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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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“…the lines of influence had to run not from the prison to the community but from the community to the prison. Rather than serve as a model to the society, the penitentiary was to model itself on the society; it was not to be an antidote to the external environment, but a faithful replication of it. ‘The conception of the prison as a community’ was the organizing formula. ‘Temporary exile into a temporary society as nearly as possible like normal society on the outside would seem the best solution.’

Such an orientation appeared first in the 1870′s, with the Declaration of Principles of the National Congress. But the Progressives enlarged on these ideas and made them relevant to the operation of all types of prisons. Persuaded of the essential soundness of the American system and committed wholeheartedly to the notion of individualizing criminal justice, they labeled the traditional prisons ‘machine-like,’ and criticized them as failures at rehabilitation. How could it be otherwise when they prescribed the same medicine to all inmates and did not prepare them to reenter society? ‘The old prison system,’ noted on reformer, ‘exists in terms of suppression and isolation of the individual and in a denial of a social existence.’ It was absurd to compel a prisoner to follow ironclad rules in the institution when he should have been helped to adjust to the democratic quality of community life. The prison had to be redesigned to meet individual needs and to facilitate an eventual return to society.

The task may well have appeared formidable. After all, every state prison held anywhere from one thousand to three thousand inmates in an environment that, at best, resembled a factory. But Progressives were certain of their ability to individualize and democratize the prison. They wished to abolish such inherited practices as the lock step and the striped uniforms. They encouraged liberalized correspondence and visitation rules; to maintain contact with the outside society would facilitate the inmate’s later adjustment. Further, they detested the rule of silence; inmates were social creatures and should be so treated. Progressives also looked to introduce amusements into the prison routine. Sports, exercise, movies, bands, and orchestras, all now seemed appropriate. And so did commissaries, where prisoners could purchase the small but significant amenities that would heighten their sense of a more ordinary life.”

– David J. Rothman, Conscience and Convenience: The Asylum and Its Alternatives in Progressive America. Revised Edition. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 2002 [1980] pp.118-119

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“It became increasingly apparent that the continuing problems of imprisonment – its failure to deter, to reform, to reduce criminality, etc. – were characteristic of the prison itself and not merely accidents of a flawed administration.”

– David Garland, Punishment and Welfare: A History of Penal Strategies. Aldershot: Gower, 1985. p. 60.

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“This drastic revision of penality’s logic [from punishment to rehabilitation] occurs precisely at the historical moment when the political franchise is being extended to include the mass of the (male) working class within its terms for the very first time…At precisely the same time a whole series of institutions and regulations are put in place which are designed to identify all those legal citizens (or prospective legal citizens) who lack the normative capacity to participate and exercise their new found rights responsibly. Once identified, these deviants are subject to a work of normalization, correction or segregation, which ensures one of two things. Either they become responsible, conforming subjects, whose regularity, political stability and industrious performance deems them capable of entering into institutions of representative democracy; or they are supervised and segregated from the normal social realm in a manner that minimizes (and individualizes) any ‘damage’ they can do.”

– David Garland, Punishment and Welfare: A History of Penal Strategies. Aldershot: Gower, 1985. p. 249

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“Here is a glimpse of a cell in the new state prison under construction at Attica, N.Y. The prison will be quite modern.”

– from Toronto Star, July 24, 1931. Page 19.

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British Columbia Penitentiary inmates believe controlled
maintenance of drug addicts could be at least
one tenth cheaper than the cost of incarceration. An
outline of the British Columbia inmate brief on drug
maintenance is given here – one of many outlets
the inmate group has found to air its views…

A bold approach that could help stabilize the heroin addict,
reduce black marketeering and curb the crime rate among
addicts is being aired in western Canada.

According to a group of 14 inmates at British Columbia
Penitentiary, legalized heroin maintenance is the answer.
They contend present programs are “obsolete and hopeless
failures.” All the inmates are over 30, heroin addicts for 10
years or more and with lengthy criminal records.

