Posts Tagged ‘penal reform’

“The Central Prison Farm, consisting of about eight hundred and thirty acres, is situated in the Township of Guelph, in the County of Wellington, about two miles east of the City of Guelph. The property, which is capable of magnificent development, is traversed from South to North by the River Speed and its beautiful valley. The Railway facilities are excellent, the Canadian Pacific Railway right through the Farm, and paralleling the River, while the Grand Trunk Railway passes immediately to the North. After an exhaustive examination of a number of properties in different parts of the Province, the purchase of the present site was directed by Order-in-Council, approved by His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor on the 21st of December, 1909.

Qualifications for a Prison Site
In selecting a site most adaptable for a Prison Farm, there were many qualifications which were requisite, namely: good agricultural land; an inexhaustible supply of stone suitable for road and building construction; sand and gravel for building purposes; proximity to the centre of population, so as to minimize as far as possible the cost of transporting prisoners; convenient railway facilities; and a building site which would have good drainage and a plentiful supply of fresh water. While these essentials present a difficult combination, the location selected possesses all the necessary qualifications for an ideal Prison Farm.

The Initial Stages – Temporary Quarters
Possession was taken in April, 1910, when fourteen prisoners and two officers were quartered in one of the farm-houses. As the former owners of the farms moved out and more farmhouses were available, the number of prisoners was increased to fifty. General farm work and land improvement were vigorously carried on, roads were made, swamp-land was drained, and tangled morasses were cleared and converted into garden spots. In the latter part of the following June, the erection of a temporary structure, having accommodation for one hundred and fifty prisoners and a sufficient number of officers, was completed. This structure will be used pending the completion of the permanent building.

Much has already been done in the way of economic improvement and development of the property. To connect the Farm on either side of the River Speed, and as part of the scheme of permanent roadways, a reinforced concrete bridge, designed by the Provincial Engineer of Highways, has been erected by Prison labor. This bridge is one hundred and sixty feet in length and has three arches, a centre one of fifty feet and one of twenty feet on each end. The approaches to the bridge, measuring approximately twelve hundred feet, have been filled in with refuse from the quarries, which was transported by the Farm Railways in dump cars and dumped from a temporary wooden trestle.

Plant and Equipment
About two and a half miles of telephone line have been built for the purpose of connecting the different parts of the Farm with the Central Office. In addition to this, waterworks have been installed for construction and domestic uses, supplying the purest of spring water from a thirteen thousand gallon concrete reservoir to a ten thousand gallon tank, from which it is distributed by gravity to the different points of consumption.

A narrow-gauge railway about two and a half miles in length is in operation, over which dimension and crushed stone and other building materials are hauled to the different building sites.

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

As the Prison Farm has superior agricultural land, good pasture on the low lands, the best of water, plenty of shade, and possibilities second to none for producing hay, fodder and root crops, dairy farming will be made a feature of the work, with profit to the Prison Farm and with advantage to the other Provincial Institutions. The dairy herd now consists of over one hundred and twenty-five Holsteins, and a thoroughly modern dairy barn is in course of erection, which, when completed, will provide accommodation for eighty milch cows. In designing this stable, special care has been taken to secure one that will be absolutely dry and will have an abundance of fresh air and sunlight.

Having in view the utilization to the best advantage of the natural resources of the Farm, and in order to construct the permanent buildings in the most economic and efficient manner, a number of industries have been established, a brief description of each being given below:-

There is an abundance of dolomitic limestone rock in high cliffs on both sides of the River Speed, which is of superior quality and suitable for building purposes, lime manufacture and roadmaking. Two quarries have been opened up, from which all stone used in construction, lime manufacture and stone-crushing is quarried.

Stone-Crusher Plant
A stone crusher, having a daily capacity of four hundred tons, has been installed, the product is screened to two and a half inches, one and half inches, three-quarters of an inch and dust, and is used for concrete, road making and the other industries on the Farm.

Experimental Work – Limestone as a Fertilizer
Experiments conducted at various Agricultural Experimental Stations throughout the United States and elsewhere have warranted arrangements being made to carry on a number of experiments during the coming year at the farms of the Provincial Hospitals for the Insane, with a view to ascertaining the benefits to be derived from the use of ground limestone as a fertilizer. The result of these experiments will be at the disposal of the farmers of Ontario, and ground limestone will be furnished them at a minimum cost.

