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Posts Tagged ‘prison guards’

“I don’t put the blame on prison guards. They’re only workers. They’re not inanimate things, cement walls that can neither see nor hear nor think. Most of them didn’t choose their jobs; they ended up there because they thought they had no other choice. I’ve spent a total of twelve years inside walls, behind bars and fences, and I’ve never met a prison guard in whom I saw no trace of myself. I never met a guard who had dreamed that patrolling a convict yard would be the daily content of his life. Very few of those I’ve met admitted to never having dreamed, never having imagined themselves proud of projects undertaken with one or several genuine friends. Was our point of departure the same, and were we at some point interchangeable? How much has each of us contributed to what each has undergone? If a guard ever dreamed, was it of prisons and camps that he dreamed, and was he my jailer-to-be already then?”

– Fredy Perlman, Letters of Insurgents.

Published by Black and Red Press, Detroit, 1976.

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“Rebellion Hits 4th City Jail – 3 Injured; Hostages Total 24,” New York Sunday News. October 4, 1970.

Their Fate In Prisoner’s Hands.

A Wildfire of Anger from Jail to Jail

Our Reporter Takes a Long Walk in a Dark Place

Get a Behind-Bars Hearing.

[AL: I’m not going to transcribe all of these articles about the prisoner revolt in New York in 1970, but read more with these excerpts (Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.) from Toussaint Losier’s article “Against ‘law and order’ lockup: the 1970 NYC jail rebellions,” Race & Class, 2017, Vol. 59 (1).]  

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“La prise d ’otages,
l’épouvante moderne,” La Presse. September 5, 1979. Page I-2.

par
Chris MORRIS

DORCHESTER, N.-B. (PC) – Un prisonnier

transféré du pénitencier
de Millhaven en Ontario
à la prison du 19e siècle
à sécurité maximum de
ce village de l’est du
Nouveau-Brunswick a
dit que c’était commes il était passé d’Auschiwtz à un camps de
scouts.

S’ils en est ainsi, pourquoi
ce pénitencier semblable à une forteresse
avec ses murs de pierre
et ses tourelles fu t-il le
lieu de ceré cit d’épouvante
moderne: la prise
d’otages?
Il semble que les deux
drames de ces deux dernières
années ne furent
que des aberrations et
non des manifestations
du mécontentement répandus parmi les 300
prisonniers de Dorchester.

Situé sur une colline
parmi des terres de culture
près de la frontière
entre

le Nouveau-Brunswick et la Nouvelle-Ecosse, 

ce pénitencier sombre , à l’aspect
rébarbatif, est considéré

comme
relativement agréable par les criminels
et l’administration.

Qu’on leur laisse le
choix et beaucoup de
endur cis prisonniers
iront à Dorchester plutôt
qu’à une autre maison
de détention. L’un deux
a déclaré dans une interView
que les conditions y
étaient meilleures que
dans tout autre pénitencier,
prisonniers et gardes
y étant plus amènes.

Depuis janvier 1978, il
y a cependant eu là deux
prises d’otages. — des
gardes.

La pire des deux, selon
le directeur suppléant
Gerald G reen, fut la
deuxième, du 30 avril au
2 mai 1979.

Un fou furieux
Un condamné à 14 ans
pour tentative de meurtre
s’est emparé d’un
garde et d’un professeur
d’atelier et les a torturés.

M. Greene raconte que
le prisonnier Gerald
MacDonald a arraché
les ongles du professeur
au moyen de tenailles et
lui a brûlé les mains. Le
garde a été libéré apres
avoir été frappé à l ’estomac à coup de tournevis.

M. Greene dit que
MacDonald a va it alors
le cerveau dérangé.
Une prise d’otages au
début de 1978 a duré 128
heures. Deux détenus du
Québec ont enlevé un

garde et réclamé leur
transfert à un péniten­cier de leur province
natale.

Personne n’a été blessé
au cours du siège et
les prisonniers furent
plus tard transférés à
une unité spéciale du
pénitencier à sécurité
maximum de Laval, au
Quebec.

M. Greene dit que les
gardes n’en sont pas
devenus amers pour
autant et que l’on n’a
pas pris depuis de pre ­cautions spéciales.

Dorchester est un établissement à sécurité
moyenne plus qu’à sécurité maximum comme
Millhaven à Kingston en Ontario. IL y a une salle
de visite grande ouverte
ou les prisonniers assis à
des tables peuvent causer
avec leurs hôtes et
même les étreindre. Et
les relations sont plutôt
bonnes entre prisonniers
et gardes.

