Posts Tagged ‘prison discipline’

“Prisoner work camps run in military style under study by N.S.,” The Globe and Mail. October 13, 1983. Page 10.

SYDNEY, N.S. – SYDNEY, N.S. (CP) – Most people convicted in Nova Scotia courts lack discipline, pride and motivation and those who aren’t dangerous would benefit from work camps run in army fashion, Attorney-General Harry How said yesterday.

Mr. How said his department will consider the idea of work camps for convicts when it takes over the operation of correctional centres from municipalities next year.

The minister told delegates to the annual conference of the Atlantic Provinces Criminology and Corrections Association that jailing “the disadvantaged person who turned to crime” brings him in touch with dangerous criminals who are likely to be the worst influence.

But probation is not the answer either, Mr. How said, because “they would be going back to the same underdisciplined and unmotivating environment that got them into trouble in the first place.” In 1979, he recommended developing a special corps of the Canadian Forces for non-dangerous criminals, but the Defence Department did not like the idea. “Some said it would reflect badly on the armed services,” the minister recalled.

Mr. How said he still believes the idea is a good one and if it cannot be implemented at the national level he will pursue it in Nova Scotia. “We have to motivate people and we have to give them the vision without which they would perish. ’‘These people aren’t bad. These people need somebody, some mechanism, or some program to give them a new sense of worth and a new sense of motivation.” Mr. How said the program could be run by a former army officer who would give criminals the disclipline and physical work they need to develop strong bodies. High school and trades teachers would be available to “excite their minds.” The program could develop projects in forestry, park development and the cutting of fuel wood for senior citizens, but would not intrude on the regular job market, Mr. How said.

Dennis Finlay, a spokesman for the Correctional Services Canada, said he knew of no one in the federal department developing a similar program of work camps.

But Mr. Finlay noted that the federal service already has forestry camps in Nova Scotia for inmates and is looking at eventually setting up an isolated penal community, which he said may be modelled on an island penal community in Mexico.

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“Guards Use Tear Gas: Reformatory Riot Follows Open House,” The Globe and Mail. September 25, 1962. Pages 01 & 12.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Guelph, Sept. 24 – The first open house in history at the Ontario Reformatory here last weekend affected about 30 inmates today – they rioted.

Superintendent Charles Sanderson said some disturbance usually follows any unusual program, such as the open house that attracted more than 10,000 persons to the institution.

The prisoners were subdued within 15 minutes after guards pumped large quantities of tear gas into the dining room. There was considerable damage, but no injuries were reported.

Mr. Sanderson said the prisoners did not attempt to leave the dining room, but smashed crockery and windows. They were removed to a prison yard after the outbreak and more than 350 inmates eating in an adjoining room were also removed for safety.

There had been a couple of incidents in the dormitories during the weekend that led him to expect trouble, the superintendent said, ‘but I didn’t expect anything as serious as this.’

About 30 inmates overturned and broke about 25 windows Saturday night and there were a couple of fights between prisoners, Mr. Sanderson said. One guard received a broken nose attempting to break up one fight.

‘Their fun involves vandalism,’ the superintendent added.

About 15 men involved in the dormitory disturbances were today transferred to the maximum security at Millbrook.

The men in the large dining room were brought back into the building just before 5 p.m. They had been confined in a prison yard since noon.

About 250 men who were in the small dining room remained in another room.

Mr. Sanderson said the 250 inmates of the reformatory will spend the night in the prison yard and will not be given any food until morning.

‘It is unfortunate that we have to leave all the men out because we are not yet sure who all the troublemakers are,’ he said.

The staff at the reformatory was doubled in strength tonight with about 80 men on duty. Guards are watching from rooftops and other locations with tear-gas guns ready.

Mr. Sanderson said that it was the prompt use of the tear gas that prevented the trouble from becoming more serious.

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“Inside Kingston Penitentiary – Ten Years After Canada’s Most Infamous Prison Riot,” Saturday Night. September 1981. Pages 32 & 33.

Part one. Part three.
‘THE Cells Are Opened at 7 In the Morning,’ Says An Inmate Sentenced To life. ‘Breakfast is at 7.30. You go the kitchen by ranges, then back to your cell with your tray. You’re locked in with your food until 8 while the medication trolley comes around. From 8 to 11 you work. Back to your cell at 11, lunch and maybe a sleep until 1, then back to work until 3:30. Supper, until 6. After supper, you can be out on the range, playing cards or watching TV. Or you can go to the exercise yard in summer, the gym in winter. Lockup is 11 o’clock. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year.’

Routine, repetition, numbing boredom. The inmate’s lot is grim; but less so than it once was. One of the major reforms of the past decade is a programme of family visits. At present these are restricted to maximum-security institutions (whose inmates are ineligible for the termporary absences available to medium- and minimum-security inmates), although they may soon be extended to medium-security prisons. The programme was introduced last year at Millhaven, where a white mobile home stands inside the security fences. There is a small fenced yard for children, with swings and a teeter-totter. The authorities provide food and other necessities. The purpose of the programme, an official explains, is ‘to keep the family together, to maintain some continuity so the inmate’s got something to go back to. It’s not to dangle a carrot for good behaviour. It’s not even to cut down on homosexuality in the institution – those are side effects.’ A similar programme was started in Attica in New York State three years ago. ‘It’s early to make any sweeping statements,’ says the official, ‘but the people there the recividism among the men who got visits is way, way down.’

At Kingston, there is no programme of conjugal visits. Inmate’s contact with family and friends consists of letters and supervised visits. The inmate above asked to be photographed so that his girlfriend could have his picture.

WITH Waxed Moustached, Medal Ribbons, and Military Bearing, Tom Rathwell, the supervising keeper (or head guard) at Kingston, appears as anachronistic as the penitentiary itself. In fact, he is respected – even liked – by virtually all the inmates. ‘I don’t know who they’ll get when he goes on retirement,’ says a bank robber. ‘I mean, he’s a man you can trust. I remember one time we had a sit-down strike in the gym. The guys wanted to kill the warden – they had iron bars and they were ugly. Then, after a day-and-a-half, the door opened – boom! – and in walked Tom Rathwell, right in among us. He went around to all the ringleaders and wagged a finger under their noses – ‘This is your doing, don’t think I don’t know that.’ He made them feel like kids. After that, we all caved in.’

A veteran of the Second World War, Rathwell, sixty-one, joined the penitentiary service in 1947. Except for a few months at Millhaven, he has spent his entire career at Kingston. ‘Things were much tougher before ‘71,’ he says. ‘Everything was very military. Men marched everywhere in lines, they weren’t allowed to dress sloppily, they had to be very polite with the guards. If they called you by your first name, you were supposed to charge them. It didn’t help. You can’t treat people like that. I try to be straight with them. If they ask about their parole, or what their chances are of a move, and I don’t think they have a hope, I tell them. If you say, ‘That’s up to the classification officers,’ it just makes them mad.’

A Kingston inmate handed a note to the photographer and asked that it be given to the writer. The note reads, ‘While speaking with Mr. Rathwell the other day he made a comment which I thought worth passing on to you. He seldom uses bad language, but this is what he said: ‘They told me when I started here thirty-four years ago to treat all prisoners alike. It was bullshit then and it’s bullshit now.’

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Expanding the Carceral State
While the federal government was no more willing to step into state prisons on behalf of Muslim prisoners than it was in Albany, Georgia, on behalf of nonviolent protestors, the activism of the Muslim Brotherhood continued to receive attention from the state capital in Albany, New York. The writ-writing campaigns of prisoners had helped prompt a national response and the attention of the courts, but it also caused an arm of the state to reach deep into incarcerated communities. Wardens and state corrections officers authorized prison surveillance and, in some cases, even dedicated a staff member to internal supervision of the Nation of Islam. This surveillance was meant not only to absorb and report but also to disrupt and subvert. It also provided the raw material for state knowledge production that could quell prison activism. Prison officials soon emerged as arbiters of religious orthodoxy, determining who and what constituted legitimate Muslim practice.

As they looked to Muslim religious practices such as eating, prayer, and use of Arabic for markers of identity and political agitation, prisoners turned to informal strategies of daily resistance to combat state intrusions. Through its intervention, the state also assigned political meaning to religious practice, further politicizing incarceration and the practice of Islam within prison walls. State surveillance began with prison officers, who had the most daily contact with prisoners. One institution devoted an officer to keeping a list of all active members, searching their cells, and confiscating any literature relating to the Nation of Islam. Seizing materials slowed the spread of conversions and were a source for state intelligence. An area of concern was prisoners’ use of Arabic. The language not only served a cultural and religious function but also flummoxed prison security. For example, Bratcher gave specific instructions in his letter to Malcolm X: his mother would write him of the minister’s reply in red

ink with “three lines of Al-Fatihab” (referring to Al-Fatiha, the first surah in the Qur’an). One state report noted that it “would seem doubtful if the majority of the prisoners can rea[d] and write Arabic but if notes are picked up that seem to contain no meaning maybe they would bear investigating.” Several months later, six pages of Arabic to English and English to Arabic translation were confiscated. 