Good Roads Material
Shipping facilities will be available next year to permit of crushed stone being supplied in large quantities to the Municipalities of the Province for road-making purposes.

Lime – Hydrate – Lime used in Concrete
As an enormous quantity of lime will be used in the construction of the permanent buildings on the Farm, as well as in the construction and repair of all other Provincial buildings, a Lime-Kiln has been erected. In conjunction with this, a thoroughly modern Hydrated Lime Plant is being operated. The advantages of hydrated lime over the ordinary lump lime are many, but the most important of all are, the purity and uniformity of product, complete hydration or ‘slacking,’ and the storage of product indefinitely without loss. The lime manufactured is of the best quality, and, being high in Magnesia, is unexcelled for building purposes. In all concrete construction on the Farm, ten per cent. of Cement is displaced by ten per cent. of Hydrated Lime.

Structural Tile
Structural Tiles of Concrete are now being manufactured, and with the exception of cement, all materials entering into their manufacture are available on the premises. As many of the buildings to be erected will be of the skeleton type of reinforced concrete with curtain walls of tile, the cost of construction, with tile manufactured on the premises by prison labour, will be reduced to the minimum. As these tiles are hollow, they are non-conductors of heat and cold and are damp-resisting. The walls and buttresses in the first story of the Dairy Stable are constructed entirely of these structural tiles.

With the great diversity of work in quarrying, manufacturing, building in all its branches, farming, gardening and dairying, referred to before, it is apparent that there is employment suited to the various inclinations and aptitudes of the complex element that composes the usual prison population.

Central Prison Farm, Guelph – Ontario. Corner stone of Administration Building laid by The Honorable Sir James Pliny Whitney, Prime Minister of Ontario, the 25th day of September, 1911. Toronto, King’s Printer: 1911.

Guelph Museums collection, 


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‘Our great embarrassment as a civilized nation’

In the purported “land of the free” and “home of the brave,” we have to end our horribly destructive, dysfunctional reliance on physically and psychologically ripping our people apart from their friends, family, and communities – often setting them up to return to prison again, later, in a maddening, self-perpetuating, defeating cycle, to serve even harsher, more punitive sentences.

(Federal judge Raymond J. Dearie, formerly the United States Attorney in Brooklyn, once aptly lamented: “Why this love affair in this country with lengthy incarceration, to our great embarrassment as a civilized nation?”)  

No longer can we tolerate the pervasive rehabilitative deprivations and despicably inhumane living conditions that define our penal system.

As a Norwegian prison “governor” and clinical psychologist eloquently and pragmatically cautioned in a 2014 piece exploring “Why Norway’s prison system is so successful”: “In the law, being sent to prison is nothing to do with putting you in a terrible prison to make you suffer.

The punishment is that you lose your freedom.

If we treat people like animals when they are in prison they are likely to behave like animals. Here we pay attention to you as human beings.”

We must follow the sage advice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who, in demanding an end to racial discrimination in 1963, famously articulated the “fierce urgency of now”; for it is that same unrelenting, unquelled urgency that no less characterizes our nation’s long-lagging need for meaningful, far-reaching prison reform.

In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Reverend King poignantly observed that “[t]here comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men [and women] are no longer willing to be plunged in the abyss of despair.”

It is this dark and ominous feeling that currently dominates morale inside America’s prisons today; danger is the foreseeable consequence.  

Outside of our too numerous prisons, with their too crowded confines, the need for people with integrity to speak up and to act out on behalf of achieving prison reform is every bit as pressing.

For as Dr. King elegantly concluded in his book “Why we can’t wait”: “The bell of man’s inhumanity to man does not toll for any one man, it tolls for you, for me, for all of us.”

– Stephen Cooper, “America must face and fix its unjust prison system.” Tennessean. September 8, 2018.

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“Dale Pughsley turned 39 this summer but it wasn’t a happy birthday.  He’s spent more than half of his life in Virginia prisons and could very well die there for something he did when he was a kid.

