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“Puts Blame on City Officials,” Toronto Globe. September 21, 1917. Page 05.

Provincial Secretary Holds Inquiry as to Handling of Prisoners
—-
TRANSFERS TO JAIL FARM

Hon. W. D. McPherson Gives Figures Compiled After He Had the Meeting With Mayor Church.

Any delay that takes place in the removal of prisoners from the Toronto Jail to the Municipal Farm is attributable to the city officials, according to Hon. W. D. McPherson, Provincial Secretary, who yesterday made an investigation into the transfer and handling of prisoners at the Municipal Farm. Mayor Church declared on Wednesday that the city had purchased the farm and the government insisted that the prisoners should be kept in the city jail.

Provincial Secretary’s Statement.
Mr. McPherson made the promised investigation yesterday, after which he issued the following statement:

‘The Provincial Secretary’s Department receives a daily statement from the head turnkey of the Toronto Jail of the male and female population at the jail each day. Yesterday there were 84 male prisoners and 23 female. Of the 81 male prisoners, 50 were remands, whose cases had not been disposed of by the Court, consequently no transfer could be made from the jail to the Municipal Farm of any of them, as they are required to be in attendance at the Court on such day as they cases have been remanded to. Eighteen of the women in the same position. This leaves a total of men whose cases had been disposed of, or 34, and five women. Under the arrangement between the Provincial Secretary’s Department and City Commissioner Chisholm. 11 male prisoners are at all times required to be kept at the jail for the performance of necessary duties, which, if not performed by prisoners, would require to be performed by paid labor.

Handling the Prisoners.
‘Deducting this 11 would leave, yesterday, 20 men who had been sentenced, and of these two were for sentences of five days each, two were for sentences of 10 days each, two were required to be held for the Federal authorities for transfer to Kingston Penitentiary. One is a man of 83 years of age, too infirm to be of any value at the Municipal Farm. One requires to be held at the jail as a witness in a pending case, and warrants had been issued earlier in the day by the Inspector of Prisons, as is his daily custom, to the Sheriff of the city of Toronto for removal to the Municipal Farm of those prisoners who should go there, and to the Provincial Bailiff for the prisoners who should go to the Provincial Institution at Burwash, according to the length of their various sentences.

Ten Women in City Jail.
‘Of the five women whose cases had been disposed of and who were sentenced, three, I regret to say, were suffering from disease which unfitted them for life at the Women’s Industrial Farm at Concord, and in the case of the other two, their sentences were for five days each.

‘As soon as the Inspectors of Prisons receives the daily statement from the head turnkey, warrants are immediately issued to the Sheriff of Toronto, authorizing the necessary transfers of the Toronto prisoners, also warrants are issued to the Provincial Bailiff for the transfers of those prisoners whose sentence is for a period long enough to require them to be transferred to a Provincial Institution. When the warrant is issued by the Inspector to the Sheriff, the prisoner passes from the control of the department to the control of the city officials, and whatever delay there may be in making the transfers is referable to them and not to our department.’

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“Jail Farm ‘Trusty’ Beaten Up on Street,” Toronto Globe. September 8, 1916. Page 06.

Hendry Rodebar, 94 ½ Front Street east, a ‘trusty’ at the Jail Farm, was brutally beaten last night on Front street east by Timothy Kelly, 18 Milne street, who was a prisoner on the farm while Rodebar was serving his term. Constable Jarvis came upon Kelly, who was ‘putting the boots’ to Rodebar in the most approved waterfront fashion, to the apparent satisfaction of lodgers from the ten-cent bed-houses. Rodebar is alleged to have talked too freely to the prison officials when he was on the farm.

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‘Conscience Bothered Him,” Toronto Globe. September 7, 1916. Page 05.

Escaped Prisoner Returned to Canada – Conduct Will Determine Term.

(Special Despatch to The Globe.)
Guelph, Sept. 6 – John McDonald and Timothy Ryan, escaped prisoners from the Reformatory here, appeared before Magistrate Watt this morning to answer the charge of jail breaking. Each pleaded guilty, and agreed to be tried summarily by the Magistrate. Each got a determinate sentence of three months and an indeterminate sentence of two years less one day. The time they will serve now depends on their behavior and the Parole Board. Ryan escaped from the Farm here on June 18th and made his way to the United States. He says his conscience bothered him and he decided to return to Canada, and was captured at Welland on August 26th, shortly after he returned to this country. He was doing a year for theft at the time of his escape. McDonald escaped on December 15, 1915, and was not recaptured until the 16th of August, 1916. He had been doing six months for vagrancy, being sent from Kingston.

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“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.

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“It’s the Last of the Prison Labor,” Toronto Star. August 2, 1910. Page 01.

The Final Contract of the Central Will Expire With This Month.

It Will Not Be Renewed

150 Prisoners on Guelph Farm and 150 for Roadmaking in Newer Ontario.

By the beginning of next month there will be no prison labor contracts between private firms and the Ontario Government. The Taylor-Scott woodenware contract, the only survivor of a long list, expires on September first, and, according to Hon. W. J. Hanna, Provincial Secretary, will not be renewed.

The firm itself was expecting this announcement, for it is in accord with the general policy of the Government.

The cordage contract with Converse and Company did not run out legally until yesterday, but in reality it was closed on June 1st. Half of the men were relieved of their duties on May 1st, and the rest one month later. The Government asked the cordage company if they had any objection to giving up the contract earlier than specified. They were quite willing, for they said that they were not making a cent out of it.

The establishment of the new Provincial prison farm at Guelph means the end of the contract labor system.

Of the four men at Central Prison fully 150 will be kept at Guelph from now on, in construction and general farm work. One hundred men will be used in the north in constructing roads and colonization work.

