Posts Tagged ‘prison labour’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guelph Museums collection, 


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The Canadian Carceral State
The Canadian prison system — which includes the country’s immigrant detention regime as well as the federal and various provincial correctional systems — is plainly awful. Canada is one of only a few countries that indefinitely detains immigrants, a practice decried by the UN. While recent anti-ICE protests in the US have drawn attention to the detention of immigrant children, much less has been paid to the fact that Canada also detains migrant children, some of them “unaccompanied.” For years, immigrant detainees in Ontario have drawn attention to the problems of the country’s immigration system and the conditions of their confinement by engaging in intermittent hunger strikes.

Canada’s incarceration rate is around 118 per 100,000 people. While this is significantly lower than that of the United States, it remains higher than most Western European liberal democracies. It’s also notable that this rate is close to that of the United States in the early 1970s, at the height of the prisoners’ rights movement. Although it’s hardly insignificant, the size of a prison system should not be the determining metric of its efficacy or character.

In its latest annual report, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, Canada’s federal prison watchdog, identified a host of issues in the federal system including deficiencies in health care provision, especially in relation to mental health; low pay and high expenses; and lack of effective educational, vocational, and rehabilitative programming, as major issues facing Canadian corrections. While the annual report of the Correctional Investigator is helpful in understanding the nitty-gritty of the problems in the country’s prisons, it rarely spurs a meaningful government response.

Like the US, racial disparity is also evident in Canadian prisons, with indigenous people in particular being hugely overrepresented. Indigenous people make up about 5 percent of the population, but account for around 27 percent of federally incarcerated adults. This trend is even more disturbing in Canada’s women’s prisons, where indigenous women account for 38 percent of the prison population. The youth justice system is even worse — nearly half of incarcerated youth in Canada are indigenous. These rates of incarceration have caused some commentators to assert that Canada’s prisons are its new residential schools. Black Canadians are also vastly overrepresented in Canada’s prisons and jails. Only 3 percent of the general population, Black Canadians account for 10 percent of the federal prison population.

Canada’s prisons shouldn’t be understood simply as instruments of racial dominance — they also warehouse the country’s poor and mentally ill. A 2010 study by the John Howard Society of Toronto of provincial prisoners in the Greater Toronto Area found that one in five were homeless at the time of their incarceration. Half of men entering federal prisons are identified as having “Alcohol or Substance Use Disorders.” and over 40 percent of sentenced prisoners and those remanded into pretrial custody are unemployed at the time of their admission. The 2016 Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator states that “federal prisons now house some of the largest concentrations of people with mental health conditions in the country.”

The consequence of these issues can sometimes be fatal. Several high-profile deaths have triggered inquiries, such as that of Ashley Smith, a young mentally ill woman who hung herself in 2007, in full view of guards who were ordered not to intervene until she lost consciousness. In a 2015 case, Matthew Hines died after a “use of force incident” with guards. Initially, Corrections Canada told Hines’s family that he had died of a seizure after being found “in need of medical attention.” It was later revealed that he had been beaten, restrained, and pepper sprayed by guards. Ten guards then placed him, handcuffed and with his t-shirt over his head, in a decontamination shower where he fell and hit his head. A video taken by prison staff shows Hines, laying on the shower floor pleading to officers that he couldn’t breathe: “Please, please … I’m begging you, I’m begging you.” The incident resulted in charges being laid against two of the officers involved. In April of this year, both of the accused officers entered not-guilty pleas.

Meanwhile, prison walls haven’t been a barrier to Canada’s escalating overdose crisis. Rates of drug-related deaths doubled in federal prisons between 2010–2016. Due to variations in data collection, it is difficult to tally overdose deaths in Provincial jails, but it is likely that the numbers are even higher. In 2017, twenty-seven prisoners died of overdoses in Ontario’s jails alone.

Provincial prisons, like the one in Halifax, are notorious for their poor conditions — something so widely accepted that upon conviction, judges routinely reduce sentences for time-served in pre-trial detention. Staff shortages plague jails, commonly resulting in lockdowns. Solitary confinement — despite its tendency to cause and exacerbate mental illness — is used frequently and with little regulation. The tragic case of Adam Capay, a young First Nations man awaiting trial in the Thunder Bay Jail, caused national controversy in 2016 when it was discovered that he had spent fifty-two months in solitary confinement in a Plexiglas cell, lit twenty-four hours a day.

The United Nations has declared that more than fifteen consecutive days in solitary confinement constitutes torture. The case only came to the attention of the press and Provincial correctional officials after a guard — the president of his union local — requested that Ontario’s chief human-rights commissioner look into Capay’s conditions, set off a review of solitary confinement in Ontario, and prompted federal rule changes.