Another surveillance strategy that relied heavily on prison officers was the scrutiny of Muslim eating habits. The refusal to eat pork in prisons recalls Malcolm X’s own imprisonment in the late 1940s when he and other prisoners protested its prevalence in prison diets. At Attica Prison, Bratcher wrote to Warden Walter Wilkins asking for permission to carry food from the mess hall to his cell so he and other Muslim prisoners could eat after sundown during Ramadan. One prisoner was even charged with wasting state food for throwing away his bacon and refusing to eat it. Daily political acts such as throwing away bacon even escalated to more formal strikes. In Milan, Michigan, where Elijah Muhammad had once been incarcerated for draft resistance, prisoners took part in a three day hunger strike against pork, which eventually resulted in Muslim-prepared food and a separate dining section. 

These actions were challenged by prison officials who quickly seized on dietary restrictions as a way to monitor and challenge the legitimacy of a prisoner’s religious beliefs. “In order to check the authenticity of the Muslims,” Woodward’s memo noted, “each officer has been required to submit to the principal keeper’s office a report on whether or not the particular prisoner in question is eating pork. The members who are eating pork will be … included in next month’s report.” Another institution itemized prisoners’ eating when pork was served in the mess hall: “Of the above total [of 70], 30 prisoners either refused their ration or gave it to another prisoner, and additional 16 prisoners took their ration to their cells and only two were actually observed fasting.” By monitoring prisoners’ eating, writings, and literature, prison officers acted as foot soldiers in the state’s surveillance of the Nation of Islam. 

From this narrow base of day-to-day surveillance, reports on Muslims in prison also radiated outward to the state and federal levels. The success of the NOI’s organized prison litigation continued to trouble prison officials. The first to present on the NOI at the ACA’s annual conference was the noted penologist Donald Clemmer, who authored his foundational study The Prison Community in 1940. By 1963, topics such as “The Black Muslims and Religious Freedom in Prison” and “The Black Muslim in Prison: A Personality Study” surfaced at the conference. The academic communities of penology and criminology emerged as part of the state’s developing knowledge production about the NOI. 

The 1960s also marked a shift from rehabilitative strategies to psychological warfare and new technologies of violence, and Muslim prisoners were often the first subjected to these new experimental practices. As Alan Gómez notes, bibliotherapy was replaced with isolation, sensory deprivation, and brainwashing; Muslim prison litigation helped “propel this shift.” Edgar Schein, a professor of psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, presented a paper in 1961 to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons entitled “Man against Man: Brainwashing.” Bertra S. Brown of the National Institute of Mental Health responded by contacting prison administrators and suggesting that they “do things perhaps on your own—undertake a little experiment of what you can do with Muslims.” As Gómez persuasively argues, the ascension of Control Units, Special Housing Units, and Adjustment Centers, were all outgrowths of the experimental use of excessive solitary confinement by prison officials during the late 1950s and early 1960s. These punishments and techniques, he concluded, were “initially experimented with on Muslim inmates [but] later used en masse on political activists [and] became the model for the entire prison regime.”

– Garrett Felber, ““Shades of Mississippi”: The Nation of Islam’s Prison Organizing, the Carceral State, and the Black Freedom Struggle.” The Journal of American History, June 2018. pp. 90-93.

Photos are from Ann Arbor Times, September 6, 1966.

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“Alcatraz of Canada Groups Troublemakers Behind High Walls,” The Globe and Mail. September 11, 1962. Page 04.

Globe and Mail Reporter

Millbrook, Sept. 10 – They call Millbrook Reformatory the Alcatraz of Canada.

Behind the 20-foot brick wall are 150 prisoners living a regimented life that they leave only when they finish their terms or change their behauviour.

There have been successful or even near-successful escapes from Millbrook in its five years as a maximum security institution. Here are housed the troublemakers of the Ontario corrections system.

A visitor to Millbrook might be impressed by its efficiency, its cleanliness, even its meals. It doesn’t give the impression of tough, steel and stone Big House where defiant men are broken.

‘It doesn’t seem so tough for an ordinary law-abiding citizen,’ said Millbrook’s superintendent, J. M. Marsland, ‘but the prisoners here are essentially manipulators who all their lives have tried to adapt situations to their own advantage. Here, they can’t. This is the most frustrating experience of their lives.’

To Millbrook are sent men from other Ontario reformatories, men who have repeatedly caused trouble, instigated disturbances, or have gotten fellow prisoners into trouble.

Here also are sent drug addicts and sex deviants who are kept in groups so they will not spread their habits to younger and more impressionable inmates in other reformatories.

No maximum security prison in Canada or the United States is more modern than Millbrook, its superintendent says. Prisoners are escorted everywhere by guards. Cell and block doors are electrically controlled by other guards sitting in bulletproof glass booths.

They work together, have recreation and exercise periods together, but eat in their own cells. Because they spend much of their time alone, Millbrook prisoners have time to think about their lives and their crimes.

When a man reaches Millbrook, he spends two weeks in a reception cell during which time he sees only reformatory staff, doctors and psychologists. From then on, he gets privileges as he earns them by good behavior.

He can forfeit his privileges by loafing, failing to obey prison rules or acting up. For repeated infractions, a prisoner can earn a period of solitary confinement.

This is why criminals call Millbrook the Alcatraz of Canada, and this is why Millbrook produces some model inmates.

‘Of course, we’re not as interested in producing model inmates as we are in producing model citizens,’ Mr. Marsland emphasized.

Consequently, prisoners are encouraged to work in one of the shops at the reformatory: the laundry, tailor shop, or license-plate plant. There it is possible to learn skills that could lead to a good job when the inmate finishes his sentence.

A prisoner can also get psychological help  and, in the case of a drug addict, help in curing him of his addiction.

By demonstrating that his attitude has changed, a prisoner can earn a transfer to an institution where discipline and security are more relaxed.

Not everyone in Millbrook is able to accept the reformatory’s way of life. One prisoner collected the hems off blankets, wove them into a rope, and wound it around his waist in preparation for the day he could weight one end, toss it over the wall, and climb to freedom.

‘He wouldn’t have made it anyway,’ said Mr. Marsland. ‘The rope was discovered in a routine frisking prisoners undergo regularly.’

The only organized disturbance since Millbrook was established came shortly after Mr. Marsland arrived as superintendent three years ago.

‘They were testing me,’ he said. A group of prisoners refused to enter their cells to eat. The superintendent, an ex-Royal Air Force fighter and bomber pilot, told the men the strictest disciplinary measures would be taken if they did not go to their cells. They went.

Actually, Millbrook inmates have little cause for complaint. They know ahead of time that it’s tough and are prepared for it. They can’t object to the discipline, and there is no reason to complain about the food, accommodation or clothing.

One prisoner, however, has a decided aversion to life in the institution where all the inmates wear blue denim. Currently confined to the prison hospital, and likely to remain there until his sentence is finished, he lounges quietly in bed counting the days. His sickness: Blue denim allergy.

Caption: Millbrook prisoners line up to leave license-plate plant while guards watch (left). They are searched, then go to cells.

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“As the five men waited for the SaMarion case to reach trial in the summer of 1962, they planned a hunger strike protesting solitary confinement. The prisoners claimed that Bratcher’s segregation was “an excuse by the warden . . to make him seem that he was crazy concerning this trial that was coming up.” Writ writing had exacerbated fears among prison officials and became one of the most successful strategies for Muslim prisoners. The Nation of Islam successfully flooded the courts with writs across the country. Between 1961 and 1978, sixty-six reported federal court decisions were made on suits fled by prisoners affiliated with the Nation of Islam. In California the number of habeas corpus petitions rose from a mere 814 in 1957 to nearly five thousand by 1965. At San Quentin in 1965, prisoners were churning out almost three hundred petitions per month. As Judge Brennan noted at one trial, these were not “cases where uneducated, inexperienced and helpless plaintiffs are involved … these applications are part of a movement.” Prison litigation became the “peaceful equivalent of a riot” by catalyzing public support and bringing national attention to the otherwise-hidden struggles of prisoners.