Most are recidivists. To them the word recidivist is the key to
understanding why they want change in their treatment.

Through a well thought out submission on why they want to
be clinically maintained as drug addicts while serving time,
they tell society “we are heroin addicts for life. We cannot
be cured, only locked up from time to time when you catch
us breaking the law.”

“Your programs cannot help us and we refuse to pretend
any more that they can. Even if it means we forfeit our
chances of early parole we are determined to draw attention
to the facts.
"But we do believe that heroin addicts can function as productive
members of society providing we are not treated as
criminals and offered rehabilitative programs that include
maintenance.”

A year ago the B.C. inmates approached classification officer
Irene Blenkiron about forming a drug study group. Mrs.
Blenkiron listened to their reasons and agreed to become
involved. A registered psychiatric nurse and sociologist,
Irene Blenkiron has spent 13 years helping people with
emotional problems. For two years, she worked among addicts
and traffickers in downtown Vancouver where she saw
death among drug users.

With her help, the inmates brief has been exposed in newspapers,
radio, television, and various professional journals
in Canada and the U.S. They have talked to groups and
individuals, sociologists and members of parliament. Reaction
has often been favorable, understanding. But progress
is slow. The concept of their brief is thought of as being too
revolutionary to gain overnight acceptance.

After talking to the inmates, one MP remarked, “People
think only of punishing prisoners, not rehabilitating them.
The penal system is at least 30 years behind the times so it
will be a tough one to sell.” Other reactions — society
looks on the addict as a criminal deserving retribution as
much for taking drugs as for stealing to buy them. At best he
is sick, but threatening like a psychopath or child molester.
Either way he should be locked up.

The B.C. group points out the addict was seen neither as
sick nor criminal in the early 1900’s. Anti-opiate legislation

changed that and overnight transformed addicts into
criminals.

“Now in an age of social understanding and enlightened
attitudes, the addict is regarded as being sick and criminal,”
says the group’s official brief. “Yet he is no different than he
was prior to the change in the law. Society, in assigning
roles, has branded the addict a criminal. The addict, through
necessity, has become a consummate actor at filling the
role. If society were to assign the role of ‘citizen’ to the
addict it would find that role filled with equal alacrity.”
They contend the British program of controlled heroin or
substitution maintenance is the only one they have come
across that is “firmly grounded in the realities of life.” Legal
and controlled doses of heroin — or its substitute
methadone supplied at designated areas — “has managed
to stabilize the addict population and allow these people to
pursue and explore life styles unrelated to crime,”
they claim.

Instead of the addict being an expense to society through
his criminal activities and incarceration, he could become
self-supporting, productive, they insist. “We accept the fact

we will always be addicts and there will always be addicts,”
their brief continues. They want an experimental drug
maintenance program started within the penitentiary.

At the moment these are only opinions, expressed sincerely
but frankly and forcefully by each inmate addict. What they
ask for is a chance to see if their program will work where
others apparently fail.

They insist “the drug study group does not intend nor desire
to use a drug maintenance program as a vehicle to provide
a form of legal drugs while incarcerated. We believe it is
essential that a program of addiction to injectable
methadone, heroin, morphine or dialudid be implemented
within the prison system.”

Their reasons for seeking this program?

• Most addicts return to the illicit use of narcotics immediately,
or a short time after release. Because of the present
sources of supply, the addict cannot escape the role of
criminal.

• Addicts newly released from prison are perpetuating a
social problem already deemed acute.

• Present prison rehabilitation programs are self-defeating
because the addict is excluded from most programs,
because it is felt he will only try to obtain drugs.

What does it all add up to? Fourteen inmates at B.C.
Penitentiary have stood up and been counted. With the help
of their classification officer they have become a legitimate,
serious minded forum within the institution.
They have refused to continue playing the “cure” and
“treatment” game. Their views run counter to public opinion.
Perhaps they haven’t even a slim chance of achieving their
objective.

