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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.»

Read Full Post »

“Les jours de grande violence sont-ils
révolus dans les prisons canadiennes?” La Presse. September 5, 1979. Page I-1.

par Gérard McNEIL

de la Presse Canadienne

Un Canadien sur 1,000 se trouvera,
cette année, dans l’une des
prisons municipales ou provinciales
du Canada ou dans un pénitencier
fédéral.

Et beaucoup réagiront comme
Gilbert Rondeau quand il a passé
dix jours dans une prison provinciale
du Québec le printemps
dernier.

Député aux Communes, de
1962 à sa d éfaite aux élections
générales du 22 mai, R ondeau
était fervent partisan de la rigueur
envers les condamnés. La
prison a modifié ses idées.

«C’est une vraie maison de fous,
déclara l’homme âgé de 51 ans
trouvé coupable de fraude. C’est
un système cancéreux que l’on
veut correctif mais qui ne corrige
absolument rien»

Beaucoup de prisonniers seraient
d’accord avec Rondeau.
Les conditions intérieures ne
sont pas adaptées à la dissuasion
ni à la réhabilition. Beaucoup de
prisons sont surpeuplées avec
des installations désuètes. 

Et, ce qui est peut-être plus
important

— du moins pour les

prisonniers

ces établissements symbolisent un avenir
sans espoir.

Souvent cette situation provoque
la violence entre prisonniers,
et entre prisonniers et
gardes. Toutefois, on a lieu de
croire que les jours de grande
violence, les jours vraim ent
m auvais de 1975 et 1976, sont
révolus. Cela peut dépendre du
gouvernement fédéral progressiste-conservateur. 

Vers le calme?

Les spécialistes pensent que si
le gouvernement met en vigueur
la législation recommandée en
1977 par un sous-comité parle ­
mentaire, les incidents graves
seront rares.

De fait, leur nombre a passablement
décru au cours des années
1970, les prisonniers attendant
quelles réformes le gouvernement
instituerait par suite des
recommandations du sous-comité
parlementaire.

En 1976, les détenus menaçaient de détruire le système
pénal en causant de lourds
dommages à trois pénitenciers
fédéraux à sécurité maximum:
Laval au Québec, Millhaven en
Ontario et en Colombie-Britannique.
En 1975 et 1976, il y eut dans
les institutions fédérales 69 incidents
graves dont 35 au cours
desquels les prisonniers prirent
92 otages.

L’an dernier ainsi qu’au cours
du premier semestre de 1979, il
n’y eut que deux événements
qualifiés de graves et, par comparaison
avec ceux du passé, ils
furent bénins.

«Ce que nous considérons
maintenant m ajeur aurait été
ju g é m ineur il y a quelques a n ­
nées», a déclaré M. Howard
Mansfield, principal analyste de
la sécurité du système fédéral.

Après les désordres de 1976, la
sous-comité parlementaire trouve
le système pénitentiaire en
état de crise, sa direction
«épaisse» et inefficace, les gardes
brutaux et sans surveillance,
et les détenus furieux.

Inaction
officielle


Les 13 membres du sous-comité,
représentant les quatre
grands partis aux Communes,
recommandèrent à l’unanimité
65 réformes dont plusieurs ne
sont pas encore en vigueur.

Mais le rapport du sous-comité
est devenu une sorte de bible qui
a enseigné aux détenus comment
le systèm e fonctionne et comment
il devrait fonctionner. Ce
qui importe davantage, il leur a
donné espoir. Ils semblent compter
moins sur la violence et da ­vantage sur la publicité.

D’une série d’interviews de la
Presse Canadienne avec des forçats,
d’anciens bagnards et des
fonctionnaires d’institutions
pénitentiaires, il ressort que l’insuffisance
de la formation de
gardes, les longues périodes
d’ennui et la pauvreté des installations
demeurent les principaux
problèmes.

On semble d’accord que si l’on
ne modifie pas le système pénitentiaire,
il y aura d’autres actes
de violence, d’autres soulèvements.

Mais on n’est pas d’accord sur
la question de savoir si les conditions
se sont améliorées depuis
que l’on a donné suite à quelques

recommandations du sous-comité.

A en croire un ancien forçat de
Laval, le vieux pénitencier malfamé de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul à
Montréal, il y aurait là plus de
répression que jamais et davantage
de tentatives de suicide.
Toutefois, les institutions du
Québec ne constituent pas un
microcosme du système pénal
du Canada. La violence y sévit
plus que partout ailleurs et des
détenus soutiennent que les gardes
sont promis en raison de leur
brutalité.

Les gardes

Un fonctionnaire de Millhaven
dit que les gardes reçoivent
maintenant une meilleure formation
et que les conditions sont
meilleures. Un autre prétend
qu’il reste des gardes très durs
envers les détenus.

A Stony Mountain au Manitoba,
on a formé un groupe de
«living unit officers» (agent vivant
sur place) chargés de rendre
la vie plus tolérable pour les
détenus. Ces gardes ne portent
pas d’uniforme, ils sont en permanence
affectés aux cellules et
conseillent les prisonniers. Des
fonctionnaires louent l’efficacité
de cette mesure; d’autres la
nient.