One of the largest structural challenges to prison organizing was physical isolation from the outside world. Activists relied on what Berger has called “a strategy of visibility” to make their struggles known. Testifying has its political roots in slavery and has been carried forward through the black feminist tradition. As Danielle McGuire points out in her work on the role of the struggle against sexual violence in the civil rights movement, “testimony must be seen as a form of direct action and radical protest.” Black prisoners saw the courts as political pulpits, a breach in the walls allowing them to take their claims before the world outside. As James Jacobs wrote, “it is as if the courts had become a battlefield where prisoners and prison administrators, led by their respective legal champions, engage in mortal combat.” Sostre later wrote that the “court is an arena. It is a battlefield—one of the best. We will use these same torture chambers, these same kangaroo courts, to expose them.”

Nowhere was this more evident than during Malcolm X’s testimony during the SaMarion trial. Bratcher realized that the state would be mobilizing witnesses to testify against the Nation of Islam’s standing in the Muslim world and wrote to the minister that the “‘Key’ witness I am depending on to ‘seal’ our victory is ‘You’ Minister Malcolm ‘X.’” This set the stage for a four-day showdown between Malcolm X and the state’s witness, the Columbia University professor Joseph Franz Schacht. While Malcolm X admitted openly in court that he had an eighth-grade education, no formal theological training, and could not speak Arabic, Schacht had a “masterly knowledge” of the language, and his book Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, which argued for the historical development and sociological implications of Islamic law, was considered a seminal text in the Western study of Islam. Yet Malcolm X weaved around the meritocratic probing of the state. When asked if he had a degree in theology, he noted that if “my understanding of the word ‘theological’ is correct, the study of God, the science that deals with religion and the study of God, I studied theology in that sense under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad about our God.” When pressed on the length of his education, he replied: “I am still studying.” When interrogated on whether or not he was ordained or had a written certificate that permitted him to proselytize, he reminded the court that “Jesus sent his disciples forth with no written certificate or anything but his approval.” Malcolm X’s

testimony was so convincing that when Schacht took the stand and listed his membership in the Royal Netherlands Academy, the Arabic Academy in Damascus, and an honorary degree in Law from University of Algiers, the judge responded: “I don’t think it is quite thoroughly clear at this time to qualify him as an expert.” 

While Henderson had, in effect, apologized for and excused his racism in the same remark, his open respect for Malcolm X’s opinion shifted the tenor of the case. As Griffin recalled, Henderson was “impressed by Malcolm and his testimony … [and] respected Malcolm for his clear statements and responses.” Bresnihan, likely attempting to curry favor with the judge, then began adopting the phrase the “American Black Man” in his questioning. Malcolm X’s use of the courtroom as a political stage reveals the importance of testimony as a form of nonviolent resistance. His testimony lasted three days, and was over 20 percent of the two-week trial transcript, successfully compelling the judge to rule that the Nation of Islam was a religious organization. But more importantly, Malcolm X’s  political views took center stage and fundamentally altered the rhetoric and discourse of the case.

The case at Attica Prison also underscores the important role that the jailhouse lawyer played in organizing legal challenges from prison. Knowing that most prisoners were not qualified to draw up their own legal challenges, prisons such as Attica maintained rules prohibiting legal assistance. For example, “rule 21” at Attica stated: “Prisoners are prohibited except upon approval of the warden to assist other prisoners in preparation of legal papers.” This strategy was reproduced nationally as a means of combatting prison litigation efforts. In Texas, administrators employed a similar strategy, forbidding writ writers from possessing the legal materials of a fellow prisoner. In California this was known as Rule D-2602. Even if a prisoner wanted to use another’s paperwork as a template, officials concluded that any legal material in a cell not pertaining to that prisoner was evidence of prison lawyering. Just as grandfather clauses and poll taxes worked as state mechanisms to disfranchise southern black voters, rules governing legal access and jailhouse lawyering sought to curb legal literacy and prisoners’ access to the judicial system. Thus, when Sostre wrote to Walker, he urged him to copy the writ into his notebook, then flush it down the toilet, but not to “let this lay around. This is dynamite.” He then listed the “most essential weapons in fighting Shaitan” (Arabic transliteration of “the devil”): legal paper, an ink eraser, one dollar of postage stamps, a loose-leaf binder, and a ball-point pen.

Trough cases such as Pierce v. LaVallee, SaMarion v. McGinnis, and later, Cooper v. Pate, the NOI brought about judicial oversight such that, by 1974, the Supreme Court declared that no longer was an “iron curtain drawn between the Constitution and the prisons of this country.” Yet, while the Supreme Court strictly forbade any “direct or indirect interference by prisons or state authorities” in prisoners’ access to the courts, prisons obstructed court access through measures such as rule 21. They also limited legal advice, intimidated writ writers, and disrupted the legal process through solitary confinement.

Despite these attempts, Muslim prisoners were more organized than the often uncoordinated strategies of local prison officials and state policy makers. In one example in California, San Quentin Prison officials set up a small office where three prisoners transcribed writs onto standardized forms and processed them on a duplicating machine. Meanwhile, the California Department of Corrections attempted to clamp down on writ writers by prohibiting access to law literature and court decisions. 

But Sostre’s letter to Walker in solitary confinement also revealed another strategy pointing toward the concurrent tactics of prison organizing and the broader black freedom struggle. Prisoners appropriated the principal mechanism of prison repression—solitary confinement—as a tool of organized protest. Recognizing that most of Attica Prison’s Muslims were already in solitary confinement, Sostre urged Walker to not be sent back to general population. According to Sostre, they “made a pact not to go down until the religious persecution of the Muslims cease[s].” If Walker was sent back, he was told to threaten to bring contraband literature out of his cell and be sent back to solitary. They reasoned that each time the warden “snatch[ed] an aggressive Muslim out of population, he would send one down from the box and send another one up from population. In other words, he kept manipulating the brothers like monkeys on a string.” Yet Sostre astutely noted that when “the box ceases to work, the entire disciplinary and security system breaks down.” The take-over of solitary confinement was an example of prisoners creatively adapting the methods of prison control as resistance. NOI members filled solitary confinement until the box no longer was an effective form of punishment. Wardens were then faced with the decision of creating hotbeds of activism in segregation or undermining the arbitrary rules they had worked so hard to justify and enforce. 

The prisoners’ strategy of filling solitary confinement mirrored, and in fact predated, the developing civil rights strategy of “Jail, no bail” in the South. …

The prisoners’ strategy of taking over solitary can be traced back to Clinton Prison when the men were reported by the prison officer as discussing the tactics (over a year before the Friendship Nine employed this strategy). While civil rights organizers in the South and prisoners at Attica appropriated forms of state control, Chief Pritchett in Albany was able to mobilize a larger network of police and jails just as wardens at Clinton and Attica Prisons were able to transfer prisoners to other state prisons when their much smaller segregation units became filled with politicized prisoners. Both movements also attempted to garner national attention and press for federal intervention. As Len Holt

of the Congress of Racial Equality explained, “if we go to jail by the hundreds and thousands, the hearts of those who would maintain the old order will be inundated with the guilt necessary to bring about change.” For prisoners at Attica, solitary confinement and the loss of good time were crucial to their claims in state and federal courts. As Sostre wrote: “We have taken over the box and he is anxious to get us out of the box, especially with the big trial coming soon. So don’t let him clean up, for we are living proof of the religious oppression complained of in our writs.” Filling solitary confinement not only

undermined prison security but also built a case for trial and dramatized prisoners’ struggles before the courts and the nation.

But in both cases, appropriation of state repression had unintended consequences. As Berger argues, “mass arrests of political activists provided a dry run for mass incarceration, especially when joined with the economic transformations wrought by mechanization and migration. The civil rights movement gave states an early taste of what it would mean to arrest, prosecute, and imprison large groups of people.” In the case of Muslims at Attica Prison, it coincided with intensified surveillance and monthly reports on the group. Despite their similarities, the “Jail, no bail” strategy has its place in the annals of civil rights history as a heroic confrontation with southern Jim Crow through nonviolent direct action; meanwhile, the take-over of solitary confinement by Muslims at Attica Prison has gone unremarked. At best, the Nation of Islam has been depicted as a reluctant political participant, pulled toward the struggle by Malcolm X. At worst, it is portrayed as an apolitical religious sect that was marginal, or even antithetical, to such movements. Such disparate historical treatments raise important questions about what are seen as legitimate politics, legible activists, and visible sites of resistance in histories of the black freedom movement.”