The 150 who remain will make goods, but not for public sale. They will be sold only to state-aided and supported institutions.

‘For example,’ said Mr. Hanna to The Star this afternoon, ‘the 102 hospitals in the Province will be expected to get our price on supplies before they order elsewhere, and if they find the price and quality favorable, they will be required to buy from us. This will apply also to asylums and other State institutions.

Among the articles to be manufactured for this purpose will be beds and blankets and similar supplies.

‘We had no fault to find with the Taylor-Scott Company,’ said Mr. Hanna. ‘Their contract was as good as any prison labor contract can be. It is simply a part of our avowed Provincial prison policy.’

The Taylor-Scott Company have been manufacturing for general sale only, eleven lines of woodenware, as compared with sixty-five which formerly entered into competition with free labor. These eleven lines are as follows: Washboards, children’s sleighs, stepladders, Indian clubs, dumb-bells, clothes horses, broom and mop handles, pantry and skirt boards, toy chairs, toy carts, croquet mallets.

Much of their output has gone outside of the country to Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand.

The whole system of prison reform, including the doing away with prison contracts, was foreshadowed in the now widely-known speech of W. J. Hanna, delivered in the Legislature on February 26, 1907. The following is an extract from that speech:

‘The problem is to reduce the competition of convict labor to a minimum and especially to reduce the proportion of prison-made goods that are sold in the open maarket. From that date (1874, the establishment of the Central Prison) we have had prison labor under contract in this province – always under protest always without any satisfactory solution.’

Even at that early date, Mr. Hanna outlined the details of the new prison farm scheme.

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“A Farm for the Poor of Toronto,” Toronto Star. August 2, 1910. Page 02.

Where Aged, Infirm or Sick People May Be Taken Care of by the City.

COUNCIL GETTING POINTERS

From the Institution at Cleveland – Replace the Present Charities.

Will Toronto have an industrial farm like that established at Cleveland, O., seven years ago by ex-Mayor Tom L. Johnson?

Controller Spence and Aldermen John O’Neill and David Spence, who were appointed to deal with the question of establishing an industrial farm here, returned from Cleveland this morning with Property Commissioner Harris, after making an inspection of the institution in connection with that city.

The delegation were much impressed by what they saw, and the information they secured, much of which will be valuable in working out a scheme to establish such a farm in or near this city.

The Cleveland institution is called ‘Cooley Farms,’ after Rev. Dr. Harris Cooley, who planned and effected the organization. It is situated at Warrensville, Ohio, ten miles from the centre of Cleveland, and can be reached by trolley in forty-five minutes. The farm covers a space 2 ½ miles long and ½ miles wide, containing about 1,900 acres of land. The farm is divided into three sections: the infirmary portion, containing 1000 acres, the misdemeanants section, of 800 acres, and the cemetery of 60 acres.

The infirmary cares for curable tuberculosis patients, the harmless insane, and indigents, both sexes being received. One section is devoted to the accommodation of aged people, a separate flat being reserved for husbands and wives, who are permitted to live together. The infirmary can care for 800 people, while the land and buildings devoted to misdemeanants has a capacity of 400.

It is proposed to abolish the workhouse in the city proper, and house all the inmates at the farm.

The greater portion of the land is under cultivation, and the institution is supplied almost wholly with the products of the farm. This, however, does not apply to meat consumption, as comparatively little live stock is raised as yet.

The infirmary and workhouse buildings are widely separated. They are two storeys in height, of cement fireproof construction, roofed with Spanish tile, and are formed with a large oblong space in the centre. In the last-named division armed guards are unknown, their places being taken by farm and mechanical instructors. The men work in the field practically without supervision, except as to methods, and the annual number of escapes since inception average but 7 per cent.

The indeterminate sentence plan is not in vogue, a parole system, which is not regarded as so satisfactory, taking its place. The offender is fined a certain amount and works out the fine at a per diem rate of 60 cents.

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“‘Big Push’ Has Begun On The Drug Habit,” Toronto Star. July 28, 1916. Page 14.

Three Cases Were Tried To-Day and Two Jail Farm Sentences Given.

OUTFITS CONFISCATED

One of Those Charged Said Dead Mother Had Owned Paraphernalia

From the fact that three cases of alleged illegal use of morphine and other related opiates followed each other in the Police Court calendar to-day, it would appear that the police had begun to start their ‘big push’ against the ‘coke’ traffic, which recent convictions would seem to prove was waxing as the liquor traffic waned.

An elaborate outfit, consisting of hypodermic needles, syringes, a pair of scales and a quantity of morphine sulphate, approximating to 60 grains, formed substantial evidence against Harry Fontroy. Plainclothesmen Scott and Neill testified to having found the foregoing line-up in Fontroy’s possession and to have caught him in the act of injecting the illegal drug in his arm.

The young man, who has both African and Chinese blood in his veins, claimed that he had been cured of the habit. ‘That outfit belonged to my mother, who died two weeks ago. I found it in her drawer,’ he pleaded. Inspector Geddes disproved this claim by quoting a statement which the young man had made to him. He had admitted that he was ‘tapering off with 30 grains a day.’

‘The last time he appeared on this charge he was given leniency on the understanding that he inform the police the source of his illegal supplies. He has not done this.’ said Mr. Corley. Col. Denison committed him to the jail farm for five months.

‘Coke’ Vendor Jailed.
In addition to the foregoing charge, that of having morphine in his possession for other than medicinal purposes, had coupled against him the police claim that he had sold the drug.

In his possession had been found some dozen packages of both cocaine and morphine which Drake had acknowledged he had been in the habit of selling for a dollar a package.

‘This man, I hear, has been taking from 30 to 40 grains a day,’ said the Crown Attorney.