Burnside has faced many of these issues including overcrowding, fatal overdoses, prisoner-on-prisoner violence, overreliance on solitary confinement, and staff shortages that result in routine lockdowns. These issues are reflected in the demands of the prisoners striking at Burnside.

Resistance and Prisoner Protest in Canada
The striking prisoners in Burnside acknowledge that they are far from the first in the country to protest, stating “we recognize the roots of this struggle in a common history of struggle and liberation.” Indeed, Canadian prisoners have a long history of collective resistance against inhumane conditions and treatment. Sometimes this resistance has taken the form of hostage-takings and large-scale riots — such as the deadly ones at Kingston Penitentiary in 1971, British Columbia Penitentiary in 1975, and Archambault Penitentiary in 1982. However, there is another, less-examined history of nonviolent collective actions by prisoners, including sit-down protests, work stoppages, and hunger strikes. As is made clear in their statement, this is the history in which the prisoners at Burnside are situating themselves.

The history of prisoner work stoppages stretches back to pre-Confederation, and although prisoner protests often failed or resulted in only minor improvements, they sometimes had more significant and longer lasting results. In September 1934, striking prisoners in BC demanded wages for prison work. The strike escalated into a minor riot that saw some property destruction and ended with protest leaders rounded up to face corporal punishment. Despite the successful repression of the protest, the demands for wages were won. At the beginning of January 1935, federal prisoners who worked began receiving a five-cent-per-day stipend.

The 1970s were turbulent times in Canadian prisons. One of the longest prison strikes in Canadian history started on January 14, 1976, when 350 prisoners at the Archambault Institution in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec, began a work strike. The prisoners declared their solidarity with striking prisoners at St Vincent de Paul Penitentiary in Laval and demanded better conditions. The Archambault strike lasted 110 days. Although the action was primarily a nonviolent work stoppage, there was considerable violence over the course of the protest. Prisoners were beaten by guards and prisoner-strike breakers, and two guards were jumped by strikers. Most spectacularly, a month after the strike began, two former St Vincent de Paul prisoners blew themselves up in an attempted bombing of a bus station in support of the Archambault strikers. Having been granted several of their demands, including recognition of a prisoners’ committee, the prisoners ended the strike. The next year, the prisoners’ key demand — the right to physical contact with visitors — was made policy by prison officials.

In the fall of 2013, Canada saw a nearly unprecedented strike in the federal system when prisoners stopped working their manufacturing, textile, construction, and service jobs to protest a 30 percent cut to their wages and the elimination of pay incentives offered by CORCAN, the government agency responsible for coordinating and managing prison industries. While unsuccessful at reversing these cuts, the strike demonstrated prisoners’ ability to coordinate protests across the country. Since that time there have been numerous smaller scale protests, hunger strikes, and work stoppages at various federal and provincial institutions across Canada.

Canadian prisoners — like others around the world — have also attempted to organize unions, to advance both their interests in relation to the conditions of their incarceration, and those of their labor within the institution. In 1975, The Prisoners’ Union Committee, an organization of former prisoners and radicals who had cut their teeth in the anti-war and women’s movements, and supported by the American Indian Movement, attempted to represent prisoners who were engaging in escalating work strikes and sit-down protests in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. The effort was unsuccessful, but resulted in the creation of Prisoners’ Justice Day, an annual day of work and hunger strikes initiated in 1975 and held every August 10 since. The date of the first Prisoners’ Justice Day was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Edward Nolan, a prison organizer who died by suicide in his solitary cell in Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ontario. The event continues to serve as an annual day of remembrance of those who have died in Canada’s prisons.

In 1977, prisoners working in a privately run meatpacking plant operating out of the provincial jail in Guelph, Ontario successfully organized a local of the Canadian Food and Allied Workers Union, along with their non-incarcerated coworkers. In doing so, they became the first group of prisoners to be covered by a legally recognized collective agreement in North America. Their unionization resulted in the equalization of pay between prisoners and non-prisoners, among other benefits.

Most recently, in 2011, the Canadian Prisoners’ Labour Confederation (or “ConFederation”) began organizing around working conditions and pay in the Mountain Institution in Agassiz, British Columbia, with the goal of winning union recognition for federal prisoners. The effort fizzled after successive labor boards refused to adjudicate the case, ruling that federal prisoners fell outside of their jurisdiction and that they were not “employees,” but participants in rehabilitation programs.

– Jordan House, “Why Canadian Prisoners Are Participating in the US Prison Strike.” Jacobin, September 5, 2018.

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“Urged Reform In Penology,” Kingston Daily Standard. July 10, 1912. Page 10.

Surplus Earnings Should Go to Family.