“We would like to participate in bringing about change,” is
how the inmates explain their adamant stand. Time will tell
whether they get the opportunity – but to the addicts time
is one commodity they can all afford.

“We Are What We Are
– Addicts,” Discussion. Vol. 2, No. 1, 1974. 

Photo caption: “Controlled maintenance of drug
addicts is the reaction of 14
inmates to many years of imprisonment
on charges emanating
from drug addiction. At
British Columbia Penitentiary
they have used various
methods to get their message
to correctional officiais and the
public. lnmates (left) D. W. Valouche
and John McKeoff, both
members of the B.C. inmate
drug group, air their views on
CKNW Vancouver. Gary Bannerman
(centre), program
moderator, took his talk-show
into British Columbia Penitentiary.
Public reaction could
have kept the show going long
into overtime.”

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“There are, in Canada, more than three thousand
users of narcotic drugs. They live mostly in metropolitan
areas and approximately half of them reside
Vancouver or its environs. Their criminal activities
to support their habits and the threat of others being
lured into using narcotics through association with
them has caused grave concern. 

Since possession of narcotic drugs became a
criminal offence in Canada persons convicted of possession and sentenced to terms of two years or
ore have been incarcerated in our penitentiaries and
they had the same training programs as other criminals sentenced to penitentiary. They have not, however, usually been considered as suitable for transfer to medium or minimum security institutions. Furthermore,
until fairly recently they have seldom been released
on ticket of leave or parole. 

As the largest concentration of narcotic addicts
Canada is in the Vancouver area it was logical to build the institution in the lower mainland of British Columbia. The site selected is in the municipality of
Matsqui. It lies a quarter of a mile south of the Trans-
Canada Highway on the outskirts of the town of Abbotsford. It is approximately thirty miles east of the British Columbia Penitentiary in New Westminster. The speed limit on the Trans-Canada Highway is 70 miles per hour and one can easily drive between the
2 institutions in thirty-five minutes. 

The reserve at Matsqui consists of two hundred sixty acres. It is a mile long and rectangular in

shape. The buildings are in three main groups. At
the north end of the property is the male unit. It is
completely enclosed by a chain-link fence. At the
south end is the female unit also surrounded by a
chain-link fence. On either side of a north-south
road running through the property are the main administration
building, powerhouse, stores and incinerator
building. The buildings are constructed largely of
pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete. With the exception of
the male and female accommodation buildings and the
reception-dissociation wing of the male administration
building, they are single storey buildings. 

The Matsqui Institution provides living accommodation
for 312 male inmates and 128 female inmates.
This ratio closely approximates that of the
total male and female criminal addict population of
Canada. In addition to the foregoing accommodation,

there are reception areas in both the male and female
units which will house 25 and 15 inmates respectively.
The accommodation buildings are of three storeys in
the male unit and two storeys in the female unit. They
are cruciform in shape with four wings leading out of
a central control area on each floor with a common
room for each wing. All housing is of the single room
variety. Doors are electrically unlocked, and barriers
are electrically operated, from consoles in the control
centre on each floor. Each room has an electronic
control panel which provides two-way voice communication
with the control centre and also permits selection
of a variety of radio frequencies. All rooms are
outside cells and the traditional steel bars are replaced
with concrete sun screens. Only one-quarter of the
cells are provided with plumbing fixtures, as in an
ordinary prison. It is anticipated that the comprehensive
communications will allow communal toilets to be
used by inmates during the night hours. 

Adjacent to the accommodation building in both
the male and female units are other buildings which
provide space for various community activities. There
are the kitchen and dining rooms, auditorium and gym,
change room, hobby shop, library and school classrooms.
These facilities are connected by covered walks.
The chapels which are soon to be erected will also
be sited in this area. A spacious exercise yard lies
behind each accommodation building. In a separate
enclosure to one side of each unit is the shop area. The
usual maintenance shops are already built. The industrial
and vocational shops will be constructed in the
next fiscal year. Each unit is equipped with a hospital
in which adequate medical and dental treatment will
be provided for all but serious cases. In each unit
there is a pilot treatment unit where selected inmates,
isolated from the rest of the population, will receive
intensive psychotherapy. 