‘He has had consumption for the last eight or nine years,’ his wife stated in explanation of his drug habit.

‘I am curing him slowly,’ she added.

Drake also goes to the jail farm for a five-month ‘cure.’ In the woman’s court Tillie Evans faced with the same charge received a remand for a week.

Proof Enough.
The actions of Isaac Gilbert spoke louder than his words in proving the charge of drunkeness and disorderliness alleged against him. Eveidence showed that he endeavored to take on six feet two of solid constanbulary muscle, and in addition ‘lick the whole street.’

‘You must have been very drunk,’ sighed the squire. An added count against him was his association with a team of horses. The squire felt grieved that the noble animals had to witness such an orgy of inebriation. Remanded for sentences.

Quick Work.
One minute sufficed to change Jerry Long from a prisoner in the dock with a long and substantial record of drunkeness into laborer with the prospect of two months’ healthy toil ahead. Squire Ellis merely looked at Long and knew that his record resembled his name. Twnety dollars and costs or sixty days.

Got the Habit.
Jeremiah Flaherty has the polishing habit. He, according to his own statement, polishes off brass in the day time, and according to the constable, polishes off drinks in quick succession at night. Yesterday he appeared on the same charge. It was but a little drop ‘for his stomach’s sake,’ he claimed. Remanded for sentence.

Hostilities.
As both Sandy Jaegar and John Jacobson with one accord disclaimed responsibility for the hostilities in whcih they were found engaged, the court presumed that it must have been the heat of a case of spontaneous combustion. Police evidence, however, tended to show that Jacobson had figured prominently, both at the start and the finish. He was fined $2 and costs or ten days.

‘Pinched’ a Pom.
That Daniel J. O’Shea should consider a pomeranian dog worth the trouble of annexing, appeared rather strange to Col. Denison when O’Shea pleaded guilty to the offence. The owner placed the value at over $10. ‘I consider dogs worth about ten cents gross,’ interjected his Worship. ‘The man stole the dog and sold it to a Mr. Walters for $10,’ explained the Crown Attorney. ‘Mr. Walters subsequently saw the animal advertised for, and at once communicated with the police. O’Shea, who had ‘blown in’ the proceeds of his act, was remanded one week for sentence, on the understanding that restitution would be made. Pinky Pankey Poo was permitted to meander home with his mistress.

Poetry and Prose.
Frank Martin’s poetry, prose and actions are equally bad, according to Squire Ellis’ ruling after a perusal of all. On a grimy car the alleged poet submitted the following:

‘To-day a poor cripple appeales for your aid.
Don’t turn with a sneer or a frown,
For God in His Mercy is the only one knows
When a loved one of yours will go down.’

The prose followed.

‘Price – Please give what you wish.’

His actions, described by himself, were living an exemplary life, and the brisk bartering of many pencils, described by several feminine witnesses, they consist of the exploitation of the grimy quatrain, a fond pressure of the hand, and the claim that he was a wounded warrior back from the war. – $50 and costs or six months.

Not content with the profit pouring into the coffers of his ice-cream soda fountain by reason of the weatherman’s climbing thermometer, Dragutin Radinrobitch, according to the police, ran a sideline in the form of a gambling den. The charge alleged that he permitted these quiet numbers round the table in his ice-cream parlors. Four guilty – $20 and costs or 30 days.

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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.

THEY ARE GIVEN TOBACCO

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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“Bread, Water Is Diet of 310 Guelph Rioters Held In Auditorium,” Toronto Star. July 14, 1948. Page 03.

Special to The Star
Guelph, July 14 – More than one-third of the inmates at the Ontario reformatory are still undergoing dietary punishment today although officials relented somewhat last evening and allowed them to spend the night in the assembly hall, Col. Hedley Basher, superintendent, said today. Monday night the 310 men who refused to work were locked out in an exercise yard without blankets.

‘There was some noise during the night, but things were reasonably quiet,’ Col. Basher said. He could not state when disciplinary measures would be eased. The men are receiving only bread and water.

When spokesmen for the rowdy prisoners sought an audience with reformatory officials late Tuesday they asked to be taken back into the buildings.

Instead of being returned to their dormitories, as some had hoped, the inmates were ordered into the large assembly hall immediately behind the administration offices. Col. Basher spoke to the group and warned them they would be kept on reduced rations, until the last evidence of their hold-out had disappeared.

The superintendent’s statement that all was not perfectly quiet indicated it was likely some hotheads were still trying to buck authority.

‘Youngsters’ Among Leaders
An inmate said the ringleaders were either ‘youngsters’ who acted spontaneously or in a few instances ‘old timers’ who were ‘little more than bums.’

Again today only a few inmates are working. For the most part, they are trustees who are permitted to wander with only loose supervision as they go about the park-like grounds of the institution. Some are clipping hedges. Others are cutting grass and weeding the many flower gardens. Another inmate and an electrician are finishing their task of repairing a lamp standard near the superintendent’s house some 100 yards north of the main buildings.

Those who spent the night in the assembly hall did ‘some singing and shouting,’ it was learned. Again today they were offered only bread for food and water to drink but officials declined to state whether any or all had accepted this diet.

Although the complete day staff of guards was kept on duty throughout Monday night following the disturbance which started at noon that day, a large percentage were permitted to return to their homes last night. All said they were under strict orders not to divulge information concerning condition in the institution.

Won’t Discuss Outbreak
Storekeepers in the area of the reformatory proved equally close-lipped since they did not want to cast suspicion on their customers, among whom are many guards.

Hon. George Dunbar, minister of reform institutions said, ‘Many persons forget that the type of person we get in the institutions does not take kindly to discipline. We intend to maintain that discipline by such as are necessary. We are not going to have the inmates trying to run the institutions.’

