Posts Tagged ‘newspaper editorial’

“Jail and the Workingman.” Kingston Daily Standard. Editorial. October 9, 1912. Page 04.

According to the annual return of Governor Corbett, of the county jail, there was a total of 162 prisoners committed during the year ending the 30th September 1912, of whom eight were females. The occupations of these prisoners were: Baker, 1; blacksmith and boilermaker, 1; bricklayers, 1; butchers, 1; cabinet makers, 5; carpenters, 8; cigar makers, 2; clerks, 1; engineers, 1; farmers, 3; hotelkeepers, 1; laborers, 109; masons, 1; moulders, 2; painters, 2; sailors, 1; servants, 6; teamsters, 1; tinsmiths, 1; woodworkers, 1; no occupation, 7; soldiers, 2.

In looking over these figures one is at once struck with the large number of laborers, 109, as against 49 of all other occupations. Two-thirds of the whole number are laborers. It may be said that laborers constitute the majority of working people and for that reason the proportion constitute the majority of working people and for that reason the proportion is not out of the way. That probably is true, but laborers do not make up two-thirds of the population of Kingston, and there are not 109 times as many laborers as there are bakers, or blacksmiths, or clerks or engineers or masons; for we find only one of each of these classes of workmen in jail during the year. The number of laborers imprisoned is clearly out of all proportion to their number in the community.

Only one explanation can be offered for this condition of affairs. A lack of education is at the bottom of it. A boy who is allowed to drift through school and leave it at an early age and is then placed at some work which leads to no trade, business or profession lands among the class of laborers when he reaches man’s estate. He is without a trade or business training and almost always without education except the merest rudiments of it.

The parent who thus neglects his child, who fails to make him attend school or who does not send him to learn a trade or business is almost criminally blameworthy. In Canada there is no excuse for allowing any boy to drift into the class of laborers. Here, there is every chance for any boy to get a fair education or to learn a trade. In the first place, it is the fault of his parents, in 99 cases out of a hundred if the boy does not get that chance; in the second place it is the fault of the State for for not passing and enforcing such laws as will compel the parents to look to the welfare of their children by seeing either that they are properly educated for the professions or are taught a business or trade. Our foreign immigration will provide us with all the laborers we need; it is a disgrace to Canada to have any of her sons among the class of criminal laborers, not because labor is not honourable, but because the people of Canada should be educated to work of a higher nature than that of the mere laborer.

The statistics furnished by Governor Corbett shows that of the 162 prisoners, 12 are Canadians – that is just 112 too many.

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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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“Mr. Newman’s Case,” Kingston Daily Standard. May 10, 1912. Page 04.

People Shocked at Penitentiary Disclosures.

It is Everywhere Felt That Fullest Investigation Is Necessary – Demand All the Facts.

Citizens generally were discussing on the street today the revelations contained in the letter of William Newman, ex-guard in the Portsmouth Penitentiary, concerning his dismissal from the Penitentiary as a consequence of a medical certificate from Dr. Phelan, then, as now, prison physician – this despite that Mr. Newman at the time received medical certificates from Drs. T. M. Fenwick, D. E. Mondell, and J. M. Campbell, that he was in the best of health.

Everywhere – among Liberals no less than among Conservatives – great surprise was expressed at the disclosures in the letter, and the general sentiment seemed to be that the government should investigate not only Mr. Newman’s case, but the cases of other guards and keepers who were dismissed on the ground of physical unfitness, despite that they have been doing hard work ever since and have not knwon a day’s sickness.

It is beginning to be felt that matters at the big penal institution at Portsmouth have been in a much more serious condition than even street rumors have made them out to be, and that there is need not only for the fullest investigation, but for a general shake-up.

There is, however, no disposition to judge any man harshly or unfairly. What seems to be the general desire is simply that the full facts – the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – be disclosed. This done, no man need suffer unjustly.

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“The Portsmouth Penitentiary,” Kingston Daily Standard. May 2, 1912. Page Four, editorial.

“The sooner the Portsmouth Penitentiary is investigated the better. The fact is, it should have been investigated long ago, and the further fact also is that some official changes might well have been made several years ago. Putting it plainly, there has been too much politics in connection with the administration of the institution, and not enough adherence to sound business principles. We have been convinced of this for some time from reports which have come to us, but inasmuch as we have not been disposed to muckrake, we have refrained from editorial comment.

The developments of the last few weeks, however, convince us that time for silence has passed and that the time for investigation and publicity has arrived, and we are heartily glad that the Borden administration has determined at once to begin a rigorous investigation into the ways and workings of the Dominion house of discipline – or undiscipline. Six escapes in a few weeks in an institution which is supposed to be ‘escapeless’ (suggestive of the Ocean Liners that are ‘unsinkable’ – until they sink) indicate in just what condition the institution must be so far as its formal management is concerned. And especially is this so when it is recalled that the five desperados who broke out on Monday were men of the most desperate criminal type that the country has ever had, and had been removed from Stoney Mountain Penitentiary to the Portsmouth Penitentiary for the express purpose of safeguarding the public from any further of their inquities.

We understand that in the natural course of affairs, and that very shortly, a change of the official staff was inevitable. There should be no waiting now for this so-called natural course. What is needed is prompt and speedy action to that end, that the administration of justice may not be prostituted but shall be carried out as it should be, and that politics and personal favoritism and lax methods may cease to have their being within the walls of this great penal institution.

A more or less general shake-up in the establishment would not seem to be amiss.

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