“I was 18 years old, and it was a crack deal.  I was selling drugs,“ he recalls. ” I grew up selling drugs to my father.  I was in a real dysfunctional household.  I’m not making excuses, but that was my life.  That’s what I knew.   I had been in and out of juvie since I was 14 years old. I mean I was a career criminal by the time I was 14 ”

And that meant being able to protect himself.

“I had a gun – a 25 automatic.  Me and a guy got to arguing over crack,“ he explains. "He was refusing to pay me.  I pulled out the gun really to intimidate him, and he tried to take it, and I shot him and killed him.  I say accidentally, because it wasn’t my intention to kill him.”

Pughsley was charged with second-degree murder.  Sentencing guidelines for the crime dictate a prison term of 5 to 40 years, but Pughsley got 58.  The jury might have assumed he would be eligible for parole, but it had just been abolished in Virginia, and courts were not telling juries about the change.

Pughsley settled in at Red Onion Prison in Wise County and began the education he didn’t get outside.  

“I came at a time where older guys were giving you books.  Conversations were happening back then.  What does it mean to be a black man in America?  What does it mean to be a prisoner in America?  How much should you be held accountable for being a victim of certain circumstances?  Does society owe us anything?”

One of them lent him the Selected Works of Vladimir Lenin, but Pughsley wasn’t much of a reader.  He asked his mentor for a simple explanation – a summary.

“He’s like, ‘Hell no!  Take my dictionary.  I don’t give a damn if it takes you three days to read three pages.  You read it, and you come back and tell me what it means to you, man.’ Now I read and study all the time by myself, and I try to pay it forward to some of the younger guys.”

He was transferred to a lower security prison in Buckingham County, where he worked with professional counselors to help fellow inmates manage anger and address substance abuse, and he talked to them about the way Virginia handles people convicted of crimes.  A 2012 study by the Pew Charitable Trust found on average this state has the fourth longest prison sentences in the nation.

“There’s something wrong where you only have 9% of the general public that’s African-American male, but 65% of the system is African-American male.”

After he started organizing other prisoners around these issues, Pughsley was transferred to the Augusta Correctional Center. There he continued his work – pointing out that inmates make less than a dollar an hour to manufacture license plates, furniture and clothing  for a state-run corporation.

“They’re able to exploit our labor, because we’re not protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act, and we’re not protected by Virginia’s minimum wage act, and we’re talking about an agency that makes nearly $100 million a year from prison labor.”

The state was spending less than two dollars a day to feed each inmate, it had been sued and lost in court for providing inadequate medical care, and Pughsley said the staff was not large enough to ensure prisoner safety. The Department of Corrections refused to discuss Pughsley or his complaints with us – his claim of understaffing, but it recently offered to pay prison guards an $8,000 bonus if they would transfer to a job in Augusta.  As for Pughsley, he’s been transferred five times in the last 20 months, and he claims to be stuck in solitary confinement for speaking out.”

– Sandy Hausman, “Prisoner Fighting for Reform From The Inside Placed in Solitary Confinement.” Radio IQ / WVTV. September 5, 2018.

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“492 Prisoners in Penitentiary,” Kingston Daily Standard. September 5, 1912. Page 02.

Largest Number Since Year 1839.

Sixty Lifers Also Mark Record – Fewer Women Convicts – Parole Release Nearly 600.

Portsmouth Penitentiary now boasts a population of four hundred and nine-two, the largest since 1839, when six hundred and twenty names were on the roll call. Of these, sixty are life prisoners, also a record number. Despite these figures there has been a slight decrease in the number of convictions especially those of a serious nature. This is because of the changed attitude of the judges in regard to capital punishment. Of the 442 souls only eleven are women. This much smaller than usual, the record being 30.

The parole system has been in effect since 1900 and since that time 580 convicts have been released upon the conditions of the act. This, of course, must be taken into consideration when one looks at the figures in total.