About one year ago the inmates at Burwash farm took over the administration of the reformatory and held possession for several days. Last month women inmates at Mercer Reformatory in Toronto staged one of the worst riots in years when they smashed furniture and beat up policemen and guards who tried to control them.’

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“Ex-Inmate Terms Charge ‘Poppycock,’ Food at Guelph Better Than in Army,” Globe and Mail. July 14, 1948. Page 13.

To one Toronto veteran, who survived two wars and then let John Barleycorn send him down for a one-year stretch at Guelph Reformatory, the sitdown strike there is ‘a lot of poppycock.’

‘I did my time and it represents a chapter in my life I’d like to forget,’ he said last night, ‘but I’ll remember it with some gratitude for it sobered me up.’

The two main grievances of the striking inmates – the food and the weather – he dismissed with a shrug of the shoulder. ‘The weather you cannot control,’ he said. ‘As for the food, it’s better than I can afford to buy on the outside. Our army rations were good as a rule. Those at Guelph are away ahead of the army.’

The strike, he insists, was organized by a few hotheads who bullied their fellow inmates into joining them. They think that, because of the recent trouble at Mercer Reformatory and Burwash Industrial Farm, they should raise a fuss.

‘I remember when the October riot occurred at Burwash,’ he went on, ‘and some of these hotheads at Guelph began to murmur. ‘That’s what we should do here.’ I am a little older than most of them, and I did my best to discourage that talk. But it is easy to understand how the trouble begins.

‘The ringleaders invent an excuse. They are the disgruntled sort who would find something to squawk about if you put them up at the finest hotel free of charge. The others are swayed by both a mistaken sense of loyalty and a fear of being called rats if they don’t fall in line.’

The reformatory has its faults, the veteran conceded. Chief these is its failure to reform. But that’s not an issue in the strike, he commented.

‘My introduction to the reformatory came in March of 1947,’ he said. ‘I was surprised to find that they tried to be decent to the inmates. There is a tendency to lean over backwards in favor of leniency. Now and then you run into guards who are not temperamentally suited for their jobs, but they are soon weeded out.

‘I was also surprised at the quantity and the quality of the food. You are served cafeteria style, with the best of meats and vegetables, and you may ask for more. You receive a tobacco issue every four days. You may have newspapers and magazines, provided they are mailed directly by the publisher. There is a library in each cell block. and dormitory.

‘You may go to Sunday night movies, take part in all sorts of organized sports, and have a shower bath every night if you wish. Every Saturday you receive a complete change of clothing. The inmates may have visitors once a week and on any day except Saturday. The cells and dormitories are always clean. The medical service could not be better. I’ve known the doctor to get up a four in the morning to attend a prisoner who suffered from nothing worse than a slight case of stomach cramps.

‘No man is assigned to heavy outside work unless physically fit. If a driver or a teamster puts in extra time, he is paid with an additional tobacco ration and every night around nine o’clock a fourth meal. Quite often there’s steak on this menu. There is always a waiting list of men wanting outside jobs.’

‘I left Guelph without a grievance, but I plainly observed causes for dissatisfaction. The chief squawk concerns the parole board and the practice of the courts in imposing indeterminate sentences.

‘Some second, third and fourth offenders are sentenced to one year definite and six months indefinite. When they finish the definite term they are eligible for parole. They think the board should let them go, but their past records don’t convince the board.

‘To be reformed, the prisoner does not receive enough individual attention. No matter what the theory is, boys of from 14 to 18 mingle with older offenders. I know these lads from the Ontario training schools have their separate eating and sleeping quarters, but in other respects they are not segregated.

‘Segregation should not be by age, because a prisoner at 18 may be a second or third offender. I met a boy of 20 who was sent to a training school at 10. He was doing his second term in Guelph and in the last 10 years he had practically lived in various institutions.

‘These boys will tell you that the punishment in the training schools is worse than at the reformatory. One confined, ‘After all, it’s not so tough here, and I’m with most of my pals.’ They regard prison life as inevitable.

‘Sex perverts are not segregated and they do not come in for special treatment. It is foolish that these men with twisted mentalities and brutal instincts should mingle with lads who are none too bright. They can be bullied the same way as the majority of inmates were bullied into joining this sitdown strike, blaming the food, and, of all things, the weather.’

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“Striking Guelph Inmates Sue for Peace at End of 30-Hour Vigil in Yard,” Globe and Mail, July 14, 1948. Page 01 & 03.

Guelph, July 13 (Special). – After being cooped up in an exercise yard for more than 30 hours on a bread-and-water diet, 311 rebellious inmates at Guelph Reformatory early last night sued for peace and were brought into the assembly hall to spend the night.

The ‘fresh air’ treatment began to have its desired effect during the afternoon when Supt. Hedley Basher was asked to receive spokesmen for the group.

These spokesmen said that practically all of the prisoners involved had changed their minds about not working and promised to behave if the rigid discipline would be relaxed. After considering the matter at length, Supt. Basher ordered the men brought inside and blankets were issued to them.

The punishment diet will be continued for the time being. Its lifting will depend upon the conduct of the group during tonight and the early part of tomorrow.

The men, who comprise slightly more than one-third of the total prison population, refused to go to work after the noon-day meal Monday. While no official protest had been made, some of them shouted: ‘What about the food?’

After the officials talked to the men and insisted they go to work there was a minor demonstration of singing and shouting which was quelled by the use of tear gas. After that there was order and no further demonstration.

Some of the prisoners changed their minds early Monday afternoon, but it was decided to keep them out in the open as a disciplinary measure. They remained there throughout last night without blankets. However, as the weather was warm, none experienced any discomfort other than the fact they had to sleep on concrete.