– Garrett Felber, ““Shades of Mississippi”: The Nation of Islam’s Prison Organizing, the Carceral State, and the Black Freedom Struggle.” The Journal of American History, June 2018. pp. 84-90 

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“The transfer to Attica in 1960 was an explicit attempt at curbing Muslim activism in New York prisons and represented the first of a variety of methods of prison discipline by the state. The practice of transferring prisoners to “break up gangs, separate associates in crime, and prevent disorder” was decades old. Sostre later referred to it as “bus therapy.” It was not unique to New York, however. Chase notes that the Texas Department of Correction distributed Muslims throughout state prisons to limit their influence in any one location. These institutional transfers (referred to as “drafts”) and solitary confinement represented the two largest threats to the stability of Muslim communities in prison. The group was persistently under threat due to this constantly fluctuating base. Short sentences often meant the release of members, and several assistants were appointed for each officer position to assure continuity and sustainability. These multiple appointments were primarily meant to combat the “further reduction of our ranks by the implacable enemy through persecutions (solitary confinement).”

Solitary confinement—sometimes referred to as “the box” or “segregation”—was the prison’s primary tool of security and discipline. The practice of solitary confinement was honed over a century earlier at New York’s Auburn Prison, with a trademark system of strict discipline, labor for prison profit, and solitude. This drew on nineteenth-century penal thought based on the belief that collective work and isolated living would reform prisoners. By the 1960s, at Attica Prison, solitary confinement had shed all pretenses of rehabilitation and was used strictly as a disciplinary measure. The section consisted of fifty individual cells on the third floor of the reception building with each single cell containing only a bed, toilet, wash basin with running water, and a light. When assigned to segregation, prisoners often were required to stay for days or weeks in “keep-lock” or a strip cell before moving to the gallery. “Keep-lock” was a single solitary cell with doors that “do not open up any more.” The strip cell was bare, with only a bucket and blanket. As SaMarion testified, prisoners “do an initial twenty days on a concrete floor with only a pair of winter underwear, pair of socks, no sanitary facilities whatever. The only thing you

use for calls of nature is a bucket, a defecation bucket.” Rations in keep-lock were reduced to half of normal mess-hall food: water and two slices of bread. Magette described keeplock at Clinton Prison as even more medieval. The “Dark Cell” was completely empty, without even a blanket. He was put there naked with a half a cup of water and one slice of bread three times a day. 

But solitary confinement was used by prison officials as more than a physical deterrent. It was coupled with the loss of good time as a way to isolate prisoners while simultaneously extending their sentences. Good time, sometimes referred to as good behavior (and now called “earned time”), was purportedly meant to reward well-behaved prisoners with a shortened sentence through their good conduct. However, like solitary confinement, it was used as a punitive measure. For example, in the first year the men spent at Attica Prison, thirty-three prisoners were sent to solitary confinement and four hundred cases of discipline led to 8,525 total days of good time lost over a nine-month period.

The loss of good time and the use of solitary confinement also punished prisoners in two directions at once. First, prisoners lost an initial amount of time for the disciplinary matter. For instance, SaMarion lost sixty days for joining a hunger strike in protest of the solitary confinement of another Muslim prisoner. Te second loss of time occurred during solitary confinement, as each day in solitary earned three lost days. Finally, regardless of prisoners’ behavior in solitary confinement, good time could not begin to be reaccumulated until a prisoner had been readmitted to the prison’s general population. These good-time practices illustrate the vast discretionary powers wielded by prison officials. As SaMarion bleakly noted at trial, “it is taken at will, you have it one minute,
then you don’t have it.”

A year after the four men had been transferred from Clinton Prison, Attica Prison officials reported that a sit-down strike was being planned in protest of Sostre’s solitary confinement. They responded by putting the prisoners in keep-lock with a loss of ninety days of good time. The group was then divided and transferred to different blocks with the hope that “after a thirty-day cooling-off period and the dispersion of the members of this click[,] activity will abate.” This incident reveals the ongoing struggle between strategies employed by prison officials to suppress Muslim activism and prisoners’ resistance to such practices. The state used transfers and the combination of solitary confinement and goodtime practices to slow the spread of Islam in New York prisons. But prisoners continued to bring their plight before the courts, ending the unspoken “hands-off” policy that had previously sheltered prisons from oversight by the judicial branch.” 

– Garrett Felber, ““Shades of Mississippi”: The Nation of Islam’s Prison Organizing, the Carceral State, and the Black Freedom Struggle.” The Journal of American History, June 2018. pp. 83-84

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“A New Home for Tough Guys,” The Globe Magazine. August 30, 1958. Cover and pages 03-05.

Millbrook has a bad name, and its officials are just delighted

…a big bit is preffered


It was a sunny morning in June, the traditional time for graduations. In a rambling red-brick building overlooking the Ontario village of Millbrook – a building with the glass, tile and pastel decor of a modern high school – superintendent Hartley Paterson shuffled a sheaf of papers and glanced up at the youth who stood before him.

‘You’ve done well here,’ he said. The compliment was acknowledged with a quiet smile. ‘So you’re going to have the honor of becoming Millbrook’s first graduate. Tomorrow we’re sending you to Burwash. Congratulations.’

Though the prospect of going to the provincial prison farm at Burwash is normally not cause for rejoicing, the youth in faded blue denims broke into a wide grin and took the superintendent’s outstretched hand. After the months he’d spent behind the towering walls of Millbrook, Ontario’s tough new maximum security reformatory, the chance to serve out the rest of his sentence somewhere else seemed almost as welcome as a parole.

A petty but promising criminal and never a model prisoner, he’d been among the charter inmates of Millbrook when it was opened last September to isolate troublemakers from other reformatories in the province. Some had been released earlier after completing their time – one has since returned for a second stretch  – but this was the first to win a good-behavior transfer.

That same day, a few minutes later, another inmate came before Paterson with a special request. Soon due for release, he wanted to complete the last few days of his term in a regular reformatory. ‘Just having a record is bad enough, he explained with feeling, ‘but a discharge from Millbrook is a worse black eye.’

WITH the men who know penal institutions best – i.e. residents – Millbrook is scarcely the most popular, a fact readily acknowledged by its superintendent. ‘This isn’t the nicest place to do time,’ says Paterson, former governor of Toronto’s DDon Jail,’ and it’s not meant to be.’

What Millbrook is meant to be, what it was specially designed for shortly after an outbreak of rioting at Guelph reformatory in 1952, is a place of stern no-nonsense discipline for the more difficult inmates of other provincial institutions. It differs from most reformatories about as much as Dorchester Penitentiary differs from Disneyland. Unlike the unfenced so-called open institutions – where prisoners usually live in barracks-like dormitories, eat together and enjoy comparative freedom of movement and communication – Millbrook is tough, and a man imprisoned behind its 23-foot wall has a monastic time of it.

The first 16 days of his term there are spent in his closed-in cell, cut off from contact with everyone but his jailers, the reformatory psychologist, chaplain and doctor. His meals are pushed in to him through a small opening in the foot of his cell door and he gets out only for short solitary walks in a small exercise yard.

IF behaves well in quarantine, his life at Millbrook improves slightly. He’s allowed cigarets, visitors, a novel from the prison library and a nightly half-hour period to mingle with the other 25 occupants in his cell block. He also gets to work eight hours a day, scrubbing floors.

In time, he can win other privileges – a thin mattress for his steel bunk, newspapers, mail, movies, sports in the yard, a job making license plates, hobby periods or high-school correspondence classes. At Millbrook, a prisoner has no privileges but those he earned by good behavior. He can lose any or all of them easily – by sassing a guard, loafing at his job, or even swearing at another inmate – and he also runs the risk of solitary confinement ‘behind the little green door’ or, for really serious offences, the strap.

At a time when the trend in penology is clearly toward open institutions for treating criminal offenders rather than merely punishin them, the $3,500,000 stronghold at Millbrook has been criticized for its iron discipline, steel bars, brick walls and bullet-proof glass. As one authority in the field of corrections put it recently, ‘How are you going to prepare a man for the outside world by keeping him in a cage?’

THEN is Millbrook, for all its modern custodial trappings, an anachronism? Far from it, asserts Ontario’s deputy minister of reform institutions, Hedley Basher. You can’t have effective minimum security,’ he says, ‘without maximum security to back it up. Just the fact that there is a place like Millbrook has greatly improved discipline in our other reformatories. Maybe it’s largely a fear of the unknown. At any rate, with the troublemakers moved to Millbrook, we’ve already been able to disarm the guard at Guelph and Burwash and we expect to do a great deal more there in the way of corrective treatment and rehabilitation.’ 

If most reformatory inmates stay in line, and out of Millbrook, what about the others who don’t? There are 125 of them at Millbrook now, in three categories. The first is made up of stars, a misleading term for problem prisoners. Most of these are younger men, in their late teens and early twenties, who have already done time before. Group Two is made up of 25 sex deviates. Not rated as security risks or troublemakers – though sex offenders can disrupt normal prison life – they’re confined to Millbrook chiefly for lack of a better place to keep them. Group Three includes 40 drug addicts.