Under Present System the Innocent Suffer with the Guilty – Toronto Mail’s Suggestion.

In view if the fact that Portsmouth Penitentiary is located just beyond our city limits and in view of the further fact that The Standard has repeatedly urged in its editorial columns that the present penal system is wrong in that it punishes the innocent as well as the guilty by depriving the innocent of the earnings of the prisoner, instead of diverting to these innocent members of his family certain surplus after allowing for the cost to the government of the convict’s upkeep, the following editorial article from the Toronto Mail and Empire will be interesting. Says the Mail:

“From time to time the Mail and Empire has put forward the view that prisoners should be employed productively, and that some of the proceeds of their work should be sent to their wives, and children or needy parents. The late minister of jUstice, Sir Allen Aylesworthy, referred to the idea favorably, and to the difficulties in the way of its adoption, and, if he had continued in office, he might have found some way of acting upon it. We hope that Hon. J. C. Doherty will see his way to doing something in the matter. The removal of the wrongs suffered by innocent third parties – wrongs that are often more cruel and far-reaching than any committed by the prisoner – ranks quite as high in importance as any measure to mitigate the lot of the offender himself by placing him on a farm or otherwise giving him special liberty or privilege.

‘The incarceration in jail of an offender is supposed to be a punishment for his offence, and a warning to others that they must not transgress. But to him the punishment may be no hardship, whereas the sufferings of those who depended for their bread upon the wages he earned may be unbearable. The efficacy of the punishment would be increased were he put at work of a monetary value, and his earnings paid to his dependents as though he were a free man. There is no question as to the moral justice of this. The products would be charged with the cost of labor, perhaps not at current rates, but at least enough to make it fairly admissible to the market in competition with free labor. As regards the internal economy of the institutions, we do not think that much difficulty would be encountered in working out a practicable scheme of production. At present prisoners are made to manufacture certain lines of goods for the use of government institutions only. At the prison farms they engage in farming and dairying, but the economic aspect of the case subordinated to the social, or what might be termed, the moral improvement aspect. These are worthy matters, especially in connection with first offenders, and short-timers but still they fall short of that underlying justice which it should be the aim of the State to distribute.’

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Collin’s Bay Penitentiary, Kingston, scenes and photographs from The Whig-Standard showing vocational and industrial training, sports, dormitories, officers and inmates. Mid-1955.

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“I feel that the priority is this, that you have spent millions of dollars to build
this fine prison, millions of dollars to make programs, and/figure it is about
time you make those programs work, not just on paper but in reality. That is
the priority. We hear about it all the time. Even the cons in here hear about it,
but not one of us has seen it." 

– Donald LeBlanc, Springhill Inmate Committee

"You live in a fantasy world in prison. You sit there listening to the other guy
telling about blowing safes and cracking banks and all the money he has made
when he probably has not made—like me peanuts. But you magnify this by
thousands of dollars. I have listened to some pretty fancy things.”

– James
Carey, former inmate (8:17). 

“Positive growth cannot occur in an environment where one has minimal rights
and responsibilities, no freedom of choice and is denied normal human contact.
There are few substantial trade programs, little or no effective schooling
available, and no opportunity to grow and develop as a responsible citizen." 

– The Quaker Committee on Jails and Justice (24A:23). 

The Prison Social Order. 
492. In a system that has the fullest possible effect of stripping inmates of
their individuality, identity and sense of self-worth, which provides no meaningful
incentives to accomplishment and offers precious little to accomplish in any event,
inmates have available to them almost none of the conventional social devices that
both structure the civilized community, and in a very real sense, direct and control
behaviour within it. Whether or not a person has committed a criminal offence he
has certain basic psychological and social needs. Included are, for example, the need
for individual creativity, for order, for a social structure that defines him in relation
to others, for status and recognition, and for a sense of identity and self-worth. In the
closed world of the penitentiary, we ignore the existence of these needs at our peril. 

493. They continue to be manifested in prison, sometimes in scarcely recognizable
forms, through the few avenues available to inmates for personal expression. Within the limitations of the prison community its members establish a social order
with the same fundamental characteristics of structure, rank, precedence and status
that are seen among bureaucrats, business organizations, judges, governments, or,
for that matter, tribes of baboons. 

