Posts Tagged ‘prisoners of war’

Photographs of the Sparta, Michigan, Prisoner of War Camp in 1944. Source.

“The Sentinel Leader, the local newspaper in Sparta, wrote in their weekly paper about the upcoming events: “Sparta being the center of labor needs was chosen as the suitable site to erect the camp” [2, 1944]. By early September, a winterized camp was set up in downtown Sparta adjacent to the usual hustle and bustle of the small town. The POW’s were paid 10 cents a day for working a 7-5 day Monday through Friday in the orchards. Escape was not a fear for the keepers of the prisoners and many stated that “it’s not the guards or snow fence that keeps us in- it’s the Atlantic Ocean” [7,pg 3]. The prisoners created their own system of discipline with intervention of outsiders was rare.”

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A Gurkha sentry oversees the disarming of Japanese prisoners on their way to POW camps outside Bangkok/September 1945.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thomas Rowlandson, French Prisoners at Canterbury, the Norman Staircase.

Pen and grey and reddish-brown ink with watercolour over traces of graphite on wove paper, c. 1808-1813. 

European and American Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Canada. 


Purchased 1960. Accession number 7777

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“Hun Prisoner Killed In Wreck; Two More Hurt,” Sudbury Star. January 25, 1919. Page 01.

Two Injured Are in St. Joseph’s Hospital – Train Jumped Track.

Paul Stehr, a German prisoner of war, was instantly killed, and F. Hiemenich, another prisoner, and Pte. Gorge Hawkey, of Portland, Ontario, had their legs injured, and a score of other prisoners and guards had narrow escapes from more or less serious injury about two o’clock on Wednesday afternoon when a work train on the C.N.O. Railway left the rails near Stackpool. Five cars went over a ten foot embarkment into the ditch. The dead man and the two injured ones were in a car which turned on its side and dragged quite a distance before the train was brought to a standstill. Three other men in the car escaped without a scratch. The two injured men are in St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Were Hurrying to Wreck
The work train was part of what is known at Kapuskasing Camp as a railway detail, and the men were being hurried to a wreck near Capreol when the accident happened. The train was running at a fair rate of speed, and twenty-five cars suddenly left the track, five near the rear end taking to the ditch. The car in which the dead man and injured were riding suddenly turned on its side, the boxes and barrels in it being thrown about. Stehr was thrown out the side door, closely followed by Guard Hawkey. Stehr was pinned under the side of the car, it being necessary to raise the car with jacks to release the body.

Hawkey Dragged Thirty Feet.
Hawkey was more fortunate. Some of the boxes in the car went out the door ahead of him, and when the car turned on its side these boxes were under, preventing the weight of the car from catching the prostate man. He was dragged about thirty feet, but the only injured he sustained was to one of his legs.

The other men were in cars which left the rails but did not go over the embankment. They were merely shaken up as the train bumped along over the ties.

Huns Were Sailors
It was learned today that the German Stehr has been an interned man since shortly after the war started. He was taken off a German liner in New York and first taken to Kingston and interned at Fort Henry. He was later transferred to Kapuskasing. Deceased was thirty-six years of age. The body is at Henry’s morgue.

Heminich it is claimed, was one of the crew of the German steamer Navarra, which was captured by the British early in the war. He also has spent time at Kingston and Kapuskasing with the rest. He was under close guard at the hospital today and it was impossible to get any information from him.

Pte. Hawkey is a native of Portland, near Kingston, where he has been a guard, but more latterly has been stationed at Kapuskasing. Pte. D. J. James, of Paris, Ont., doing duty as guard at St. Joseph’s Hospital in charge of the prisoner Hemmich, was also in the wreck, but escaped uninjured.

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“Prisoner Of War Shot At Capreol,” Sudbury Star. January 4, 1919. Page 01.

Was Attempting to Escape From Work Gang When Shot by Guard – Inquiry by Military Com.

A military commission, comprising Major Young, Major Rorke and Captain Walker, from the headquarters of Military District No. 2 Toronto, held an inquiry on Thursday at Capreol concerning the shooting of a prisoner of war at that town on Tuesday. The commission returned to Toronto Friday evening, where a report will be made to the military authorities.

Attempting to Escape.
The facts as far as can be learned are that a German man named Rebus Karl, member of a gang of war prisoners engaged in the Canadian Northern Railway yards, with six others of the gang, attempted to escape. The guard in charge of them blew a whistle and shouted to them to come back. Six answered the summons to halt, but Karl continued on the run and shots were fired by the guard, a bullet entering the back of the fugitive and piercing his heart. Death was instantaneous. It was stated that for some time there was dissatisfaction among the aliens at work in the yards, the attempt to escape being apparently deliberately planned.

The body of the prisoner was brought to Sudbury by Guard Corporal J. L. Farrell, and it is now at Henry’s undertaking parlors. A post mortem and inquest may be held in a few days by Coroners Patterson and Torrington, when the result of the commission’s finding is made known.

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“Koje is Blasted, Subdued,” LIFE. June 23, 1952. Pages 29-31.

Photos and stories about the Communist insurrection / POW rebellion inside the 

Geoje-do prison camp (Korean: 거제도 포로수용소) in 1952. The main focus is the fanaticism of the Communist prisoners and the incomptence of the US prison authorities.

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