The physical plant at Matsqui is spacious and
will provide adequate facilities to carry out the manifold
activities that make up a modern correctional
training program. To anyone who has worked in one,
or who is familiar with the older, overcrowded and
inadequate institutions of the Canadian Penitentiary
Service, such as Kingston, St. Vincent de Paul or
British Columbia Penitentiary, the first impressions of
Matsqui are breathtaking. However, though the plant
and equipment are important, the worth of a penal
institution depends on people — the people who are
incarcerated there and the people who work there. 

Initially the male inmate population of Matsqui
will be made up of those inmates presently serving
sentences in the B.C. Penitentiary and whose case
histories indicate that they are drug addicts. To this
group will be added those with similar case histories

who are sentenced to penitentiary after the Matsqui Institution is in operation. Drug addicts who are considered
to be grave security risks or who have histories
of violent, aggressive behaviour will not go to Matsqui.
Actually, few drug, addicts in British Columbia are in
either of these categories. The first female inmates for
Matsqui will be drug addicts from British Columbia
currently serving sentences in the Prison for Women,
at Kingston. Subsequently admissions will come from the courts of British Columbia.

What manner of people are these who will be at
Matsqui? Though generalizations are dangerous, quite
a lot can be said about them collectively. The male
criminal drug addict committed to penitentiary is usually
of white Caucasian extraction. In most cases he
will have served previous sentences in some type of
prison for criminal acts committed prior to becoming
addicted. Even if he has never been in prison before
he will almost certainly have been delinquent. He is
not, therefore, a criminal because of his addiction. The
addiction is an additional form of delinquency he has
picked up. The addict’s median age will be a little
higher than that of all penitentiary inmates as will also
be his level of education. He will be in the upper
brackets of average intelligence with a median I.Q.
five or six points above the average for all penitentiary
inmates. His addiction will almost certainly be to
heroin, though he may have used a variety of other
dangerous drugs when heroin was unavailable to him
or in short supply. 

The addict is most likely to be dependent, narcissistic,
and irresponsible, with a low frustrating tolerance,
and poor ability to relate to others. His life
history probably gives a picture of poor achievement,
instability or maladjustment in such aspects of his life
as school, work, marriage and use of leisure time.

Matsqui Staff

The Matsqui staff establishment approved by
Treasury Board provides three hundred and thirty-three
full-time positions. Compared to standards prevailing
in other Canadian Penitentiary Service Institutions and
in most other jurisdictions this gives an unusually high
ratio of staff to inmates. There is a full-time psychiatrist
and another will be appointed after the institution is
in operation. There are also five psychologists, eleven
classification officers, four guidance officers, six academic
teachers, twenty-one vocational training instructors,
ten industrial supervisors and instructors, seven
other inmate training officers and two chaplains. In
addition to the foregoing many of the other staff members
will be engaged in the supervision and training of
inmates. There are one hundred and fifty-three correctional
officer positions. Those correctional officers
showing a talent for influencing and guiding inmates
toward self-improvement will be, as far as possible, kept
on assignments that will require continuous contact
With the same groups of inmates. They will take part in the group counselling programs, supervised by trained
counsellors and if they show a talent for counselling
will be trained to conduct groups of their own. 

The inmate training program at Matsqui will be
both versatile and flexible in order to deal with each
inmate as an individual following an assessment of his
strengths and weaknesses. An eight-hour, on-the-job,

workday will be in effect with the object of conditioning
the inmate to the demands of employment in free
society. Vocational training and on-the-job training
in industrial shops will teach, to those who lack them,
the skills needed to secure employment on release.
Every encouragement will be given to upgrade academic
education to the levels being increasingly demanded
by private industry. There will be a comprehensive
program of recreational activities to develop
the abilities necessary for enjoyable participation in
socially acceptable leisure time activities. Religious
training and spiritual counselling will be available in
the Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths. 