Selon M. Greene, il
serait facile de prendre
des otages, particulièrement au cours de collo ques ou durant les leçons
aux prisonniers dans les
ateliers.

«Ce n’est pas (la prise
d’otages) quelque chose
que l’on peut arrêter par
des mesures supplémentaires
de sécurité: bien
plus, ces mesures mêmes pourraient gâcher
les relations avec les
détenus.

«Si l’on prend trop de
précautions, les prisons
ne deviennent rien d’autre
que des enclos pour
animaux dangereux, ce
qui n’a pas de sens.»

Comparaisons

M. Greene trouve les
détenus des Maritimes
différents des autres. Ils
ne sont pas. en général,
des criminels aussi
«sophistiqués» que ceux
de l’O n ta rio et du Québec.
dit-il.

«Nous n’avons pas
vraim nt de crime organise
et cela compte en
m atière de sécurité.»

Jack McLaughlin, âgé
de 41 ans, vient de Montréal. Il purge une sentence
de dix ans et il
reconnaît que les mesures
de sécurité et la
composition de la population
pénitentiaire sont
différentes de celles des
prisons ou il a séjourné
de puis l’âge de 21 ans.
C’est lui qui a compa­ré Dorchester et Millhaven.
respectivement,
à un camp de scouts et à
Auschwitz.
«J’ai constaté»

dit-il,
que la plupart des prisonniers, ici, viennent disent
des Maritimes. Ils n’ont
pas passé par des unités
spéciales comme celles
du Québec et de Millhaven
où les gaz lacrymogènes et les coups
sont d ’usage courant.

«Les prisonniers d’ici
trouvent ça dur, mais il
n’y a pas eu de vraie sémeutes. Il y a rarement
des batailles, et quand il
y en a c’est aux poings .
Depuis trois ans que je
suis ici, aucun prisonnier s’a été grièvement
blessé.»

McLaulghlin parle avec beaucoup d’amertume
de Millhaven de mauvais traitements et d’actes
de brutalité qu’il attribue
aux gardes.

Faisant à l’envie des
comparaisons entre
Millhaven et Dorchester,
il dit qu’à ce dernier
endroit, contrairem ent
aux autres pénitenciers
et prisons qu’il connaît les gardes disent

«bonjour» le matin aux
prisonniers et s’informent de leur état de santé.

D’après McLaughlin,
s’ il y a jamais des prises
d’otages, des arrêts de
travail, des grèves sur le
tas à Dorchester , ce ne
peut être que par suite
de l’accumulation de
frustrations. Un incident
mineur, la goutte proverbiale qui…

Membre du comité de
liaison entre les prisonniers
et l’administration, McLaughlin dit
qu’il ne se soucie pas des
pénitenciers qui ne peuvent,
de toute façon,
aider à la réhabilitation
des criminels.

«Je ne m’intéresse
plus à rien. Je n’ai pas
de sentiments . Voilà ce
que le système carcéral
a fait de moi.

«Je n’ai absolument
plus de sentiments. Je
suis devenu froid.»

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“Con cracks as hostage drama ends,” Montreal Gazette. August 29, 1980. Page 01 & 3.

By EDDIE COLLISTER
of The Gazette

The prison hostage drama at Laval Institute ended peacefully yesterday – but not before one of the convicts cracked under the three-day strain and nearly touched off a bloodbath.

Shortly before 10.15 a.m., the convict – who wasn’t identified – began crying and shouting that he was going to kill himself, or someone else.

‘If he shoots himself, don’t open fire,’ the commanding officer of the prison guards barked over his walkie-talkie to one of the 20 sharpshooters who had his high-powered rifle trained on the out-of-control convict.

The crisis was defused when other convicts calmed the unidentified inmate. Minutes later, they all surrendered, throwing their guns and hand-made knives over the wire fence that separated them from the outside world, and stripping to their underwear.

Last eight freed
The last eight of the 12 hostages taken Monday morning were freed. Some were dazed and so weak they had to be supported as they walked. They were taken to the prison’s staff college for tearful reunions with families and to be examined by a doctor.

‘They were tired and stressed but not physically harmed,’ a prison official said after the hostages had left for their homes. None of hostages was available for comment, but the daughter of prison instructor John Niewerth, 51, told The Gazette, her father went to sleep as soon as he arrived home.