494. Superior physical force, as opposed to other forms of accomplishment, is
the essential determinant of status in the prison hierarchy. This is demonstrated not
only by the bullying, beating, homosexual rape and occasional murder of the weak
by the strong, but also by such things as physical resistance to the staff. Inmates may
not enjoy the prospect of being beaten into submission as a preliminary step in being
removed from their cells, but many are less attracted by the prospect of being seen
by others being led meekly away. As a consequence it is common for inmates to
resist movement until they are overpowered. The more men it takes to control an
inmate, the higher he stands in prison status ratings. As long as we retain a system in
which this is one of the few ways in which an inmate can meet deep-seated
psychological needs for status, an unacceptably high level of violence and an
almost-universal resistance to the aims of the penitentiary authorities will remain as
constant factors in the prison environment. No amount of new directives establishing
higher criteria for behaviour or sterner sanctions for misconduct stand much hope of
success as corrective measures in this context. 

495. Reputation is also quite significant in any society. Without the availability
of the ordinary outside-the-walls means for establishing a reputation that others
might respect or admire, such as intellectual accomplishment, financial success,
professional achievement and the like, the striving for reputation tends to be
manifested in penitentiaries through such things as subversion of the system imposed
by authority, defiance of individual correctional officers, being pointed out as the
man who spent a number of weeks or months in the hole without cracking,
attempting suicide, trying to escape, smuggling or trafficking in drugs, acting with
cruelty to protective custody inmates and so on. A reputation established by these
means may not seem like much, but to an inmate, it may be literally all that he has. 

496. The prison social order, of which these things are key elements, is just as
structured and hierarchial, and far more rigid, than is found in any other community.
Given as a basic premise the deprivation of most constructive outlets for the
talents, energies, needs and drives of the inmates, this social order is quite rational in
terms of those outlets that remain. Although we surely must deplore what we see, we
must just as surely recognize that it is almost entirely the creation of the penitentiary

497. Under the domination of the strongest and most threatening of the
inmates or "wheels”, the prison society is devoted to four main ends. First, of course,
comes self-preservation. After that, in no particular order, are: the maintenance of a
system of control which, although we cannot dignify it as “justice”, is a rudimentary
form of law in accordance with prison norms and reflects a considerable preoccupation
with maintaining inmate solidarity through intimidation, vengeance and vendettas;
the obtaining or production and distribution of amenities—usually drugs or
alcohol—for the inmate community; and protection of the essential minimum or core
values of the inmate community through accommodations with prison authorities in
some cases, and resistance to or subversion of the system in others. 

498. Apart from the obvious contrasts between the prison and the outside
community, there is one more feature that deserves special mention. One of the
objects, which we state as a political value, of Canadian society is the maximization of free choice. We largely think of our society as a framework with generous lawful
bounds, offering an almost infinite variety of alternatives to its citizens. Acting
autonomously, people in Canadian society can do more or less what they want with
their lives, talents and time. The growing up and educational processes are largely
devoted to giving individuals the confidence, balance and sense of inner discipline
that are necessary to learn to cope with freedom. 

499. In a prison, however, this is turned around. Given the preoccupation of
the system with regimentation, which it confuses with discipline, both the practical
and the conceptual approaches of our penology, thus limited, result not only in
prohibition of access to the wide variety of choices available to a free person, but also
in an intentional forced conformity to a pattern of behaviour that contains almost no
alternatives at all. In addition to the official restrictions, the inmate social order
further narrows the zone of permissible autonomous action.
500. The result is, in the incisive language of one inmate who privately
summed up with telling frankness observations made by a great many of our

“After five years in this place you get to be like a zombie or a robot. It’s
too late after that and even when a man gets out he’ll stand in front of an open door
waiting for someone to tell him it’s OK to walk through." 

501. In other words, penitentiaries, rather than strengthening the abilities of
inmates to make autonomous decisions—or, said another way, to handle freedom—
instead conduce to what might be called institutional dependency. This merely
weakens further whatever abilities an inmate had before incarceration, which in
most cases must have been less than satisfactory in the first place, to regulate his
own behaviour through appropriate choices in a free society. Other than temporary
removal of an offender from the community, at the taxpayer’s expense and punishment,
at which we succeed handsomely, the goals that we might wish to achieve
through imprisonment are impossible in penitentiaries as they now exist. Almost
everything that could conceivably be of any value either to inmates or anyone else is
lost in the internal contradictions of the system. 

502. We seem to have tried in our penitentiaries, all without success, fear,
manipulation, arbitrary action, naked power, unsavoury conditions, solitary confinement,
social and emotional deprivation, the rhetoric of rehabilitation and a whole
range of other approaches aimed at coercing, frightening, or driving individuals into
virtue. We have, in fact, tried almost everything except the system of incentives,
rewards and social structures developed by trial and error over millennia that
represent the most sophisticated insights available to mankind in the difficult task
of trying to coexist and work together in some semblance of productive and
mutually supportive harmony. We observe that the whole experience of humanity is
not something to be lightly disregarded. Nor should we be particularly surprised, as
the lesson of penitentiaries illustrates, at what happens when we do.