«C’est une farce, dit un ba ­gnard. Autrefois, ces gens
étaient des gardes norm aux de
tous les jours.

«Et tout à coup on en fait des
conseillers sans qu’ils aient reçu
de formation».

Un fait que l’on ne conteste
pas. C’est que l’autorité pénale
semble écouter davantage les
prisonniers.

«Je pense que l’on profite davantage de la correspondance,
dit M. Mansfield. Les détenus
reçoivent maintenant une réponse,
et qui n ’est pas cavalière».

Quand un prisonnier est accusé
d’un délit, c’est un président
indépendant et non plus seulement
le sous-directeur qui écoule
sa version. On a encouragé la
formation de comités de prisonniers
et de citoyens qui souvent
s’efforcent ensemble de corriger
une situation qui, dans le passé,
aurait donné lieu à un affrontement.

Le «commissaire correctionnel»
Howard Yeomans n’est pas
spécialiste des prisons mais s’y
connaît en administration. Il
exige des rapports suivis et,
dans une certaine mesure, a mis
de l’ordre dans ce qui était un
fouillis.

Formation
inutile


Depuis nombre d’années, les
prisons fédérales avaient des
programmes de formation mais
il a fallu l’enquête du sous-comité
en 1976 pour qu’on sache que
les certificats remis aux prisonniers
ne les aidaient nullement à
obtenir un emploi.

Les cours de métier qu’on leur
dispense sont maintenant reconnus
par les provinces, ce qui
donne aux prisonniers libérés la
chance de trouver du travail.

Le Parlement a amendé la loi
des libertés conditionnelles pour
rendre la vie plus dure aux prisonniers
dont la libération est
annulée. A l’intérieur du système,
on a formé deux unités spéciales
l’une à Millhaven et l’autre
à Montréal.

Quiconque prend un otage,
s’évade ou comme et un acte de
violence en prison se retrouve
dans cet unité pour au moins dix
mois.

Il y est enfermé 19 heures par
jour avec un appareil de télé
comme seule distraction. Les
cellules ont trois murs d ’acier et
un en béton. Elles sont éclairées
24 heures par jour.

Un prisonnier de Milhaven
s’est crevé les yeux dans l’espoir
qu ’on le renverrait aux Etats-Unis
et qu’il y obtiendrait la libération
conditionnelle. Il sera libéré
mais il est aveugle d’un oeil
et voit à peine de l’autre.

L’oisiveté

A la prison de Winnipeg, deux
prisonniers se sont suicidés
après huit mois de réclusion
dans des cellules ressemblant à
des alcôves avec des toilettes à
la vue de tous. Comme dans la
plupart des prisons, ils n’avaient
rien à faire.

Il semble que les installations
physiques, le désespoir et un
ennui mortel portent au suicide
dans les prisons. D’après l’Association
canadienne des libertés
civiques, le taux des suicides
chez les prisonniers est 12 fois
plus élevé que dans le public en
général.

Directeurs, gardes et prisonniers
s’inquiètent du nombre
croissant des condamnés à un
minimum de 25 ans pour meurtre
au premier degré et à un minimum
de 10 à 25 ans pour meurtre
au second degré.

Plus de 1,000 prisonniers croupissent
en prison pour avoir tué
et depuis 1976 une centaine s’y
trouvent en principe pour 25 ans,
ne pouvant être libérés avant le
21e siècle.

D’après des fonctionnaires, vingt-cinq ans dans n’importe
quelle prison rend inapte à quoi
que ce soit quand on est finalement
libre.

Un porte-parole de la John
Howard Society, à Kingston, a
dit: «Un système pénitentiaire
est un milieu où un certain nombre
de forces s’opposent à d’autres…
C’est pourquoi nous recommandons
des institutions
plus petites où les gens (le personnel
et les prisonniers) peuvent
communiquer de l’un à l’autre».

Read Full Post »

“Laval penitentiary has long history of violence,” Montreal Gazette. August 28, 1980. Page 04.

The Laval Institute, where late last night nine prisoners were still holding 11 hostages, has often been the site of prison violence.

The history of the 107-year-old prison, formerly known as St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary, is dotted with riots, hostage-takings, escapes, suicides and murders of both prisoners and guards.

In the last four years alone there have been five hostage-takings, including the current one. The most recent occurred last February when three prisoners, armed with ice picks, held three guards hostage for eight hours.

The hostage-takings have all been resolved without violence, but in other incidents several guards have been attacked by prisoners, and one guard has been killed.

In July, 1978, prison guard Guy Fournier was shot and killed as five inmates made an escape attempt. One prisoner was killed in the incident and the other four were recaptured within weeks. They are currently serving life sentences, with no opportunity for parole before 25 years.

Conditions at the Institution, which has housed approximately 200,000 inmates during the last century, has been called deplorable by prisoners, politicians and prisoners’ rights groups. 

The prison has been condemned by at least three royal commissions of inquiry and one government subcommittee.