The youngest convict at Millbrook is a baby-faced 17-year-old who knifed a guard at Guelph, the oldest a sex offender of 61. Most inmates have little education but there are some striking exceptions – a dope-addicted doctor and two high-school teachers, both in for sex crimes.

IT’S worth noting that the star prisoners – the troublemakers – cause little trouble at Millbrook, if only because they get little opportunity. Says Paterson: ‘Most of them come here with that hostile spit-in-your-eye attitude. But after a couple of weeks in their cells, with nothing much to do but think, they usually simmer down.’ One reason for this, the superintendent thinks, is the incentive system of privileges. ‘They soon realize that the kind of life they lead here is entirely up to them. If they behave, it gets progressively easier. If not, they can do hard time. The choice is as simple as that.’

Another reason is advanced by Douglas Penfold, a psychologist with the Department of Reform Institutions who spends most of his time at Millbrook. ‘A lot of these men just can’t seem to adjust to group living in an open institution,’ he says. ‘Here they get lots of time to themselves, away from the influence and distractions of other inmates, and they have a better chance to start thinking seriously about their problems and their future. I’d say the attitude of at least 25 per cent of our so-called disturbers had undergone a distinct change for the better.’

While Millbrook may never set any records for turning out model citizens – since its clients are judged to be the worst of a pretty bad lot – an attempt is being made there to reform them. As well as up-to-date medical and dental clinics, two psychologists, a psychiatrist and a case-worker from the John Howard after-care agency are on hand to help prisoners get at the causes of their criminal behavior and fix on some way of overcoming them.

AFTER careful screening and preliminary treatment at Millbrook, many Group Three prisoners have been sent on the provincial clinic for addicts at Mimico. In addition, one Millbrook psychologist, Gordon Johnson, has recently been working at the forensic clinic of the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital, preparing a rehabilitation program for the reformatory’s sex offenders.

Perhaps the most significant development at Millbrook is the fact that its star prisoners will soon be introduced to group counselling, a form of psychotherapy that has proved highly successful in some of the world’s most advanced penal institutions. Members of the custodial staff, who will act as group leaders, are now attending a series of lectures by psychiatrists and sociologists – on their own time and by their own choice.

All such clinical work has the full approval and support of superintendent Paterson, a breezy 44-year-old onetime Royal Canadian Regiment colonel, and his chief aid, James Rea, a big greying man with 20 years’ experience in prison work.

‘This place could never justify itself,’ Paterson believes, ‘if it was nothing but a lockup for bad actors. True, it’s having a good effect on other reformatories. But we want Millbrook to have some positive value for the men who are here, to help them go straight when they leave. If so, Millbrook could be a big advance in penology in Canada.’

AS for Millbrook’s inmates, its strict discipline and rigid routine affect them in various ways. ‘I guess I’d better behave myself here,’ one prisoner wrote to his wife. ‘They’ve got more strap than I’ve got backside.’ Another, on the eve of his discharge, told Paterson that he’d never, never be back in Millbrook again. ‘Next time,’ he said, ‘I’ll make sure I get a big bit.’ In prison parlance, a big bit is two years or more, a term in a federal penitentiary. Perhaps the most remarkable reaction to Millbrook was expressed not long ago by a 19-year-old star prisoner. He arrived there spouting defiance, paid for it in solitary confinement and wound up meekly asking for vocational guidance and advice from psychologist Doug Penfold. When his behavior had improved so markedly that he was offered a transfer back to an open institution, he astounded all by declining with thanks. ‘I can learn a lot more here and keep out of trouble,’ he said. ‘So I’d like to stay till my time’s up.’

Millbrook officials were secretly delighted at this unlikely testimonial. But they didn’t advertise it. After all, the place just can’t afford to get a good name.

Mr. MacDonald was the author of a recent Globe Magazine article on problems facing the courts


1) If he behaves, he’s allowed a mattress, mail, novels, prison company and visitors

2) The design of Millbrook is modern, but the walls that make a prison haven’t changed much over the years; Millbrook’s are 23 feet high

3) The job of making license plates for cars is a privilege, awarded for good conduct

4) Guard Lawrence Wiles keeps watch as one prisoner cuts another’s hair; at Millbrook, an inmate has to win the right of mixing with his fellows.

5) Head man: Superintendent Hartley Paterson; The resident chaplain, Dr. Harold Neal, conducts a service; Deputy Superintendent James Rea

Read Full Post »

“L’enfer du Centre de
développement correctionnel,” Le Devoir. August 29, 1980. Page 06.

par Edgar Roussel

Alors détenu dans un «Centre de développement correctionnel», M. Edgar
Roussel avait adressé au député fédéral Mark MacGuigan, devenu ministre
des Affaires extérieures, une lettre manuscrite sur les conditions de détention.
La Ligue des droits et libertés qui en avait obtenu copie en avait publié la
teneur voici peu de mois. Ce document, daté du 12 avril 1980, prend une actualité
particulière à la lumière des événements survenus cette semaine à
l’Institut Laval, événements auxquels M. Roussel a présumément été mêlé. En
voici le texte intégral.

DEPUIS le 29 mars 1978, je suis détenu
au Centre de développement
correctionnel (CDC) où je sers une
peine d’emprisonnement à vie avec éligibilité
à 20 ans.

Sur les pénitenciers fédéraux, tout a été
dit, il ne me reste plus qu’à le redire, sauf
quand il s’agit d’unités spéciales de détention,
telles le CDC dont il sera question
dans cette lettre. La raison d’être de
ce genre d’institutions selon la directive
no 174 du Commissaire national est de
préparer la réinsertion pénitentiaire de
détenus considérés comme dangereux.

Pour ce faire l’administration offre un
programme que je vous propose d’examiner
soigneusement afin de découvrir de
quelle façon originale le système oeuvre
afin que se réalise la métamorphose tant
souhaitée, pour que le chrysalide devienne
papillon, comment en nous déconnectant
de la vie on prétend nous faire renaître
à la vie. On dénombré quatre paramètres
fixes comme des miradors à l’intérieur
desquels ce programme est élaboré:
une cellule, une salle commune, une
cour extérieure, et pour chapeauter le
tout, un département de socialisation.

C’est au CDC que le temps passé en cellule
se situe parmi le plus élevé dans les
pénitenciers fédéraux du Canada. Afin
d’éviter que le détenu ne sombre dans
l’ennui ou pis encore dans la folie, l’administration
accorde ce que d’autres institutions
refusent catégoriquement à leur population,
soit un appareil de télévision.
Ce cadeau dont le detenu est bénéficiaire
est on ne peut plus significatif quant au
désarroi dans lequel se trouve celui-ci
lorsque laissé à seul. Mais, c’est davantage
un aveu d’échec et aussi un manque
flagrant d’imagination, ce qui est plus
grave encore.

Les premiers jours, on s’en sert de
façon démesurée, pour diminuer graduellement
sa consommation et finalement
l’utiliser de nouveau mais cette fois, pour
couvrir les bruits qu’auparavant on ne
percevait pas.

La télévision agit tantôt comme une aspirine
pour calmer la souffrance tantôt
comme un prisme par lequel le monde
extérieur nous parvient. Après des mois
de ce régime c’est la nausée, la répulsion;
on ferme l’appareil pour faire connaissance
avec un phénomène nouveau: le bruit! Fouilles, rondes de gardiens, tout
est subordonné au bruit, qui en cellule est
omniprésent plus que partout ailleurs, jamais
d’accalmie. Quand très tard le soir on
parvient enfin à s’endormir, lorsque le
sommeil vient rétablir l’équilibre dangereusement
rompu durant la journée, c’est
la ronde de nuit qui commence. À chaque
heure, interminablement, le bruit des pas
du gardien effectuant sa ronde résonne
sur le plafond de la cellule. Au CDC on a
trouvé un moyen original de compter les
détenus, ça se fait par le haut; il est possible
au gardien d’avoir une pleine vue
sur le captif par un châssis à meme le plafond.
Cependant, il est toujours possible
de rattraper le sommeil perdu en sacrifiant
la marche quotidienne. Or, c’est justement
le temps que choisissent les gardiens
pour fouiller les cellules des detenus
qui sont à l’extérieur. Ils arrivent
dans la rangée telle une meute, le museau
en l’air, et bang! dans les murs afin de
voir s’il n’y a pas de trous, bang! au plafond
pour vérifier si le châssis nya pas été
coupe et bang! sur la trappe à air. Une
fois leur travail terminé, ils s’en vont en
n’oubliant surtout pas de faire refermer
les portes de cellules simultanément dans
un fracas infernal ; adieu sommeil et tranquillité
tant convoités!