Substituting Work for Idleness 
503. We therefore propose that the Penitentiary Service adopt work and
socialization programs that are based on reformed concepts of incentive and reward
that most nearly approximate, within the practical physical limitations of the prison
setting, the approaches to community living that exist in the society to which inmates
must eventually return. 

504. The system, in order to prepare individuals for a return to the wider
society, must direct its efforts into such things as adequate and supportive counselling, realistic measures to enable development of good work habits and the creation
and maintenance of a social order within the prison that aims at creating emotional
stability, self-confidence, self-respect, and self-discipline. 

505. A prison that has not solved the problem of prison labour cannot be said
to be operating an institution of correction and reform. There is little chance of
reforming an inmate who, upon his release, is unwilling, unable, or unfit to accept
employment. In most cases, it is only by inspiring the inmate to pursue creative and
productive work habits that any lasting value will be obtained from the expense of
imprisoning him. 

506. We therefore believe that every inmate who is physically capable of
working should be required to work, and the situation in which large numbers spend
most, or perhaps all, of their time in enforced idleness should not be permitted. The
employment facilities in the institutions should, so far as possible, be designed to
meet the individual training needs of inmates and should duplicate the production
methods of industry in free society, so that an inmate, upon his release, will have a
reasonable hope of being a competitive member of the labour market. There should,
moreover, be a meaningful correlation between the amount of work done by an
inmate and the pay he receives. 

507. In 1914, a Royal Commission on Penitentiaries recommended the establishment
of an industrial workshop system in penitentiary institutions in order to
meet the material needs of the government. Moreover, the promotion of work
programs outside the walls for inmates was strongly supported. It was only in 1950
that a Committee of Ministers was established in order to develop, within government
agencies, an adequate market to absorb the products of penitentiary industries.
The positive results, brought about by that Committee, raised new problems: by
1970, penitentiary industry was responsible for the carrying out of 2000 small
contracts yearly. These related to 760 production lines for 1100 customers, including
government agencies and non-profit enterprises, producing brushes, boxes and other
items. This gave rise to undue pressure being brought to bear on instructors, in order
to control short production lines within workshops overcrowded with inmates, very
few of whom were actually working. 

508. Effective work is presently a principal aim of the C.P.S. However, in
addition to the more or less partial inactivity of the workshops in the maximum
security institutions, the Sub-Committee also noticed a lack of proper facilities inside
the workshops of the medium security penitentiaries. Although the inmates, the
penitentiary authorities and the P.S.A.C. agree unanimously on the necessity for a
complete work program for inmates, this has apparently not been realized during the
last decade.

 509. Few prisoners, even those working in the most productive workshops,
work the same number of hours as those in outside industry. Seldom do prisoners
work more than five hours a day and a few of them fail to work at all. The
Sub-Committee notes that it is impossible to teach normal working habits with such
a system. 

510. Penitentiary industries are too often exclusively directed towards maintenance
sectors rather than towards specialized sectors in demand on the outside
market. Even if it is obvious that the prisoners working at repairing postal bags or at
making brooms and brushes will learn certain skills, they are being trained towards
non-competitive jobs in the outside market.
Principle 13
Work is necessary for personal reformation. Idleness and boredom are among
the most destructive elements of prison life. A full working day, as near outside
normalcy as possible, should be mandatory for every inmate capable of working.
Wilful refusal to work without just cause should be treated as a disciplinary

511. Education or vocational training should qualify as work.

Institutional Maintenance 
512. It is inevitable that a portion of the inmate population of any institution
will have to be employed in institutional maintenance. This is necessary if we are to
keep the operational costs of our institutions as low as possible. There are, in any
case, inmates who, for one reason or another, are not suited to be employed in more
productive work. But the principles that apply in respect to industrial production and
vocational training should, whenever possible, also apply to this area of inmate
labour. It should be planned, organized and performed in a way that will provide a
certain amount of vocational training. Some tasks that are well suited to provide this
kind of training are: food service and preparation, storekeeping, clerical services,
mechanical services, plant maintenance and repair, laundry and janitorial services.
The skills required for these kinds of activities, while they are not all in great
demand in society, are all to a certain extent marketable. 

513. The number of inmates required for maintenance in an institution should
not, normally exceed 20% of the population. Where the number does exceed that
proportion, both efficiency and economy are reduced, for, when three or more
inmates are employed at a task that could be done equally well by one, the result is
poor work performance, waste of materials, and a general lowering of morale
amongst both inmates and staff. 