Upon the whole the conditions among criminals are better than they were even a few years ago. The parole system is one feature which has been instrumental in reducing that criminal type of convict, who disheartened and desperate, has been truly a menace to society. The realms of insanity and crime have also been more clearly defined, with encouraging results

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“There was, in his opinion, in the present day, altogether too much of that maudlin sentimentality abroad in the world, which extended charity to vice at the expense of honesty and industry,…which sympathized with crime, and neglected the really honest man…He thought the best punishment was to tie them up and give them a good thrashing; he would whip them and send them to bed. It was really too absurd to talk of a moral school for such characters. He would be glad to see a house of correction in the rear of each prison, where they would be taken, tied up, and treated in the way he had pointed out.”

– Member of Parliament William Dunlop, Legislative Assembly, Debates of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada. 1843, p. 383.

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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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“As to the accusation of lavishness and extravagance in the expenditure of the Penitentiary, such a statement disappears before an honest examination of the facts ; for to sustain it, our detractors affect not to take into consideration that nearly a fourth of the sums voted under the name of Penitentiary is expended at Rockwood for the benefit of another institution. In other words, they charge against the current expenditure of the Penitentiary the entire outlay for the erection of vast and costly buildings for the use of another, and, to all intents and purposes, entirely distinct and separate institution. The Provincial Penitentiary is neither the least costly of institutions of the class, nor is it, on the other hand, amongst the more costly; it ranks, in fact, as will be shown, amongst those that are most economically managed. The question of cost will be considered hereafter, with statistical information taken from official documents.

The Mercury has a pet argument, which is repeated by him very often as a masterpiece of cleverness, I suppose. Here it is:—

“prison and reformatory management, together with prison inspection, entail upon the Province burdens amounting to $155,612 03.”

It is a good deal, but it is not all. All the asylums, hospitals, prisons and reformatories, under the inspection of the board , do cost a great deal more than that sum; and still it is no argument against the board. One thing may cost a large sum and be cheap; another thing may cost a sum, small in itself, and yet be very dear. The support of indigent and dangerous classes is everywhere a very heavy burden upon society, but it is an unavoidable one. I am really astonished at the short-sightedness of the writer of the Mercury on this point if, instead of expressing the above-mentioned sum in dollars, he had done it in farthings, he would have gathered such figures as to astonish every one of his readers disposed to be satisfied with his argument as it stands.

The Inspectors, it is said, do not give enough of detailed information in their reports, and those reports are not distributed widely enough. The answer to that charge is as simple as it is conclusive. The Inspectors have no control whatever in the printing and distributing of their reports, which are so printed and distributed under the supervision of the Printing Committee of the House of Assembly. No matter how concise are the appendices of those reports, where the details of information are to be found, they are always curtailed for the printers. Furthermore, it would appear that the British American, who utters that complaint, is, after all, very little interested in the question, as he is always asking questions, the answers to which are given, at length and in print, in reports evidently in his possession. It will be seen, hereafter, that the printing of Provincial Statutes, in full, has had a small influence on his knowledge of the questions he undertakes to expound.

In relation to the increase of the salaries of officers and guards of the Penitentiary, and of creating new offices, the answer is, that the Inspectors have no power to do it, and have in fact not done it. The salaries were, indeed, increased to the extent of nearly a fourth of the whole, several years before the appointment of our Board; and what those able and practical writers believe, in their conscience I suppose, to be a discovery, is nothing more than a display of ignorance.

On that score the editor of the British American puts on his best appearance and lets out a little of his constitutional knowledge. After having said, in the number of the 30th November last :—

“The additions made to the salaries of the guards by the Inspectors, apparently without any a authority, represents an annual expenditure of $6,720. He adds, on the 1st December. "Possibly there may be some authority which does not appear on the face of the statutes, for the deviations we have noted from the statutory provisions ; but we know of no authority, except Parliament itself, which has a right to override the enactments of ” an act of Parliament.‘”

For the peace of mind of the dutiful watchman of public interest and parliamentary privileges, I can happily inform him that the increase of salaries alluded to was ordered by His Excellency the Governor in Council, agreeably with the dispositions of the Act 18th Vic, chap. 89, (1855,) which is commonly called the Percentage Act . .

So the editor of the British American can enjoy a comparatively comfortable sleep! True, these horrid Inspectors do hold offices coveted by others; but they are not guilty of the usurpation of the powers of either the Parliament or the Executive.