 Pour ce qui est de l’aération il serait
difficile d’en parler parce qu’elle est inexistante:
pas de fenetre, des portes pleines
et cet air lourd qui pèse tel un voile

L’été, c’est un four crématoire que l’inactivité
la plus totale rend intolérable;
nous suons à ne rien faire. Le matin,
symphonie de raclages de gorges, de
mouchages de nez, de toux rauques afin
de dégager les voies respiratoires.

Je couche à même le sol de ma cellule
depuis près de deux ans, la tête appuyée
sur le bas de la porte pour bénéficier de la
plus petite brise, richesse incomparable.

Pour les moments hors de la cellule,
une salle commune est mise à notre disposition
tous les soirs de 18 h 30 à 22 h 30
mais jamais plus de dix détenus à la fois.
Cette pratique fait partie de la socialisation;
on veut nous apprendre à être sociable
par petits groupes pour ensuite
nous plonger dans une population de trois
à quatre cents détenus avec les problèmes
d’adaptation que cela implique.

Quelques jeux de société, une autre télévision
et de la surveillance, beaucoup
de surveillance. Cette salle commune est
à toute fin pratique une cellule un peu
plus spacieuse que celle dans laquelle
nous sommes confinés la plupart du
temps faut bien le dire.

Nous disposons pour les activités extérieures
d’une cour de 75 pieds par 75
pieds où encore une fois jamais plus de
dix détenus ne sont admis, ni plus ni
moins; c’est une fixation administrative.
L’été, le vent est coupé par les hauts
murs tandis que, de l’asphalte dont le sol
est recouvert, monte cette chaleur accablante;
pas de verdure ni bancs, rien
sauf de l’asphalte, du ciment et du fer.

Comme activités physiques, nous pratiquons
la boxe sur un sac de guenilles payé
a même notre argent au prix de $172.
L’administration a raté une excellente
occasion de faire preuve de justice car
dans toutes les autres institutions cet article
est défrayé à même un budget (loisir)
réservé à cette fin. Toutes les activités
physiques sont pratiqués à nos risques
à cause de la surface asphaltée. La quasi
totalité de la population souffre d’un
problème musculaire quelconque; à cet
effet, il serait intéressant de jeter un coup
d’oeil sur les requêtes médicales et de
compter les détenus qui ont demandé des
espadrilles spéciales.

Notre plus grand réconfort et seul contact
avec le monde extérieur nous le devons
à nos visites; celles-ci sont fixées par
l’administration au jour et à l’heure qu’il
lui convient. Ce privilège est dispensé
parcimonieusement le mercredi et jeudi
de chague mois. Au CDC l’affectation est
considérée comme une faveur, prodiguée
au compte-gouttes et régie comme telle.

Pas de contact avec nos parents, femmes
et enfants, c’est de cette manière
que l’administration prône l’épanouissement
de l’individu.

Voici quelques années, les responsables
d’un «zoo» sont allés chercher un
éléphant-femelle à l’autre bout du monde
our que le mâle captif ne s’ennuie pas.
L’espace réservé aux animaux est réaménagé
sans cesse afin qu’il s’apparente le
plus possible à leur habitat naturel: toutes
proportions gardées, ils disposent
dans leurs parcs de plus d’espaces que

Pour compléter le programme, un département
de socialisation, composé d’un
agent de classement ainsi que d’un
psychologue, c’est sans contredit le secteur
qui présente le plus de carences. Ces
spécialistes en sciences humaines, nous
les rencontrons quand nous sommes au
bout du rouleau et que tout risque de basculer,
alors nous bénéficions de leurs «lumières».

Leur préoccupation première est de savoir
si, dans l’état où nous sommes, nous
envisageons d’attaquer un membre du
personnel ou, ce qui est beaucoup moins
grave, l’objet de notre agression sera
intra-spécifique. Une fois cette tâche accomplie,
ces suppôts de l’administration
vont rendre compte de leurs conclusions
et c’est sur ja foi de leurs témoignages
itérera un déque
le comité national transférera un détenu.
Donc, plus souvent qu’autrement,
le jugement des membres du comité,
quoique bien intentionné, sera fondé sur
des rapports faussés au départ parce que
puisés à même une situation faussée alors
que le détenu est en proie au désarroi le
plus total.

Tous les spécialistes sont unanimes
quand ils affirment qu’une détention de
plus de cinq ans cause des troubles irréversibles
et ils ne parlaient pas d’unités
spéciales. Ce que nous subissons ne vise
qu’à nous rendre bestiaux, à développer
des instincts de tueurs. Il existe plusieurs
exemples de criminels ayant séjourné
plus pu moins longtemps en ségrégation
et qui sont autant d’exemples de ce que

Je me contenterai d’en citer quatre,
que j’ai personnellement connus, et dont
il m’a été possible de suivre le cheminement,
il s’agit de Jacques Mesrine,
Richard Blass, Jean-Paul Mercier et Jean

Tous ont certains points en commun:
ils ont passé plusieurs années en ségrégation
et tous sont morts aujourd’hui pour
avoir refusé de revivre, ne serait-ce
qu’une journée, ce qu’ils avaient connu
dans le passé.

Il serait peut-être utile ou enrichissant
de connaître leurs agissements après
avoir connu la ségrégation.

Jean Lachapelle, enfermé environ six
ans dans une cellule, a plaidé coupable à
neuf accusations de meurtres à son retour
derrière les barreaux; sans compter
qu’au cours de son évasion, l’ultime il va
sans dire, il fut lui-même troué de balles.

Quant à Richard Blass sa mort lui a
évité d’être accusé d’une quinzaine de
meurtres. Pour ce qui est de Jean-Paul
Mercier (trois ans, comme Blass, de
ségrégation) il avoue être l’auteur du
meurtre de deux garde-chasse, alors qu’il
était évadé, pour éviter d’être reconnu,
ce qui lui aurait valu quelques années de
ségrégation (isolation). En ce qui concerne
Jacques Mesrine, une lecture attentive
des deux volumes qu’il a rédigés est
plus que révélatrice quant à l’état mental
où l’ont conduit les années d’isolement
en cellule.

Aucun de ces quatre individus n’avait
été condamné pour meurtre avant de
faire de la ségrégation; est-ce que cela est
dû au hasard? Libre a vous de conclure
comme vous l’entendez. Le système vise
à rapetisser le criminel, comprimer la
moindre initiative, en un mot assassiner
sa personnalité pour la rendre conforme
au microcosme dans lequel on le force à
évoluer. Quand le détenu est devenu suffisamment
fourbe, hypocrite et menteur,
qu’il peut feindre de la reconnaissance
pour ses bourreaux, alors là, il est éligible
a un transfert.

Les individus considérés comme cas
«dangereux» sont le fruit d’un folklore
perpétué par les rites dont la fonction est
de garder intact le souvenir de nos actions.

Rien ne peut effacer une action, et
croire que le châtiment pourrait provoquer
une rédemption est un leurre.
Quand on tient à changer l’individu, ce
n’est ni plus ni moins qu’un effort par un
acte arbitraire pour le rendre semblable à
nous, alors que moi, je réclame le droit à
la différence.

Tous les détenus amenés ici en même
temps que moi ont été transférés depuis.
Alors, seule une soif inaltérable de vengeance
peut expliquer ma présence au
CDC. Le dernier détenu du groupe est
parti le 10 avril 1980 et son palmarès parle
par lui-même; dernièrement ce type écopait
d’une sentence d’un an pour agression
avec couteau.sur deux officiers du
CDC. Il avait été préalablement accusé de
tentative de meurtre mais les jurés ont
accepté de réduire l’accusation; selon
eux, le détenu était incapable de juger du
caractère de son geste à cause des conditions
inhérentes a sa détention qui avait
altéré sa raison.

II y a quelque temps on libérait un détenu
du CDC pour le remettre directement dans la société. Quelques mois auparavant,
cet individu était considéré
trop dangereux pour être transféré dans
un pénitencier à sécurité maximum.

Par cette longue lettre, j’ai tenté de
vous fournir le plus d’éléments possible
qui pourraient vous permettre de percevoir
de l’intérieur la situation qui est
mienne depuis trop longtemps. Aujourd’hui,
il m’arrive de parler seul, de
rire sans raison ou encore d’être secoué
par des spasmes nerveux. Je sens que
quelque enose détraque dans le mécanisme
et si personne n’intervient en ma
faveur, le pire est à prévoir. Le degré de
saturation est atteint, un incident si minime
soit-il pourrait être le déclencheur
pouvant conduire à une action désespérée.