514. Inmate labour could also be used to a greater extent in minor construction
and repair work within the institution. This would result not only in a saving for
the Penitentiary Service in terms of labour costs, but would also provide more
meaningful work for inmates employed in institutional maintenance. The construction
of office partitions, painting and assorted similar tasks could very well be done
by these inmates. 

515. In all cases, inmates employed in maintenance work should be paid for
their labour at a rate proportionate to the amount of time and skill required by
whatever tasks they are performing. The pay should be enough to encourage the
inmate to do good work, and allow him a decent amount of pocket money to be spent
on amenities such as coffee and cigarettes and to put aside a decent amount to be
used upon his release. We also favor reducing the pay of an inmate who has shown
himself to be lax in the performance of his duties. 

Prison Industry 
516. Those inmates not engaged in institutional maintenance or vocational
training should be employed in prison industry. At present, those industries are not
producing at anything like their potential. In 1975, the gross production of all the
various shops in the Penitentiary Service totalled only $3,552,672. The inmate
population at that time, as of March 31, was 8,580. Subtracting the 20% suggested as
being the optimum number of inmates that should be engaged in institutional
maintenance, and the 15% engaged in vocational training, this would leave the
C.P.S. with a total potential work force of some 5,800 inmates. The fact that it took
so many to produce so little is ample proof that the C.P.S. has been woefully
inefficient in its handling of prison industry. 

517. The truth is, of course, that very few inmates in our federal institutions
are actually engaged in prison industry, and those that are, are not particularly well
motivated. It is in the interest of both the inmates and the Penitentiary Service to
improve the industrial program. But this cannot be done so long as penitentiaries
retain their present, outmoded means of production, nor while some inmates are paid
as little as seventy-five cents a day for their labour. If the industries are to function
with a degree of efficiency at least somewhat akin to that of industry in free society,
major changes in our approach to inmate labour must be made. 

518. As early as 1970, the Department of the Solicitor General responded to
the chronic state of inactivity of the inmates. This situation led in April 1973 to the
issuance of the Report on Prison Industries Re-Orientation prepared by the
Management Consulting Service. Of the seventeen recommendations in this report
most were accepted by the C.P.S. The recommendations included: 

—the necessity of simulating conditions similar to the outside economy; 
—the importance of an adequate salary for the inmates, according to their
skills, production and experience;
—the establishment of a remuneration system for overproduction, ranging from
group bonuses to accelerated deserved remission;
—a higher wage system for the other types of activities for those working in the

—the right of the workshop foreman to select his staff (pp. 58-60).

519. This report contains an inmate wage plan which would place inmate
wages near the minimum wage, and it stresses the necessity for the inmate to cover
the expenses incurred for him by the Government. We support these proposals.
Furthermore, Canadian penitentiary industries are compared unfavorably to the
U.S. system, where the industries are organized into state enterprises, whose profits
are used for the improvement of the already existing education programs. 

520. Even though the C.P.S. is now oriented towards the industrialization of
its enterprises and its workshops through profitable activities, which would provide
an acceptable profitability margin, the establishment of this system is nevertheless
very slow. The Sub-Committee underlines the necessity of implementing these
recommendations and notes that at present maximum security penitentiaries would
benefit most by the early adoption of this approach. 

521. There is a strong case to be made that penitentiaries should compete for
contracts on the open market. Only in this way can it be ensured that the Service will
develop and operate its industrial programs with the maximum attainable efficiency.
So long as the shops are restricted to producing goods for the exclusive use of other
government departments, the Service’s production methods will continue to be
unreliable and their products of inferior quality. While it is unlikely that the profits
arising from prison industry will ever be very high, the Service might be motivated to
make itself less of a liability to the government and, ultimately, the taxpayer. 

522. The suggestion that penitentiary industries should be allowed to compete
on the open market invariably meets with the objection that the result would be
unfair competition with private industry. This argument can, however, be countered.
If inmate pay were more in line with market labour rates, the argument based on the penitentiaries’ having an unfair advantage through "cheap” labour would lose its
force. Furthermore, there would be at most only some five to six thousand inmates
available for work in prison industry, so the effect on the labour market, which
presently numbers some ten million, would scarcely be noticeable. Both industry and
labour could, in fact, probably benefit from becoming substantially involved in the
program. The current project in the Maritimes in which Scott Paper of Canada is
using inmate tabour in forestry operations is an example of just how fruitful this kind
of co-operation can be. 

Experimentation and Pilot Projects 
532. Even if the C.P.S. already recognizes the principles we have enunciated,
the Sub-Committee notes that results are overdue. There is good reason for
accelerating the implementation of pilot projects as quickly as possible in all
institutions. Similar work programs are now in effect in several other countries like
Japan, Yugoslavia, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, and their positive results
have contributed to reducing violence in their institutions. 