Throughout the more than 74-hour standoof, prison officials refused to give into demands.

The convicts and hostages were were only fed twice: a sandwich on Tuesday and another early yesterday – both after first releasing hostages.

25-year terms
The convicts, all but one of them serving mandatory 25-year terms, most for murder, will spend the next six months in solitary confinement at the nearby Correctional Development Centre.

Solitary is designed to give the convicts time to think ‘so they don’t do it again,’ said warden Pierre Viau.

He said the inmates gave up because ‘they knew they were in a hopeless situation.’ The convicts and hostages had sat and slept in the open outside the prison’s 30-foot-high brick wall through rain and scorching sun since early Monday.

Officials said two convicted illers, Edgard Roussel and Roger Duhamel, both 33, appeared to be ringleaders in the escape attempt that went awry. Duhamel, a police-killer, had resigned as president of Laval’s prisoner committee a week before the escape try, and he negotiated for the convicts during the standoff.

It was the third hostage incident involving Roussel, who was transferred from the Correctional Development Centre only seven weeks ago.

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“Despondent Over His Time,” Kingston Daily Standard. August 1, 1912. Page 02.

Convict Shaw, Suicide, Had Been Brooding.

He Had Petioned For His Parole, But It Was Not Granted – Had Been A Model Prisoner.

That convict James Shaw, who was found hanged in his cell at the Penitentiary yesterday morning, had been brooding for some time, because the department had not granted his parole, was brought out in the evidence given before the Coroner’s jury which inquired into the death last night.

Several guards gave evidence to the effect that the deceased had been morose and despondent for about two months. A convict in the cell adjoining Shaw stated that he had expected something would happen, when he was told that Shaw had suicided. In his evidence to the jury this prisoner swore that Shaw told him on Tuesday afternoon that he would never spend another holiday in the Penitentiary and that if something did not come of his petition, he would end it all. All the witnesses testified to the convict having been a model prisoner. He was quiet and obedient and had never given any trouble.

The last to see Shaw alive were two of the night watchmen. In their evidence they stated that apparently he was asleep when they passed on their rounds about 4.50 on Tuesday morning. He was discovered dead on the next round about 5.45.

The verdict of the jury was to the effect that the deceased came to his death by his own hand by hanging, and that any blame could be placed on the officials.

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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.

#8581
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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“Strap Mercer Riot Leaders, Says Official,” Toronto Star. July 19, 1948. Page 01.

Ringleaders in the Mercer reformatory riot were strapped, A. R. Virgin, director of reform institutions, said today. He was commenting on the statement of a woman in police court today that prisoners ‘were beaten black and blue’ and tear gas used.

Asked if this was correct, Mr. Virgin said he was not going to deny or confirm it, but that ‘we do not hesitate to use tear gas whenever we find it necessary.’

There has been no more trouble at Guelph, he added. He said the men are working hard and those kept in the exercise yard and dormitories are punishment for a demonstration agaisnt the food ‘seemed sorry they had caused trouble.’

Lights in the whole of Ontario reformatory were blazing at 11 o’clock last night, but there was no trouble, Mr. Virgin stated. He said lights usually were out at 10 p.m. Passengers on a train that passes near the reformatory said it was unusual to see the lights on at such a late hour.

‘I just got out of the Mercer last Friday,’ the woman, Lillian Johnson, 50, said in police court, when charged with being drunk, ‘and my nerves were shot after the riots.’

After a list of previous drunk convictions was read by the court clerk, Magistrate Elmore imposed sentence of 40 days.

‘You can’t send me back there,’ said the woman. ‘Why didn’t they print the truth about how we were beaten and given tear gas. I wasn’t in the riot, but I saw those girls beaten black and blue.’

A police matron and a court policeman struggled with accused several minutes before removing her to the cells.

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“Four Guards Dismissed,” Kingston Daily Standard. July 15, 1912. Page 02.

One of the Men Will Put Up a Stiff Fight.

Got Specialist’s Certificate Showing He Was All Right – Praise for Inspector Stewart.

(Special to the Standard.)
Ottawa, July 15. – The report has reached here that four guards were dismissed from the Portsmouth Penitentiary last week – all on the certificate of the penitentiary physician who has declared them unfit for further service.