As far as the number of subordinate officers is concerned, and the aggregate amount of their salaries, including the percentage, it has always been brought within the letter and intention of the law. True, the number of employes called guards is apparently more numerous, but. the number of a superior class, called keepers, is much less than allowed by the law —the transfer from one class to another less paid being in the interest of the institution. Astonishment is expressed at the increase of the salary of the Inspectors, as compared with that of the former Penitentiary Inspectors, who had nothing else to do than to look after the Penitentiary but the appointment of the present Board is not made in virtue of the Penitentiary Act alone, but agreeably to the Aet 20th Vic. chap. 28th. Moreover, the subsection on which the British American (the writer of the Mercury being a little wiser or more elevated in the estimation of himself, does not object to the salary of the Inspectors) bases his argument, has been formally repealed by an act of Parliament.

But the most astonishing of all those accusations, perhaps, is that to which the Mercury, in his issue of the 9th January, gives a form in the following terms :—

“We cut off all charges for materials and labor on account of the asylum at Rockwood, because the buildings in progress there afford one of the strongest illustrations of the waste and folly which have disgraced the management of the Board. Whatever fate awaits them, the Rockwood Asylum will be a lasting monument of their recklessness or incompetence. Year after year it has absorbed large sums. There  is, however, absolutely no necessity for it; from its inception to this day it has been a job that would be ludicrous but for its costliness. The Inspectors cannot but be aware that for the accommodation of the insane prisoners, a ward of the Penitentiary would be ample; yet these buildings have been allowed to go on, year after year, although their inutility for Penitentiary purposes has been notorious from the outset. To reach the truth of the credit side of the amount, even approximatively, the $35,050.90g which are charged as for the Rockwood buildings must be transferred to the debit side, as representing so much materials and labor thrown away—literally wasted, thanks to these vigilant inspectors.”

Ignorance and blundering are decidedly getting the better of bad faith in this passage, which evidently proves that one may have the venom of the serpent without its wisdom.

The erection of the Rockwood buildings, proclaimed by the writer to be unnecessary, ludicrous and foolish, owes its origin not to Inspectors, recent or ancient, not to the Executive Government, but to the will of the three branches of the Legislature, as expressed in an Act of Parliament passed in 1857, and embodied in Revised Statutes of Canada, chapter 108. In chapter 111 are contained the legal dispositions authorising convict labor to be employed in erecting the Rockwood buildings, and in the chapters already mentioned, and the chapters 109 and 110, is prescribed what is to be done with that lasting monument of the recklessness or incompetence of the Inspectors.

At the time of the organization of the present Board of Inspectors (in December 1859), the plans of the Rockwood Asylum, prepared by an able architect and approved by distinguished alienists, had been sanctioned by the Governor in Council, and the work was already in progress. Since that time all the sums expended at Rockwood have been voted by Parliament for that very purpose. The Inspectors have no more part in any censure that may be passed on the Rockwood buildings than in the eulogiums pronounced on them by the American Journal of Insanity, (page 240 of the XIX vol.), the highest authority among periodicals on the subject on this continent. All that the Inspectors have had to do with the work has been to render the cost of those buildings (costly in their nature) as little as possible, and, on that point, they have saved on a single item several thousand dollars, by a well-timed and well-directed alteration in the specifications of materials.

As, therefore, the Inspectors have only acted in obedience to the laws, and the orders of their superiors in this affair, it is only just and proper that the Mercury should restore to the credit side of our balance sheet (for the year mentioned) that sum of $35,050 90 which has been so unmercifully cut off by him be transferred to the debit side.

It is with such statements, and something added to them, compared with exaggerated deficits for our Penitentiary, that our detractors are arguing against the present Prison Board. If it was only an error it could be pardoned very easily; but what must one think of men like the writers of the Mercury, for instance, who, after having been shewn the exact truth, after having seen clearly the untruthfulness of their former statements, still repeat them, and continue, notwithstanding, precisely the same arguments for week after week ? I leave it to the conscience of honest people to frame the answer.