533. The pilot project at the medium security institution at Joyceville employs
80 inmates. They must follow a training course for a period of six weeks and meet
the requirements of the private sector. The inmates receive from $1.25 to $2.80 an
hour, and must meet their social obligations including family needs. They work five
days a week and are liable to be discharged if their work is not satisfactory. Their
other activities take place in the evening or during the weekend. 

534. York University is currently making a project appraisal. The filing
cabinets and shelves produced by the inmates will be sold to the Federal Government
through the Department of Supply and Services. 

535. A similar experiment will be tried at Matsqui. 

536. The quality of the work and the enthusiasm of the inmates and the staff
assigned to the Wilderness Project at Matsqui Institution which was financially
supported by some inmates was most remarkable. This forestry project had a
corporation status which enabled the inmates to prepare for their future through

537. The activity resulted in the setting up of rules which apply to the inmates’
entrepreneurial activities that the C.P.S. supports. 

538. We have noted that several contracts have been awarded to the penitentiary
industries: $1,000,000 worth of equipment for the Post Office Department and
$8,000,000 worth of election equipment (boxes and booths) for the Nigerian

539. The Treasury Board has agreed to pay group bonuses to the inmates
working in essential services of some institutions. 

Vocational Training and Education 
540. At the present time, some 1,350 (or 15%) of the 9,158 inmates in our
penitentiaries are enrolled in vocational training courses. There is, however, concern
about the quality and applicability of some of the courses given. A complaint
commonly heard from ex-inmates is that the vocational training they received in our
institutions was in fact useless to them once they were released. Many of them found
that, after having taken courses in plumbing, carpentry and the like, their achievements
were not recognized as valid by outside employers, since the courses given to
them by the C.P.S. were either insufficient or outdated. 

541. The training is of insufficient quality, particularly if one compares it with
that given in the private sector, mainly because of the following factors: 

—Although the machinery is often expensive, the Sub-Committee found that it
is not comparable to that in outside industry. It is sufficient to meet the needs
of the institution but is unable to give competitive skills which will profit the
prisoners once released. 

—The workshops in maximum security institutions offer, in general, a limited
number of skills. Often, the initial choice of the field in which the prisoner
wants to specialize is ignored due to lack of options and the prisoner is forced
to learn a trade which does not interest him.

—The need for truly qualified instructors must be emphasized. 

—The co-ordination of learning activities in workshops with the length of
sentences has to be improved.
As an example, an inmate who becomes qualified as a welder after completing
a course, may find no outlet, either within the institution or through
parole, and spend the rest of his sentence “picking up garbage.” The reverse
can also be observed where an inmate who is paroled before completing his
course finds himself on the labor market without qualifications. 

542. Recognition by government organizations of the education received
within the institution, and of the hours of work done in order to obtain an
apprenticeship card for most of the skilled trades, is not ensured in all the
institutions. Some inmates had their course credits refused while others could get
only a qualification certificate, which has little value on the outside labor market. 

543. It is essential that an ex-inmate, if he is not to return to his criminal
pattern of behaviour, must be able to find suitable and desirable employment upon
his release. The Penitentiary Service must therefore take immediate steps to ensure
that the courses offered in its vocational programs are both of good quality and
relevant to the employment opportunities the inmate may be expected to encounter
in the region into which he will eventually be released. Close communication should
be maintained with various industries and labour unions so that the Service will be
well informed as to the requirements each demand of an employee. Follow-up
programs must be initiated to determine the effectiveness of institutional training
programs, so that the Service will have some indication as to which programs are
working successfully and which ones should be abandoned as failures. 

544. Vocational training can also be of use to the operation of prison industry,
by providing trained personnel for employment in the shops. The training programs
should therefore be designed, to a certain extent, to complement the industrial
program being carried out at the institution. This would have the advantage of
allowing the inmate who has completed his training course to be actively engaged at
the job for which he is being prepared. The inmate, upon his release, will then have
not only his vocational training to his credit, but a considerable amount of working
experience as well. 

Recommendation 42 

The training given in workshops should be monitored by official representatives
of outside trade groups, and the penitentiary system should direct itself towards
the production of things in demand. Arrangements should be made with the
provinces for apprenticeship programs and licencing or certification.
Inmates should not, incidentally, be required to do work for staff members without
being properly reimbursed according to the prison scale. 

545. Regarding education, some Canadian high schools, community colleges
and universities have undertaken impressive efforts to provide basic and advanced
academic training to inmates. The Sub-Committee heard from an inmate at Drumheller
Institution who had successfully completed a B.A. program while serving his
sentence. He found it to be the key to his reformation. Four months after appearing
before the Sub-Committee he was hired as part of the teaching staff of a local

546. These programs should be sustained and encouraged. Where they do not
now exist or are inadequate, the Penitentiary Service should take positive steps to
remedy the situation, enlisting the aid and co-operation of the educational officials in
every community near a penitentiary. 