Depuis deux longues et interminables
années, je n’ai pas serré ma femme, ma
mère ni ma fille et deux longues années
aussi j’ai été sans voir le clair de lune, les
étoiles; au plus vil des animaux, ce droit
n’est pas nié. Konrad Lorenz affirme
qu’il est dangereux de cerner un animal
dans un coin sans aucune chance de fuite.
Frederic Nietzche postule quant à lui
dans son oeuvre intitulé «Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra»
que l’homme a fait du loup
un chien et de l’homme lui-même le meilleur
animal domestique de l’homme. Il
dénonce aussi la cruauté vêtue des oripaux
de la justice, en introduction de ce
même volume: «C’est lors des tragédies,
des combats de taureaux et des crucifixions
que l’homme s’est jusqu’ici senti le
mieux sur la terre; lorsqu’il s’inventa
l’enfer, ce fut son paradis sur terre» (P.

C’est au nom et en vénérant la pensée
de ces grands hommes que je vous demande
aujourd’hui d’intercéder en ma
faveur. Déjà en 1976 alors que vous agissiez
à titre de président d’un sous-comité
enquêtant sur la violence dans les pénitenciers,
vous dénonciez l’ineptie des administrateurs.
Votre nouvelle fonction
vous donne le rayonnement, le pouvoir
suffisant pour améliorer ma condition,
c’est le but de ma requête. 

C’est le but de ma requête.
Si ce document devait servir pour une
défense ultérieure devant les tribunaux,
c’est que la mutation de chrysalide au papillon
aura été un échec. 

J’ose espérer, M. le ministre, que mon
appel ne sera pas vain malgré toute la responsabilité
et le travail que représente
votre nouvelle fonction.

Read Full Post »

“Stay on Job After Release From Prison,” Toronto Star. August 18, 1910. Page 01.

Road Making Seems to Suit Men Working on Highways in New Ontario.

Reports of good progress have been received at the Parliament Buildings from the two camps of prisoners which have been established in New Ontario. One camp has been located at Matheson for some weeks, and the other, consisting of 22 men, is working away on the seven-mile stretch of road between Porcupine and Hill’s Landing.

Fifty prisoners are now at work between Matheson and Hawk Lake, and four miles of the road have been graded. The clearing, which is in charge of free labor, has proceeded for five miles. Several of the prisoners have been hired with the free gang on the clearing work after securing their release, and are now drawing Government pay.

Read Full Post »

“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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“We believe that society has the right to do every thing
necessary for its conservation, and for the order established within
it; and we understand perfectly well, that an assemblage of
criminals, all of whom have infringed the laws of the land, and all
of whose inclinations are corrupted, and appetites vicious, cannot be
governed in prison according to the same principles, and with the
same means, as free persons, whose desires are correct, and whose
actions are conformable to the laws. We also conceive perfectly well,
that a convict who will not labour, ought to be constrained to do so,
and that severity ought to be used in order to reduce him to silence,
who will not observe it; the right of society seems to us, on this
point, beyond all doubt, if it cannot arrive at the same end by
milder means; but in our opinion that is not the question.”

– Gustave de Beaumont & Alexis de Toqueville, On The Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France. Translated by Francis Lieber. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchford, 1833. p. 44.

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“To this very moment I have endured with a good deal of patience those
aspersions, and I would have probably continued to despise those vituperations,
had I been alone concerned in the matter; but, as others are involved
in them, as my family has a right that I should defend for them my position as a functionary, and, moreover, as the authority of our Board is suffering and may suffer still more from the tactics adopted against us by those papers, I thought it my duty to cease being silent.

Let it be well understood, however, that my intention is not to battle with our accusers for any length of time ; I intend simply to show, in as few words as possible, once for all, the fallacy of their arguments and the total inaccuracy of their statements.

To answer seriatim to the numerous columns written against the Inspectors by the above designated writers, would require a volume.
Fortunately there is no necessity for such labour to show the animus
of those writings, and to upset the whole fabric of their indictment against
the Board.

To bring, first, some order in writings in which there is none, let us make an abstract of all the accusations referred to.

We are accused, in one place, of culpable negligence or incapacity, in another place of incompetency or something worse; here we are taxed of
, there of want of vigilance, elsewhere of extravagance and folly. A
little further we are accused of lavishness in the expenditure, of a want of
watchfulness and of unbecoming familiarity with the convicts during our visits.

They complain that our reports do not contain all the detailed information
desirable, and that they are not distributed in sufficient number and in good time ; that the Inspectors have created new offices at the Penitentiary, have appointed a greater number of guards than that fixed by law, and have
increased the salaries of those same guards to a collective amount—asserted
to be $11,070 in one article, and $6,720 in another—in the face, too, of the laws and the statutes provided in the case : and, at last, comes the accusation, which is not the least grave, of having erected, at Rockwood, an immense and costly building, without necessity and without authority.

…A comparison is drawn between the Provincial Penitentiary and the
,; State prisons" of the State of New York, which, by the bye, are represented as being a source of great profit to their State; hence is assumed the bad management of our own Penitentiary.

After the comparison between the Penitentiaries’ of New York and the Penitentiary of Canada, comes an alarming comparison between the Inspectors
and Messrs. Brown and Bristow—or rather Bristow and Brown,
according to the order of names in the Mercury, whose writer in the premises
is supposed to be a man interested in that very question of precedence.—
Messrs. Bristow and Brown, then, are said to have effected wonderful improvements in the internal and external economy of our Penitentiary;
improvements which had never been dreamed of before, and which, unfortunately,
have only lasted just the space of time during which Messrs. Brown and Bristow—pardon—Bristow and Brown remained Inspectors of
the above-mentioned, and, ever since, very badly managed institution. “Verily ye are wise, and wisdom will die with you!”

From all that is drawn, as an unavoidable consequence, purely on public
grounds, …that the situations of the Inspectors are wanted by somebody else
To attain such a desirable end, the writers sometimes seem to recommend
a rigid enquiry, the sole object of which, according to the Mercury, should
be—without begging the question—to answer simply to the following query: —" Why have the Prison Inspectors failed to secure profitable" employment of Penitentiary labor, and the proper efficiency of the Penitentiary officers?“ But sometimes, however, (merely for economy and expedition,)
they appear to be of opinion that a change may be resorted to with-out the enquiry. The British American intimates, in its number of the 9th November : —"They (our friends) call aloud for a change in the managing
” board, and the Government are looked to to effect it.“

I have no inclination, in the least, to answer to the accusations of
ignorance, laziness, and others of the same description; but there is amongst
them one passage that I cannot allow to go unnoticed; it is the one in which
the British American declares the Inspectors guilty of incompetence, or something worse. I really do not understand what the writer wishes to convey by that mysterious expression, unless I put it in conjunction with a sentence escaped from the pen of his confrere of the Mercury, in which a job is spoken
of in relation with the Rockwood buildings, and interpret those expressions
as an insinuation that the Inspectors might have some pecuniary interests in the Penitentiary transactions. If that is the meaning, I would not have terms strong enough to denounce such a vile calumny, nor scorn adequate to the baseness of those who could fabricate such an unplausible
suspicion; because I look at the cornmission’of such villainy as absolutely
impossible for the Inspectors; unless, indeed, you suppose, at the same time, a profound degradation in them, in the Warden and officers, and in the dealers with the institution. No money nor bills pass through the hands of the
Inspectors, and they are no party to any contract ; the law says : ”The
Inspectors shall have no executive power* * * All purchases and contracts shall be entered into, conducted and executed by and in the name of the Warden.“

Now about the familiarities with the convicts. This accusation is nothing more than gossip, the source of which is very well known to the
Inspectors, and constitutes one of the annoyances from which Penitentiaries
are less exempt than any other establishments in the world. The fact is that Inspectors have with the prisoners no other conversation than those of strict duty or charity. Very often the only means in their possession of knowing
what is going on is by interrogating the convicts. Let us suppose the case
of an irregularity on the part of an employe of the institution, committed
before the convicts alone, (which is ordinarily the case); a case of brutality, an unjust report, an unbecoming demeanor, whatever you please, and let us suppose a constant repetition.of such acts detrimental to the discipline and
ultimate aim of the institution : Who is there to give us information, if it is not one or more of the convicts ? * * * Does any one believe that
the guilty party will ? * * * Certainly such evidence is to be received with a great deal of caution, and acted upon only with a great deal of
discretion, and only when corroborated; but Inspectors that would not
search for such information will learn but little of things that it is their duty
to enquire about. This fact is well known to writers on the subject of
prison discipline.