Pictures taken from the air by a Globe and Mail photographer yesterday showed the men lounging in small groups, while others were standing in the shade of the four three-story walls forming the yard.

Officials were at a loss concerning the remarks about the food. They insisted the food is on par with that served in any other institution on the continent.

At Toronto, Reform Institutions Minister George Dunbar confirmed that the men were kept in the open purely as a disciplinary measure.

‘Many persons forget that the type of person we get in the institutions does not take kindly to discipline,’ he said. ‘We intend to maintain that discipline by such as are necessary. We are not going to have the inmates trying to run the institutions.’

He declared that complaints relating to food were ill-founded. Meat and fresh vegetables prepared by trained cooks are served daily.

He said that about 20 men had caused the trouble by persuading others in the group not to leave for their work in the fields and the workshops.

Image Captions:

Left: Bread and water and lots of fresh air was the treatment accorded 311 prisoners at Guelph Reformatory who refused to work. Here’s an aerial view yesterday afternoon of the rebellious inmates who have been kept in an exercise yard since theyr struck after noon-day meal Monday. Officials decided to keep them there as disciplinary measure. From the air it appeared as if bread had been scattered around in corner of yard.

Right:  One of the more modern reform institutions on the continent, the reformatory at Guelph, where 311 prisoners are on strike, is shown in this overall aerial picture. (1) Administration building. (2) Yard where striking inmates are being detained. (3) Main wing. (4) Recreational field. (5) Power house. (6) Workshops. (7) Abattoir. A few of those who refused to work are said to have complained a bout the food.

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“300 ‘Sit Down’ in Prison Yard,” Toronto Star. July 13, 1948. Page 01.

Work Or Starve Order Given 300 at Guelph – ‘Rebels’ Defy Tear Gas

Special To The Star
Guelph, July 13 – Prison officials said today they were prepared to ‘starve out’ 300 prisoners at Guelph Reformatory who are staging a hunger and sit-down strike in the exercise yard. The prisoners remained throughout the night in the yard with every available guard on duty.

Officials declared the situation is tense, but said they did not think it would break into a riot. Armed guards circle the exercise yard where the men met after the noon-day meal yesterday. Tear gas used to attempt to rout them had little effect and it was decided that it would not be used again, but that the policy of ‘No work, no food’ would be adopted.

A. R. Virgin, director of reform institutions, said in Toronto today that this already has had some effect on a number of the men who had asked to rejoin the majority of the prisoners inside. Almost 500 had no part in the strike, officials stated.

Armed Guards Leave Posts
From outward appearances everything at the reformatory was peaceful and normal. About a dozen men working in two and threes were cutting grass and trimming shrubs along the main driveway.

At the back of the building on a playing field another dozen or so were playing ball. About 50 inmate spectators at the game were sitting in the tiers of seats that line the field.

Only 50 men could be seen working in the fields at 10.30 a.m. today. There were 20 in a hayfield, 20 doing landscape gardening and 10 cultivating fields. An occasional shout could be heard from inside the exercise walls. Guards who earlier had been patrolling the walls with shotguns had left their posts.

The 300 in the yard looked to passing air passengers as if they were being prepared for barbecuing. Sprawling in a courtyard surrounding by three-storey stone walls, the prisoners steaming in their dark clothing as a mid-morning sun began beating down.

Less than one in 50 of the prisoners who were lying in disorganized clumps bothered to look up as planes passed overhead. Over 100 stood or lounged against one end of the shaded south wall as if it were a corner pool hall.

None of the 300 gathered in any sort of group, none were walking or strolling. A few seemed to have taken off their jackets to bathe in the sun beating into the abre dusty stone box of the square court. The hottest looking spot on the landscape was the steaming ‘pit’ where the 300 prisoners were put to ‘cool off.’

Slept on Ground
Col. Hedley Basher, once a Toronto policeman and former governor of the Toronto Jail and jail farm, is superintendent at Guelph reformatory. He would not make any statement on the strike, referring inquiries to the reforms branch at Toronto.

The prisoners in the exercise yard, which is surrounded by the cell block, slept on the ground, officials here said. Conditions for outdoor sleeping were described as ideal. There was plenty of space, officials said, because the yard will accommodate between 700 and 800.

Guards were kept on duty throughout the night. A bus load of close to 30 go home to Guelph every night, but their trip back was cancelled last night.

Complain of Food, Heat
There was considerable shouting when the strike first started after the noon meal. Leaders urged prisoners to refuse to go to the fields and they were able to get more than 300 volunteers.

The inmates were said to have been pained about the food and balked at having to go to the fields in the hot weather. They have to walk through the exercise yard after the meal to go to work.

Mr. Virgin said a few leaders incited the men to remain in the yard. Tear gas was used. While it caused the men discomfort, use of it in the open was not effective in getting them to leave.

Officials then took an adamant stand that the men would have to work to get their food. Those who asked to give in were refused permission to leave the exercise yard.

‘They must be taught obedience and they are going to take their punishment,’ Mr. Virgin declared.

Claims Food Good
Mr. Virgin laid blame for the trouble on ‘newspapers and radio stations’ which published and broadcast new of disturbances at Burwash and Mercer reformatory. ‘They have radios in their cell blocks,’ said Mr. Virgin. He added newspapers were not a general issue but prisoners have access to them at times.

‘As for complaints about food, the food served is exceptionally good,’ Mr. Virgin declared. ‘For breakfast this morning the men had pancakes, cooked cereal, bread and jam and tea. For lunch they would receive shepherd’s pie, potatoes, and gravy, soup, boiled cabbage, butterscotch pudding, tea and bread.

‘The diet is exceptionally good. I have always observed how well the food is prepared on every occasion I have been there,’ he added.