There will be an intensive counselling program
conducted by trained counsellors. It will be done
mainly on a group basis but the individual counselling
and psychotherapy will be provided for those requiring
it. Intensive psychotherapy using varied modern and
experimental techniques will be given to selected groups
of inmates in the pilot treatment units under the
direction of a psychiatrist.

Objectives

The function of the Matsqui Institution is to provide a controlled drug-free environment where the
addict can develop personality characteristics that will
assist him to live in society without resorting to
criminal activity or using narcotics. It is not expected
to “cure” drug addicts. A cure for drug addiction in
the sense that some diseases can be cured does not
exist and anyone naive enough to think that it does
is due to be disillusioned. It makes sense to think of
the addict in the manner that Alcoholics Anonymous
regards the alcoholic. He will never be cured but he
may have long periods of sobriety. 

The only realistic approach to the problem is to
set limited and attainable goals. Helping the addict to
get and hold a job, when he has seldom or never done
so before, and abstain from drug use for a period of
time in free society when he has not done so in the
past, are worthwhile goals. The fact that recommittal
for further training may become necessary should not
be regarded as failure but as progress as long as the
periods of socially acceptable living become longer
between commitments.

The Need for Follow-up

It has been amply demonstrated in North America
that institutional training programs alone are not
likely to do much towards solving the drug addict
problem unless there is continuing contact and supervision
after release. Our own experience in Canada
is testimony to this. Penal jurisdictions throughout the
United States have had similar results. The much
maligned institution at Lexington, Kentucky, has an
excellent training program but is generally regarded as a failure. However, the first annual report of this
institution (1936) pointed out the need for greater use
of probation and parole and for the provision of intensive
supervision and after-care in the community after
discharge from the institution. These same deficiencies
were stressed in many subsequent reports but no action
was taken. 

Hopeful Developments

It has been shown that significant progress can
be made with addicts when they are released on parole
with adequate supervision and controls. In 1962 a
group of sixteen addicts from the B.C. Penitentiary
were paroled under the supervision of one parole service
officer in what was called Special Narcotic Addiction
Project 1, or SNAP 1. Only two of them are still
at large but a significant number managed to live in a
socially acceptable manner for quite a long time and
those who fell from grace did not all do so because of
using narcotics. In 1964, a group of twenty-four addicts
were paroled in SNAP 2. Based on the experience
of SNAP 1, somewhat tighter controls were placed on
these parolees and half of them were placed in jobs
outside the Vancouver area. Sixteen of these parolees
are still at large and doing reasonably well. Of the
others, only a few had their paroles revoked because
of narcotic use. In comparison to previous experience
this certainly indicates that progress can be made.

The State of California has for some time operated a
specialized program for addicts. Its essential features
provide for compulsory civil commitment to the California Rehabilitation Center at Corona for training,
followed by lengthy periods on parole under close
supervision. There are at the present time over two
thousand male and female addicts in Corona and over
two thousand have been paroled. There is every indication that this program is working and that significant
progress is being made in dealing with addiction.

It is expected that the usual method of release
from the Matsqui Institution will be through parole.
The National Parole Service is recruiting additional
officers and a number of them will be assigned to the
supervision of addict parolees in British Columbia.
There appears to be grounds for believing thatsonie
worthwhile gains can and will be made in dealing with
this most serious problem of narcotic addiction.

– Warden John Moloney, “THE MATSQUI INSTITUTION.” Federal Corrections, Vol. 5, No. 1, Jan.-Feb.-Mar., 1966. pp. 1-5.

Legend: 
1. Male Unit

2. Female Unit

3. Main Administration Building
4. Stores and Power Plant

5. Trailer Camp: Minimum Security Inmates        

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