On that score, no matter what the gossip and who the gossipers, the Inspectors regret only one thing : it is that they cannot have more time to speak with the convicts ; whether those conversations have for their object some soothing words of consolation, some kind reprimand, some good
advice, some encouragement to do well, or questions in relation to what
is going on in the institution. * * * If we were not to understand the
necessity of such a coarse, we should be deficient in those qualities of heart and mind absolutely required for the discharge of the duties of our

The whole accusation of culpable negligence and want of surveillance on
our part is founded on the fact that one of the convicts has succeeded, with
the supposed participation of an officer of the establishment, in coining
counterfeit money; and on that the Mercury exclaims, in his number of the 6th November last: —” It is not simply that crime, requiring time and labor, and more than common facilities for its perpetration, has been
“ committed where it might have been least expected. * * * It is that
"an employe of the institution is implicated, in a manner which establishes "an utter want of discipline, and an absence of that watchfulness on the part of the superior officers without which proper control and management are impossible.”

It is well to remark, at first, that in the supposition, even, ofsome want
of watchfulness at the time, such want could not be attributed to the Inspectors,
who have no executive power to exercise, and do not and cannot undertake the task of daily and hourly surveillance. Secondly, the
counterfeiting, in the way it has been done, in this case, requires neither complicated apparatus, nor great time or great work, nor more than “ com- mon facility.” I have been, for my part, really astonished at the little preparations with which false-coiners can manufacture some of the products
of their abominable industry; but I have been much more astonished at the sentence in which the Mercury expresses the opinion that a Penitentiary
is the very spot from which evil doings are the least expected

Now, the fact is that crimes, of a much worse character than the one above spoken of, are constantly committed in penitentiaries through the world every week ; prohibited and dangerous articles are almost daily confiscated in penitentiaries, whether they have been manufactured in shops,
or introduced stealthily from the outside.

It would be a very easy task, indeed, to go abroad and to recite hundreds
of analagous occurrences in foreign institutions; but I prefer to quote a
case justin point, from the annals of our own Penitentiary. The circumstances
took place under the very eyes of Messrs. Bristow and Brown, so it must be conclusive evidence. Messrs. Bristow and Brown were Extraordinary
Commissioners or’ the Provincial Penitentiary, with almost unlimited powers, well paid, and had been and were at the time in session, enquiring about the discipline and affairs of the institution, and giving orders which
were at once and without fail sanctioned by the Government of the day.

It was in the month of November, 1848. Several convicts had been
for a length of time plotting, with the intention of setting fire to the whole
establishment ; setting at naught the watchfulness of guards, overseers,
officers, including the Inspectors and Commissioners Extraordinary. They
had, for a long time, with a deal of labor, and more than common facilities manufactured torches, firepots, containing, amongst other things, tallow and spirit of turpentine, procured candles and matches, cut the hose and
otherwise damaged aud rendered useless the fire engines, penetrated under
the roofs, where they had no business to be, deposited their apparatus,
lighted them, and finally burned to ashes, on the 25th of Nov., the large roof of one of the prison wings, several other parts of the buildings having
previously escaped by happy chances, as was subsequently discovered.

Does all this prove that Messrs. Brown and Bristow are ignorant, lazy or something worse? Not at all. But it proves that watchfulness is not
unfailing, and that the penitentiaries are the very place from which evil doings
are to be most expected

If another argument was wanted to establish that with the best of motives and earnestness, there are irregularities and evils which are difficult to prevent, even when they are easily foreseen, again the high authority
of Messrs. Bristow and Brown could furnish it. In their report of 1850, speaking of the constant introduction amongst the convicts of prohibited
articles, they say : —"The Warden and his subordinate officers have used every exertion to put a stop to this improper and injurious practice; but not, we fear, with success. We suggest the propriety of introducing into the new Penitentiary Act a clause, making it penal to bring such articles into the Penitentiary.“ It would have been better to ask for a clause to discover the guilty parties, for there lies the whole difficulty!

Who, then, are to succeed, where Messrs. Brown ana Bristow have signally
failed? But not only are we reproached for not having prevented a convict from imposing upon his guards, but we are also accused of having not
anticipated the supposed culpability of an officer of the institution, and of not having prevented its perpetration. It would be just as reasonable to accuse a Government for the defalcation of an employe, the directors of a bank tor having been robbed by an absconding clerk, a general for the act of a
sentinel leaving his post, or delivering the pass-word to the enemy. Such
reasoning does not realy require any refutation ; it falls to the ground of
itself, to the shame of the utterers.”

– 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. 4-7.

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#8580 –
Inmate no: D-981 – 13 rpt.

Name: G. Porter 

Report:  For leaving his machine and going to a window talking to another convict. When told to come away he said, ‘By Jesus I will go to that window and I will be on equal footing with you some day.’

Signature of Reporting Officer: Geo. O. Aiken, Gd.

Punishment other than loss of remission: Dungeon 2 days + P. cell 3 days.

Inmate no: D-217 – 297
                   D-721 – 376

Name:  H. McHesney
             R. Young

Report: Were engaged in conversation while approaching sewer

Signature of Reporting Officer: G. Davidson, Gd.

Punishment other than loss of remission: Admonished

Days Remission forfeited, carried to Ledger: 3

– Kingston Penitentiary, July 28th, 1905

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“Blind Piggers As Road Makers,” Toronto Star. July 23, 1910. Page 07.

They Are Doing a Lot of Fine Work in the North, These Prisoners.


Have Lots to Eat and They are a Contented Lot – They Bet on the Fight.

Special to The Star.
Cobalt, July 22. – Road-making by ‘blind piggers’ and other short term men is working to perfection. Not only are roads being built that bever would have been constructed if free labor had been employed, but the men are losing the sallowness and the furtiveness inseperable from the trade of whisky peddling in prohibition areas.

There are five guards watching 48 prisoners, and if these guards have revolvers or rifles, certainly the prisoners never know it. Dr. Reaume determined to test the innate decency of human nature, and he has been justified. They have to work, certainly, but no harder, not half as hard, as most of the pioneers in the North Country.

It was inevitable that some of the Wilder spirits should first of all try to get away, but they were speedily caught. One of these, considering the conditions under which they were working, had only about three more days to serve when he broke away. He was caught and now he is serving a year at Kingston. The other man was dealt with just as severely. Since then there has not been the slightest attempt at insubordination. If the men did want to get away they could as far as the railway, there to be taken by Chief Caldbeck or some of his henchmen.

The majority of them are short-term prisoners absolutely without any criminal record. It is necessary in this north country where all the elements of a wide open American border town are assembled, to deal with mere rowdiness and small offences with far far more severity than in the cities. And in consequence many of these men, if they had sinned in Toronto as they have here, would merely have had to pay a fine. Often the incarceration within the gloomy walls of the North Bay jail transformed a weak and erring man borne down by temptation into one with a deep and abiding hatred of society. The taint and the sullenness of the cell lay upon them, and they came back into the world thrice as dangerous as they went in. Yesterday one of these men who had just finished his enforced task on the road came into a local newspaper office and complained he had been detained one day longer than he thought was right. Is it possible to conceive of a man cowed by the ordinary prison rules doing such a thing?

Brown and Strong.
These men go north pale and in ill health, they come back browned and strong and upright. They are taking the keenest interest in their work. One of them, an ex-policeman convicted of forgery, has developed a genius for bridge building and he is swaggering along the grade of the road being constructed through the wilderness with a foot-rule sticking out of his pocket, possibly a far more useful member of society than he has ever been in his life before. They all live under canvas and the idea of a chain gang s simply too foolish to be considered. Men the Government are employing are eating with these prisoners, and all the difference between them is that one is working for the Government, and incidentally the good of his health, and the other is getting paid for his work. The ‘convicts’ are already beginning to growl because they are not being paid. They believe that they are doing just as good work as the hirelings. Some of them provide obdurate, it is true, but they are coaxed into doing their daily stunt by means almost laughable in their mildness.

One of the really tough men on the gang is now feeling what it is like to live on bread and water again inside four walls at Matheson. Here’s a man who might easily under other circumstances be knifing or gunning and he is merely sent to Coventry and into his own society for a few days to recover from his sulleness.

Plenty to Eat.
The men have all they want to eat, not roast turkey or ice cream certainly, but plain, wholesome, food and good. And they are all given tobacco to chew or smoke as their tastes incline.

The other day when Inspector Caldbeck went through just after the Jeffries-Johnson fight the gang quit work to hear the news. There was hardly a man there who had not a wager on the event, and that night there were all kinds of IOU’s passing from hand to hand, due in a month, two months or three months’ time as the term expired.

And the North wanted roads. All the appropriations had been made for the year without any proper provision for the betterment of the trail into Porcupine. And the North was preparing to be very sore indeed about it, for if any camp has refrained from wildcatting and sat down in sober sweat of the brow to make good that camp is Porcupine. To find themselves as they were now, cut off from the main source of supplies, without any prospect of improvement would have lost Sir James Pliny many friends.

So, the making of the country’s roads by the ‘blind piggers’ is double felicitous in result.

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