remedial measures we recommend later in
this Report, should do much to remedy problems centred on the attitudes and
behaviour of inmates. Management—the second of the three main elements or
interests in the penitentiary system—is made the subject of appropriate recommendations
in the next chapter of this Report. It is in this context of the need for
constructive response by all concerned that the following proposals with respect to
custodial staff should be understood. 

– Mark MacGuigan, Chairman, Report to Parliament of The Sub-Committee on the Penitentiary System in Canada & Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. Second Session of the Thirtieth Parliament, 1976-77. pp. 43-49.

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“Thirteen Convicts Are On The Loose; One Captured,” Kingston Whig-Standard. July 11, 1972. Front page.

First reporting on the then notorious, now forgotten, except for a damned Tragically Hip song, mass escape from the recently opened, utterly ramshackle for a high security, and equally notorious Millhaven Institution near Kingston, Ontario. 

Millhaven in the 1970s sounded like a bad place to be: casual, consistent brutality from custodial officers, who repeatedly, through their union, called the inmates ‘animals’ who had to be isolated even further from society; pervasive racism against black and First Nations prisoners; a focus on electronic surveillance and tear gas that presaged the modern correctional system while systematically isolating inmates from staff; bloody attacks by prisoners against staff and their fellow inmates; frequent escapes, including a few where the escapee was shot dead – exacerbated by the brutal conditions and made possible because of poor, unfinished security; ‘mysterious’ deaths in segregation, including the 1975 death of Eddie Nalon that led to Prisoner’s Justice Day; dogs being sicced on prisoners; hostage takings; hunger strikes and disturbances. MPs from the NDP and prisoner’s aid groups were barred from an inspection tour in 1973, while a Grand Jury (made up of local rural folk) convened to investigate an inmate suicide called the prison a ‘motel.’ The guards who beat newly arrived inmates in 1971 were also exonerated by a local jury inquiry. The staff were unprepared for its opening in 1971, and the prison was over capacity, under equipped, far from the public eye – a maelstrom regularly criticized by U of T prof J. D. Morton (who was one of five who helped end the 1971 riot at Kingston Pen).  The crisis of imprisonment in the 1970s in a single prison.

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