A 1977 report by the federal sub-committee that examined Canada’s penitentiary system called the institution uninhabitable and said it should be ‘demolished and rebuilt.’ 

But the report did nothing to lessen the violence there.

In September, 1978, for example, 29-year-old inmate Roland Simard, a known associate of Edgar Roussel, one of the prisoners involved in the current hostage-taking, wounded two guards with a home-made knife.

Simard, who was serving two life terms for murder, got another year for the attacks.

But during his trial several other inmates testified that guards in the solitary confinement unit where Simard was being held harassed him by restricting his food and taunting him for about a month before the incident. 

Over the years, prisoners’ protests of conditions in the jail have ranged from hunger strikes to suicides to riots.

Earlier this summer, seven prisoners from the solitary confinement unit slit their wrists in the prison exercise yard to protest conditions in the unit.

Two were hospitalized and the others were treated in the prison infirmary. Authorities used tear gas as they cleared the exercise yard.

Four years ago almost 300 inmates went on an hour-long spreed, smashing sinks and toilets, setting bedding and mattresses afire and breaking windows. Approximately $500,000 worth of damage was done, but no one was injured.

And in 1962 Laval was the scene of the worst prison riot in Canadian history. Several inmates were killed in a riot that destroyed almost 400 cells and cost more than $3 million in damage.

Read Full Post »

“Constructive Action Required,” Globe and Mail Editorial, July 14, 1948. Page 06.

The second riot at Burwash Industrial Farm in less than a year, following a violent disturbance in the Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women, and now the trouble at Guelph Reformatory, all strongly emphasize the difficulties of administering this type of institution. Obviously, nobody likes being in jail, and there could seldom be noted a general spirit of contentment among the inmates. Nevertheless, experience has shown that conditions in a penal institution are generally poor before mischief-making leadership is able to create trouble. The climax of the outbreak ordinarily comes after a long period of increasing frustration, and represents a degree of desperation. By then, consequences have become insignificant in comparison with the conditions being endured.

The administration of a system of jails and reformatories, therefore, requires a particular sort of person with a high degree of competition. He should be a man who is able to lay down a clear and practical policy, and be certain that it is being carried out. He should be at once stern and kindly; wise in his understanding of human nature, and discerning in his judgement. Above all, he should know his job, and the complex problems of running institutions which are both punitive and reformative, to the end that those who have broken the law will be aware of the penalty, and at the same time desirous of leading a more constructive life upon release.

Despite the disturbances which have taken place recently, we have confidence in the officials of the Department of Reform Institutions, and in their capacity to deal with the situation. Their reputation and experience is substantial, and they are held in respect even by those who have had just cause to be critical of the Ontario prison and reformatory system. Numerous innovations and improvements have been put into effect in many aspects of the system, and the Ontario Plan for reformative institutions has been widely studied.

It is evident, however, that further reforms of a sweeping nature are overdue. Too little attention has been paid to salaries which will attract the right type of person into this important work. There has been an indication that personnel policies are erratic and even unjust. The discipline among prisoners cannot be maintained if morale is not present in the staff. These problems are basically administrative and the public expects the Government to take constructive action before further trouble develops. It is essential that the department’s officials be able to justify the progressive policies they have fostered through their consistent application in all parts of the system.

Read Full Post »

“Three Outbreaks in Less Than Three Weeks Is Record of These Ontario Institutions,” Toronto Star. July 13, 1948. Page 02.

6 Outbreaks in 3 Years in Three Reformatories

Six serious outbreaks of trouble have occured in the past three years at three of the reform institutions administered by the Ontario government. Two incidents were at Burwash, three at the Ontario reformatory at Guelph, and one last month at Mercer reformatory for women in Toronto.

Following are the dates:

July 18, 1945 – Three guards injured at Guelph during outbreak of trouble among inmates. Hon. George Dunbar, minister of reform institutions, blamed it on small potatoes served inmates.

July 12, 1946 – Donald Parks, 18-year-old orphan, killed by guards attempting to escape from Guelph.

Oct. 2, 1947 – Riot of 124 inmates at Camp No. 1 Burwash. Five prisoners escaped.

March 10, 1948 – Dr. Stuart Jaffary, school of social science, University of Toronto, reported on investigation he made into Burwash riot. He made 13 recommendations for improving conditions, and said that responsibolity for the Octobver riot ‘is clearly on the administration and not n the inmates.’

June 25, 1948 – 100 girls at Mercer reformatory stage riot by throwing dishes and using chair legs to hit Toronto police officers called to quell disturbance. Trouble continued for several days.

June 28, 1948 – Riot at Camp No. 2 at Burwash. Tear gas used. Hunger strike by inmates.

July 12, 1948. – Trouble at Guelph reformatory. Tear gas used. 311 inmates kept under close guard in yard.

Image captions (from top left to right):

Mercer, June 25 – 100 Girls Riot, Protest Treatment;
Burwash, June 28 – Tear Gas Used on Hunger Strikers;
Guelph, July 12 – Tear Gas Used, Over 300 Refuse to Work;
For the Third Time In Three Years, Guelph Reformatory, seen from the air, has Trouble

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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