Mr. Virgin said there would be a thorough inquiry. As yet no one had been sent to investigate.

‘These men have rebelled for no apparent reason and they will take their punishment before they will be allowed to go back to work,’ he said.

The firm attitude taken by officials of the department of reform institutions is reported to be in contrast to the stand taken at Burwash after last October’s riot. In that disturbance, the prisoners took over and were in control for days. Then they were given an opportunity of telling their grievances to Prof. Jaffary of the University of Toronto. No disciplinary action was taken.

Image Caption: From the air, Guelph ‘rebels’ can be seen lounging on blankets, left, and standing in shade of prison wall, right

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“Young Punks Are Mixed With Hardened Thieves At Burwash: Ex-Guard,” Globe & Mail. July 10, 1948. Page 07.

By J. Y. NICOL
Cartier, July 9 (Staff). – Reporting on sick parade, an inmate at Burwash Industrial Farm complained to his staff physician that he pains around the heart. ‘You are quite all right and fit for work,’ the doctor assured him, instructing the guard to escort him to his gang.

Less than half an hour later the man dropped dead, his body was taken to the CNR station in a coal dump-truck.

The Industrial Farm is supposed to be reserved for old offenders, yet around 7 per cent of those doing time there are 18-year-old punks on their first stretch. They are forced to associate with the hardest criminals in the province.

Every man who tries to escape is sentenced to 15 strokes of the strap, regardless of the circumstances or the temptation afforded to him, and the punishment is inflicted in two stages so that the mental torture is often as serve as the physical.

This and other charges were advanced today by Toronto-born James Alexander Smail, 27, a naval vet who went north because of the ‘attractive offers’ advertised by Burwash administration authorities.

He arrived at the tail end of a major riot last October, when 15 carloads of special police had to fire tear gas. He left April 19, and freely predicted to authorities that another riot was in the making. This broke more than a week ago and again tear gas was used.

Smail said that he was suspended without either an explanation or redress and that his appeals have been ignored both by the Department of Reform Institutions and the attorney-general.

Now employed in a railway roundhouse here, Smail said: ‘I am at least $1,500 out of pocket because I fell for that Burwash advertisement. I have done my best to place some vital grievance before the proper authorities, but I have been ignored all down the line.

‘I am still anxious to serve, but that is impossible under the present circumstances. And I do not speak for myself entirely. At least 1,000 other men have passed through the staff within the past year. The turnover is out of all proportion or reason.’

At present there are between 600 and 700 prisoners. In the old days there was one guard for every four inmates. Now the ratio has been almost doubled.

Smail said that he was offered an income of $120 a month and staff housing accommodation which he never received after eight months of service. With deductions for board of $19.50 a month, $5 for room, medical, laundry, dental fees and unemployed insurance his take-home pay dwindled to $87.14 a month. Out of that he had to support his wife, and two children, after renting a house for them in Burwash village, seven miles from the main camp.

‘They even nicked me 25 cents a day to ride to work in a government truck which was also used for transporting prisoners,’ Smail stated. ‘I understand the the inmates, however, rode free of charge.’

The room in which he slept at the farm was big, about 20 feet by 40, but it was also shared by from 10 to 15 other guards.

‘There was about a foot of space between each guard,’ he said. ‘Why even at sea in the navy we had more room.’

Last February Smail and 15 other guards enrolled at a special school of instruction authorized by George Dunbar, Minister of Reform Institutions. Smail topped the class in the final examination with 91 per cent. Few other guard ever broke the 90 mark. ‘And not many of those who did are still on the staff because they received no support in carrying out their instructions,’ he commented.

It was on the day of his dismissal that Smail, acting on instructions, participated in a ‘frisk’ of the 150 prisoners. This resulted in the discovery of live ammunition, knives, shivs or daggers and a considerable quantity of smuggled food, he says.

‘We had been instructed to be on the lookout for stuff like that,’ the former guard stated. ‘Yet when it was over I got the axe. The prisoners put up quite a beef, you see.’

‘An hour later I was told to report to the superintendent’s private office. He simply said: ‘Go home and we will call you in a day or so when this blows over. The prisoners are a little peeved.’ I went home free of charge that day in a staff truck, driven by an inmate with no guard accompanying.

‘Later, the superintendent sent work that I should see him at 8 p.m. at his home. When I got there I was told to sit down in a big leather chair and three senior officers started to quick me. I didn’t want to take abuse from them for doing my duty and I let them know that.

‘Acting Superintendent Brown said ‘I have been in touch with Toronto and on verbal instructions by telephone both you and a sergeant are to be dismissed.’ With that I left.’

Smail recalled two or three incidents where prisoners had been strapped for bolting from the farm under heartbreaking circumstances.

‘I know why one man tried to get away,’ he stated. ‘He received word of trouble at home. This prisoner was married and was a father. As soon as he was caught he was given the usual sentence – 15 strokes of the strap, and that is mandatory in such cases.

‘It was obvious even to his guards that he was in a frantic state of mind while at work and he should have been under strict supervision. Instead of that he was given opportunity to attempt to gain his freedom. And the temptation was too strong.

‘Now a strapping is not a pretty spectacle, I may assure you. The prisoner is hitched firmly to a post and there are steel bonds around his arms, his stomach and his feet. He is blindfolded and his shirt is pulled up to his blindfold.

‘The guard assigned to inflict the punishment has a strap about three feet long. He flails the man with it eight times and none of the strokes are gentle. It leaves the man black and blue.

‘After those eight strokes the man is bustled off to solitary confinement. He is stripped of his clothing, handed a nightgown and tossed into a cell. For the next seven days and nights he must lie on the cement floor – for there is no cot in solitary, you see.’