It is understood, however, that in respect, to one of these dismissals at least there will be a vigorous fight, on the ground that the guard dismissed is not in fact unfit for work. His alleged fault is deafness, but it is said that the dismissed man immediately upon his dismissal went  to a well-known Kingston specialist and from him obtained a certificate that it is declared will amply refute any charge of deafness such as to justify dismissal. In any event this dismissal, and perhaps one other, will certainly be fought.

It is said in this connection since Inspector Stewart took hold of the Portsmouth institution matters have run very much more smoothly and that certain over-zealous officials who under Warden Platt were running things much as they liked, have been given to understand that they had better attend to their own business, and their business only, or it will be the worse for them.

Ottawa, indeed, bears only the highest praise for Inspector Stewart and his administration.

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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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“Rush 130 Prisoners Westward,” Globe and Mail. July 13, 1938. Page 01.

Portsmouth Convicts Are Closely Guarded on Train Journey

Probe News Leak

Overcrowding Reported as Reason for Move

Rolling along toward Western Canada on special schedule, its movements masked in official secrecy, is a ‘mystery’ train of five containing 130 Kingston Penitentiary convicts who were placed aboard near Collins Bay Prison Tuesday afternoon for distribution among Western institutions.

Overcrowding of Kingston Penitentiary is the reason given for the transfer of the prisoners, but not even this fact could be learned from an official source. It was planned to move the convicts in deep secrecy, without a word leaking out to the press. But something went wrong, and the Federal Department of Justice intends to probe the whole affair and find out, if possible, how the closely guarded plan became public property. Guards patrolled the area while the prisoners were being marched on the train and they kept the curious at distance.

Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police guarded the prisoners. Coach windows were specially barred as an added precaution. No stops were scheduled, but illness of one of the prisoners forced a stop at Hastings, where Dr. J. A. MacDonald was called to give treatment. The prisoner was not removed to hospital. Guards patrolled both sides of the train during the 45-minute stop and all observers were barred. At 7.30 p.m. yesterday the train left for Peterborough and Lindsay, and passed through these centres with little delay. Engines were changed at Lindsay in a few minutes.

There are two penitentiaries on the prairies: Stony Mountain in Manitoba, twenty miles from Winnipeg, and Prince Albert, just outside Prince Albert, Sask.

The recent report of the Royal Commission on Prisons emphasized the overcrowded condition of Kingston Penitentiary, where cell accommodation is insufficient to take care of all the inmates.

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“Fugitive Lives Week On Berry Diet; Caught,” Globe and Mail. July 13, 1938. Page 04.

Sudbury, July 12 (Special.) – For bushy-haired Joseph Walker, 27-year-old Hamilton car thief, it surely is not a case of three times and out.

Three times Walker has escaped custody. Each time he has been captured.

Tonight he rested in his cell in the isolation block at Burwash Industrial Farm, a week’s growth on his face, bedraggled and exhausted after wandering the bush for several days and nights with blueberries as his only source of sustenance.

He will appear in District Police Court at Sudbury tomorrow on a charge of breaking jail and escaping lawful custody.

Seven miles from the limits of Burwash last evening, a man emerged from the tick bush and asked a settler where he might find the road. The stranger said he was lost. Recognizing him as a fugitive because of his blue prison garb, the settler directed him to the road that led back to the industrial farm, though Walker didn’t know this. Then the settler went to the nearest telephone at the C.P.R. station and notified the prison authorities. Guards were not long in picking up the missing man.

‘He offered no resistance,’ Superintendent Powell told The Globe and Mail. ‘He was pretty weak when our men reached him. He was hungry and badly bitten by flies. His clothing was torn. He was not exactly glad to be back in custody, but he appreciated a chance for food and shelter.’

Shortly after 3:45 a.m. on Monday morning, July 4, Walker fled Burwash, thanks to the aid of a companion, Patrick McKenzie, 20.

McKenzie cut the bars of his own cell with a hack saw and then sawed through the bars of Walker’s cell door and the bars on the window of Walker’s cell. After pushing Walker through the aperture in the cell window, McKenzie found that he could not squeeze his 185 pounds through the same opening, and had to stay behind. Yesterday he was sentenced to two years in Kingston Penitentiary for assisting Walker to escape.

Last March Walker ran from a gang at Burwash, but he was recaptured the same dry. For this attempt two more months were added to his terms of from 24 to 27 months by Judge Edmund Proulx at Sudbury.

Before coming to Burwash Walker had fled from the Hamilton City Jail, only to be recaptured. He has served about 15 months of his original sentence.

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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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