The same writer of the Mercury, feeling, after all, the weakness of such arguments, has tried to operate a diversion by accusing us of what he calls cooking accounts, by this is meant attempting to make people believe that the Provincial Penitentiary defrays its expenses out of convict labor, which is exactly the reverse of all we have thought and said on the question. In order to induce his readers to give credit to his assertion, he tries to bring the Board in contradiction with the Auditor General’s accounts, by contrasting the administrative expose of the worth of the labor performed at the Public Works, entrusted to the authorities of the Penitentiary, and the balance-sheet published in the Public Accounts; without reflecting that the said balance-sheet is exactly the same as the one published in the very same report of the Board, which he quotes.

Those two pieces of information given by the Inspectors, in the same report (1862), at pages 21 and 183 of the French, 21 and 184 of the English copy, are simply the completion of one another. The first shows how many days of labor have been employed on public works, and the value of such labor, besides the number of days of labor on contracts, for which cash has been received. The second is the simple summary of cash transactions, in account current with the Province.

The administrative expose of page 21 is as fair and as candid as can be; the balance-sheet of page 184 is also perfectly correct, so correct that the Auditor General has published it, in the second part of the Public Accounts, page 92, with the simple alteration of changing the place of one item, on the same side.
The British American discusses the prices of 40 cents and 50 cents a day, affixed to the labor of our best working convicts, and, to show that we are not justifiable in making it so high, he says:—

“The highest contract price for convicts in the Penitentiary, that we heard of, is 35 cents per day.”

The only thing I can say is, that any one attempting to discuss such questions with the knowledge of what he has heard of, must necessarily commit many blunders, as we have already proved to be the case with the British American. For his information, then, we convey the intelligence that there have been at the Penitentiary several contracts at 40c, one at 45c, one at 50c. and one at 54 cents.

Let us now cast a look on the question of receipts and expenditure, beginning with the latter, in order to know whether there is or is not lavishness and gross mismanagement, as alleged by our detractors.

To facilitate the examination, it is necessary to classify the expenditure under different heads, namely: 1st, salaries; 2nd, provisions; 3rd, clothing and bedding; 4th, fuel and light; 5th, building and repairs; 6th, miscellaneous, which includes, as well understood, a variety of small items not comprised in any of the others.

It is well to explain, at first, that the Inspectors have no control whatever over the salaries; that they have scarcely any control over the supply contracts, which are given out by public advertisement; that, in fact, with very little exception, the responsibility of the Board is confined to the surveillance of the proper usage and consumption of articles.

It would be altogether too long to enter into a full discussion of the multifarious questions connected with feeding and clothing prisoners, and in warming, lighting and otherwise providing such institutions as penitentiaries, and to consider all that in relation with the climate, situation and habits of the people. The simplest way of dealing with the question will be to show, by figures taken from the proper sources, that, notwithstanding many disadvantages, the Provincial Penitentiary occupies a distinguished rank amongst institutions of the same nature; for I suppose that our adversaries do not mean to say that all penitentiaries are illmanaged, and that they ought to be appointed Inspectors of all of them.

I have no complete series of reports of the American prisons, so I make use of the most recent in my possession, giving, of course, the year and the mean annual population: that mean is established, for all in the same way, by adding the numbers at the beginning and end of the year and dividing by two.

The Provincial Penitentiary is the only one in which lunatics of different kinds are kept, fed, &c, &c. It has been the case for several years at Kingston. All the male lunatics of the so-called criminal asylum of Rockwood have been maintained out of the Penitentiary stores; it was only during the year 1862 that, a part of the new buildings at Rockwood having been temporarily tied up, the crowding of the insane ward at the Penitentiary was a little relieved. I give this information to explain to the reader that in the mean population of the Provincial Penitentiary, for 1862, are included 44 male lunatics, who, while they give no work, being added to the number of consumers, must necessarily be counted with them. This is a very important element in the calculation, which has been completely, overlooked by sundry writers on the subject the more so that, for several years past, the mean number of male lunatics so kept to the cost of the Penitentiary has been over sixty.”

– Letter of Mr. J. C. Taché, The Board of Inspectors of Asylums, Prisons and Hospitals and ITS ACCUSERS. Reprinted from the ‘Morning Chronicle.’ Quebec, 1864. p. 8-13.

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