But another pathetic incident lingers in Smail’s mind. There was the day when a fresh load of ‘fish’ or new inmates arrived. Among them was a blond-haired lad of about 18. It was plain to all that he had never been in jail before. When he lined up for dinner, the kid picked up a tray, as he would in a city cafeteria, to collect his food. The old-timers just hold their plates out. Burwash is supposed to be the place for the old-timers, the guard pointed out.

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“Unrest at Industrial Farm – Burwash System Indicted by Salvation Officer,” Globe & Mail. July 8, 1948. Page 01 & 02.

By J. Y. NICOL
Sudbury, July 7 (Staff). At the Salvation Army service in Burwash Industrial Farm, a man no longer may stand, right up before his fellow men and say that he wants to be saved. Some guards curse the prisoners with the eloquence of a mule skinner. Some prisoners, in turn, flaunt authority by tossing their beans on the floor with the same gusto and impunity as they shoot crap on a Sabbath afternoon.

Incidents such as these are common knowledge in the Nickel City where a year ago, Reforms Minister George Dunbar came by plane from Burwash, 26 miles south, to announce the dawn of a new era the down-and-outer, with variations, after inspecting the prisons of England. This was to out-Borstal the Borstal plan.

‘I remember and well,’ he said at that time, ‘when at a tender age I set fire to a styrawstack. My father and I knelt together that night in prayer for forgiveness. The next morning he got up and flailed the hell out of me – and I know how easy it is for one to go astray.’

Twelve months have passed since he made that statement. So have two riots, and the firing of an unknown number of tear gas shells and a statement from both the minister and Ralph Ayres, Burwash superintendent, that everything is under control. Also, two Burwash strawstacks – barns included – have been set aflame.

The barns were burned in the first riot last October when an attempt was made to shift the blame for the outbreak on some of the underlings. They had left Dolly Quentin, the Windsor bad man, to linger too long there upon his approaching discharge, it was claimed.

But now at Burwash there is no Dolly Quentin to blame and more trouble may occur at any moment.

If it does the minister may sit on the information for more than four days, as he did about the outbreak of June 28 when the beans were tossed on the floor. 

In a nutshell, the department is trying to put over a noble idea with a parsimonious spirit. First, the minister has C. H. Neelands, as his deputy, who, with the late Norman Oliver and two lumberjack prisoners in one common tent, started Burwash more than 30 years ago as an adventure in reformation.

Through the years, Mr. Neelands advanced in the public service. Weathering changes of government and policy, he has proved invaluable.

You could call Mr. Neelands about any little matter and he could give you an immediate answer. Today, when you ask Mr. Neelands, he answers, ‘Sorry, I know nothing.’

Then there is A. R. Virgin, superintendent of all of Mr. Dunbar’s institutions and also a capable executive.

Mr. Dunbar has answered complaints about the rapid turnover in his staff by saying, ‘This is a natural situation in Northern Ontario.’ He is trying to hire guards at a monthly salary of $154 with a promise of housing accommodation which came, in one case, after a service of four years. Any man with a pair of shoulders and a yen for work can double that in the nickel mines.

Two Toronto ex-servicemen, with good war records, joined the Burwash staff. They brought their wives to Sudbury and paid $50 a month rent. When they did not get their houses as promised, they resigned for economic reasons. After being accepted for other government jobs, they were suddenly tossed out. The reason they received was this: ‘You didn’t stick it at Burwash.’

About the only person in this area who will come out openly in criticism, however, is Major A. McEachern of the Salvation Army, who occasionally visits the farm in the absence of the regular Army chaplain. 

He said ‘the services are conducted in a most mechanical way, and that is not as it used to be. The co-operation from the staff has deteriorated. There was a time when we could talk to the men with confidence. And if we passed a suggestion along to the authorities, it was considered, but not today.

‘There is a feeling of mistrust among the staff and this in turn breeds a greater feeling of distrust among the inmates. They think that every hand raised in their direction is against them.

Our idea is that a man may be down, but he is never out. The official attitude is that he is always down and always out. Some years ago, when we held service we could invite a man to come to the altar and say his prayers. We can’t do that any more. We cannot ask a man either to stand or to come forward and declare himself. At the most, he is permitted to raise his hand. Should he make any other move, he would be suspected of causing a demonstration. The atmosphere is not normal, even for Burwash.’

Major McEachern, who has experience in many other institutions besides Burwash, said that the guards seem to be imbued with the idea a prisoner is nothing but  a crook and a scoundrel, and that he must be told that frequently

‘I doubt,’ he added, ‘that much is to be gained by calling him a wretch or a scoundrel. I have met some talented men in Burwash – Men I Know can be restored to society. We of the Salvation Army, being practical people, do not for a moment believe that the solution is by pampering. We do believe that there is a helpful medium, and it is through mutual confidence.

The last time I conducted a service there, a prisoner told me, ‘Let me thank you for the words of kindness. They are the first I have heard for a long, long time,’ and I know he spoke sincerely.’

On May 11, James A. Small, a former Burwash guard, now living in Cartier, a railway town 34 miles northwest, wrote a letter to Attorney-General Blackwell, which said in part:

‘I would like very much for your office to look into the straight and truthful facts regarding Burwash Industrial Farm. I was employed approximately eight months. I took two inmates to the doctor about eight weeks ago one morning under the influence of drugs. These men could hardly stand on their own feet, but no action was taken regarding the serious condition of these men.

‘While working in April, one night about 9 p.m., I uncovered the place that an escape inmate was hiding to my sergeant, who in turn notified the senior sergeant. They captured the escaped inmate at 9:15, in the same place. I informed them on Sunday, April 18. I was instructed to take 140 men from the cell block to the show. I returned with the inmates and then reported to my dormitory the men who had stayed in all Sunday afternoon.