547. The Sub-Committee realizes that some academic courses, e.g., those
requiring laboratory work cannot often be made available in penitentiaries, but no
barrier should be placed in the way of any inmate who wishes to take correspondence

Recommendation 43 

Academic education and trades training must be provided. Every inmate who so
wishes should be allowed to follow correspondence courses. 

– Mark MacGuigan, Chairman, Report to Parliament of The Sub-Committee on the Penitentiary System in Canada & Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. Second Session of the Thirtieth Parliament, 1976-77. pp. 103-112.

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“Because so many of the labor positions had
been converted to technical ones, there was in this early period a constant
labor shortage. In 1961 H.B. Heeney was approached by the authorities at the
Kingston Peniteniary to see if they could set up an arrangement whereby they
would supply the station with daily prison labor in return for some of the
surplus produce from the experimental tree fruit, small fruit and vegetable
trials. For a 2-year period prisoners were transported daily from Kingston to
Smithfield. This arrangement supplied approximately eight field hands from 9
a.m. to 4 p.m. from 15 May to 15 October. After 2-years, the Department of the
Solicitor General requested and received permission to set up a trailer camp on
the Smithfield property in which they housed 10 prisoners, a cook, and two custodial
officers from the medium security facility at Joyceville, Ont. The camp was
established from a period 15 May to 1 November each year from 1963 to 1968. The
trailer camp was dismantled in 1968, and after that time assistance was
obtained on a daily basis from the Warkworth Institution north of Smithfield.
The program was finally dropped in 1972. The type of labor supplied by this
program was not fully adequate and was often frustrating to the technical and
labor crew at Smithfield. However, because the station had access to the labor,
it was possible to expand some programs at Smithfield and to continue others
for a longer time. The loss of this source of labor in 1972 made it necessary
to drop much of the small fruit program conducted at Smithfield at that time.”


H.B. Heeney and S.R. Miller, Smithfield Experimental Farm, 1944-1985

Historical series / Research Branch, Agriculture Canada no. 26. Ottawa: Agriculture Canada, 1986. pp. 29-30.

Top three photographs show inmates working at Smithfield Experimental Farm, c. 1961. Bottom is scan of custodial officer daily routine diary from Smithfield, 1964.

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“MAINE runs on tourists. In the basement of The Showroom, which is approximately 11 miles from the prison in Warren, I’m surrounded by rows of shelved inventory: toy boats with a gleam, a gumball machine shaped like a shocked clown, boxes of lobster trap keychains painted neon pink. The state’s motto, “Vacationland,” is written on picture frames. “The earnestness of the work shines through and the prices can’t be beat,” Travel + Leisure magazine wrote about The Showroom in a January 2015 guide to vacationing in Maine. On what the vacationer should purchase, they decide that the ultimate souvenir is a T-shirt that reads: Stolen from the Maine State Prison.

On Yelp, a customer from The Showroom named Alison rates the place five out of five stars. Other customers seem to agree: the prices are great. Vacationers want to find prices lower than anywhere else; they want a bargain that’s also a little taste of Maine. And it’s a program, they’re told, that “wants to put people back to work.” Americans want to vacation, but most of all they want to pretend to consume benevolently.Although I was told that the day-to-day work for MDOC Industries is determined by The Showroom’s needs, almost every prisoner I visit in the woodshop during April and November 2016 worked on a project commissioned by the state, city, county, or a private business or individual. One customer sent in photographs of their boat to have the prisoners make models; they would be given away as gifts. A stack of large signs to be hung in a public park were being sanded and finished. Buoy-shaped trophies were drying after being primed. In a few weeks, they would be bestowed upon winners at a race.
Maine Governor Paul LePage’s desk was being turned over for its second re-finishing. In the bottom of its drawer, all of the governors before him had left their signatures in pen and Sharpie.

On a few occasions I was told that The Showroom brings in around one million annually—a common figure often quoted in local papers—but that isn’t accurate. For the fiscal year of 2015, The Showroom generated $2,015,178, which is $24,569 more than 2014 profits, which were $78,345 more than 2013 profits. Many of the salaries for staff working within MDOC Industries come directly from The Showroom’s profits. And yet, because of low wages and the nature of the work, the prison often sees reductions to its official staff, which means there are many days and weeks when the shop is closed or significantly fewer prisoners are put to work.”

– Chelsea Hogue, “Hidden Costs,” The New Inquiry. August 28, 2017.

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