‘As I returned to the dormitory, a big crap game was in progress. Approximately 50 men were around a table 12 feet long and three feet wide. As I opened the main gate, the game broke up and the inmates stood around. I was asked to leave the dormitory by this crap-shooting crowd of inmates. I informed them that there would be no crap game as long as I was on duty.

‘On Sunday, about 5:50pm, I called an inmate from D dormitory. I had been informed that he was carrying money in this crap game. I searched the inmate and found a two-dollar bill. The rest he had eaten or discarded. Monday morning, April 19, I reported for work at 3:30 a.m., and I did my duties as laid down by my sergeant. I found that books and papers were being brought in. I asked one guard what he knew about this stuff, and he went to the senior sergeant about 7:25 a.m. and reported that there was an enormous amount of contraband in B and C dormitories.

‘The sergeant then called another sergeant, and told him to give C and B dormitories a thorough search. On these orders, three men came over to the dormitories at 8:50 a.m. I was in my own dormitory when six officers walked in and told the inmates remaining indoors to line up. They searched the clothing of the inmates, who were then told to go to a dormitory downstairs while their beds and clothing were given a complete frisk.

‘We completed 240 beds and 960 blankets in two hours and 20 minutes. In this frisk we discovered knives, bullets, tea, sugar, ham, shoe polish, extra clothing, wire files, razor blades, toilet soaps and small bottles containing gasoline and chains. Seven pillow slips were turned in, three parts full of contraband.

‘When the inmates returned they were surprised to see a frisk had been pulled. The acting superintendent and another sergeant (he had ordered the search) walked in and started to apologize to the inmates. They were told that anything that was missing would be replaced to quiet things down. They were informed that the officers responsible for the frisk would be suspended.

‘On this, the inmates started to holler and complain about losing tobacco, sun glasses and false teeth. One inmate went as far as to tell the sergeant who had directed the search that he wasn’t going to make his bed again. The ones who messed it up could do this.

‘I was called out of my dormitory and told to report to the superintendent’s office by the sergeant who ordered the search. There, I was suspended by another sergeant.

‘Immediately I left for Toronto to find out why I had been suspended. I talked to Mr. Neelands, and he said he would let me know in a day or so. ON April 23, Mr. Neelands telephoned me at 10 a.m. and asked me about my intentions. I told him I would ask for a transfer to another camp as the rest of the officers who took part in the search were transferred.

‘He told me then that I wouldn’t be reinstated. I told him I would certainly find out why not. With this, he warned me what would happen if I went any further.’

‘….I would like to have thrashed out very soon as I have nothing to hide on my part, so would like to hear from you as I know that the industrial farm is not a reform institution but a big political farce.

‘As I write this, four inmates have just escaped. Two were caught on the Toronto-bound train with first-class tickets. Two more sawed their way out of the kitchen. None of them was missed for 10 hours.’

A policeman commented: ‘I helped o fire tear gas at those birds. They had hung up some wet blankets expecting we’d shoot. The abuse they heaped at us before the got the gas blasted my eardrums. Just the same, I have heard a guard curse at a prisoner as if he was worse than a dog. No human being, at Burwash or out, can stand for treatment like that.

‘The Borstal plan is sound and it calls for discipline on one hand and incentive on the other. But it can’t work under bulldozing or mollycoddling, and at Burwash today they go from one extreme to the other. There will be more trouble unless they get down to business. We’re sick of being called in to shoot the tear gas.’

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“Warns Burwash Powder Keg, Trouble Deep-Seated – ‘Food Badly Served’  – Says Dunbar Should Go See For Himself,” Toronto Star. July 5, 1948. Page 21.

‘Burwarsh is a powder keg and it is going to blow up any day if conditions are not improved. They are even worse than they were before the trouble last October,’ said a prisoner just released. He said he was in both riots and claimed that the prisoners have banded together and are waiting their chance to stage an even bigger demonstration than the other two.

Dunbar Should Visit
‘Mr. Dunbar (Hon. George Dunbar, minister of reform institutions) should go up himself and talk to the prisoners and he would get an earful of what is going on,’ said the ex-inmate. ‘They told us he was coming up during the last trouble but he has never been there.

‘Food is the principal cause of the trouble,’ he claimed. ‘It’s not so much what is served, but how it is served. It is rank and cold. The same food could be cooked up in a style that would satisfy the men, but the attitude is take it or leave it.’

He declared that since the riot of last October there had been numerous hunger strikes of two or three days’ duration. When the men protested the menu, he stated, the superintendent Ralph Ayers would taste the food and say there was nothing wrong with it. Then they would have to eat it or go hungry.

‘The men work hard in the fields and need substantial food,’ he said. ‘They aren’t getting it and they are not going to work. The crops will rot in the fields and the temper of the prisoners is such that they are talking about burning the buildings and firing the fields in protest so that the public can learn what conditions are.

Raps Parole System
‘Another sore spot is the sysem of parole. This was one of the things that caused the first riot. The parole board comes to Burwash the second Wednesday in every month. They run through 100 prisoners each time. Then days later the prisoner will get a letter saying he does or does not get parole. The feeling is that the matter is settled before they come before the board.

‘Guards are going and coming all the time. They don’t pay them enough for them to stay. Some are minors. They are supposed to be trained but they don’t know how to handle men. Since they were given power of police officers to make arrests, their job has gone to their heads and they are pushing the prisoners around to show their authority.

He said after the investigation by Prof. Stuart Jaffary of the University of Toronto after the first riot, conditions improved. ‘But everything is going back to the way it was before. There is going to be serious trouble and someone might be killed.’

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