Posts Tagged ‘reform vs. reaction in prison management’

“Guards Use Tear Gas: Reformatory Riot Follows Open House,” The Globe and Mail. September 25, 1962. Pages 01 & 12.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Guelph, Sept. 24 – The first open house in history at the Ontario Reformatory here last weekend affected about 30 inmates today – they rioted.

Superintendent Charles Sanderson said some disturbance usually follows any unusual program, such as the open house that attracted more than 10,000 persons to the institution.

The prisoners were subdued within 15 minutes after guards pumped large quantities of tear gas into the dining room. There was considerable damage, but no injuries were reported.

Mr. Sanderson said the prisoners did not attempt to leave the dining room, but smashed crockery and windows. They were removed to a prison yard after the outbreak and more than 350 inmates eating in an adjoining room were also removed for safety.

There had been a couple of incidents in the dormitories during the weekend that led him to expect trouble, the superintendent said, ‘but I didn’t expect anything as serious as this.’

About 30 inmates overturned and broke about 25 windows Saturday night and there were a couple of fights between prisoners, Mr. Sanderson said. One guard received a broken nose attempting to break up one fight.

‘Their fun involves vandalism,’ the superintendent added.

About 15 men involved in the dormitory disturbances were today transferred to the maximum security at Millbrook.

The men in the large dining room were brought back into the building just before 5 p.m. They had been confined in a prison yard since noon.

About 250 men who were in the small dining room remained in another room.

Mr. Sanderson said the 250 inmates of the reformatory will spend the night in the prison yard and will not be given any food until morning.

‘It is unfortunate that we have to leave all the men out because we are not yet sure who all the troublemakers are,’ he said.

The staff at the reformatory was doubled in strength tonight with about 80 men on duty. Guards are watching from rooftops and other locations with tear-gas guns ready.

Mr. Sanderson said that it was the prompt use of the tear gas that prevented the trouble from becoming more serious.

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“Alcatraz of Canada Groups Troublemakers Behind High Walls,” The Globe and Mail. September 11, 1962. Page 04.

Globe and Mail Reporter

Millbrook, Sept. 10 – They call Millbrook Reformatory the Alcatraz of Canada.

Behind the 20-foot brick wall are 150 prisoners living a regimented life that they leave only when they finish their terms or change their behauviour.

There have been successful or even near-successful escapes from Millbrook in its five years as a maximum security institution. Here are housed the troublemakers of the Ontario corrections system.

A visitor to Millbrook might be impressed by its efficiency, its cleanliness, even its meals. It doesn’t give the impression of tough, steel and stone Big House where defiant men are broken.

‘It doesn’t seem so tough for an ordinary law-abiding citizen,’ said Millbrook’s superintendent, J. M. Marsland, ‘but the prisoners here are essentially manipulators who all their lives have tried to adapt situations to their own advantage. Here, they can’t. This is the most frustrating experience of their lives.’

To Millbrook are sent men from other Ontario reformatories, men who have repeatedly caused trouble, instigated disturbances, or have gotten fellow prisoners into trouble.

Here also are sent drug addicts and sex deviants who are kept in groups so they will not spread their habits to younger and more impressionable inmates in other reformatories.

No maximum security prison in Canada or the United States is more modern than Millbrook, its superintendent says. Prisoners are escorted everywhere by guards. Cell and block doors are electrically controlled by other guards sitting in bulletproof glass booths.

They work together, have recreation and exercise periods together, but eat in their own cells. Because they spend much of their time alone, Millbrook prisoners have time to think about their lives and their crimes.

When a man reaches Millbrook, he spends two weeks in a reception cell during which time he sees only reformatory staff, doctors and psychologists. From then on, he gets privileges as he earns them by good behavior.

He can forfeit his privileges by loafing, failing to obey prison rules or acting up. For repeated infractions, a prisoner can earn a period of solitary confinement.

This is why criminals call Millbrook the Alcatraz of Canada, and this is why Millbrook produces some model inmates.

‘Of course, we’re not as interested in producing model inmates as we are in producing model citizens,’ Mr. Marsland emphasized.

Consequently, prisoners are encouraged to work in one of the shops at the reformatory: the laundry, tailor shop, or license-plate plant. There it is possible to learn skills that could lead to a good job when the inmate finishes his sentence.

A prisoner can also get psychological help  and, in the case of a drug addict, help in curing him of his addiction.

By demonstrating that his attitude has changed, a prisoner can earn a transfer to an institution where discipline and security are more relaxed.

Not everyone in Millbrook is able to accept the reformatory’s way of life. One prisoner collected the hems off blankets, wove them into a rope, and wound it around his waist in preparation for the day he could weight one end, toss it over the wall, and climb to freedom.

‘He wouldn’t have made it anyway,’ said Mr. Marsland. ‘The rope was discovered in a routine frisking prisoners undergo regularly.’

The only organized disturbance since Millbrook was established came shortly after Mr. Marsland arrived as superintendent three years ago.

‘They were testing me,’ he said. A group of prisoners refused to enter their cells to eat. The superintendent, an ex-Royal Air Force fighter and bomber pilot, told the men the strictest disciplinary measures would be taken if they did not go to their cells. They went.

Actually, Millbrook inmates have little cause for complaint. They know ahead of time that it’s tough and are prepared for it. They can’t object to the discipline, and there is no reason to complain about the food, accommodation or clothing.

One prisoner, however, has a decided aversion to life in the institution where all the inmates wear blue denim. Currently confined to the prison hospital, and likely to remain there until his sentence is finished, he lounges quietly in bed counting the days. His sickness: Blue denim allergy.

Caption: Millbrook prisoners line up to leave license-plate plant while guards watch (left). They are searched, then go to cells.

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“On August 21, the prisoners at the Central Nova provincial jail in Burnside launched a peaceful protest, in solidarity with a nationwide prisoner strike in the United States, to call for basic improvements in health care, rehabilitation, exercise, visits, clothing, food, air quality and library access. The protest is ongoing.

East Coast Prison Justice Society stands in support of the Burnside prisoners’ efforts to alert the public to their urgent concerns. These concerns speak to ongoing gaps between provincial correctional practices and the fundamental human rights accorded to prisoners under both domestic and international law.

Among the concerns identified by the prisoners is lack of access to health care, including for serious mental or physical illness. This is an ongoing crisis at the Burnside jail compromising the lives and safety of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. Lack of programming responsive to addictions and other problems directly relevant to criminalization and community re-integration is another urgent issue that the prisoners have legitimately brought forward.

A disproportionate proportion of provincial and federal prisoners are Indigenous or Black. Most are poor. Many struggle with addictions and mental health problems. A full 57 percent of those held in provincial correctional facilities in Nova Scotia are awaiting trial and therefore are presumed innocent. Some are held for months or even years prior to trial. All of these prisoners experience serious threats to their health and safety in our provincial facilities.

The provincial auditor general has been highly critical of Nova Scotia corrections for its failure to comply with Department of Justice policy, including policies on the authorization and review of solitary confinement. The auditor general has recommended adoption of quality assessment processes to identify systemic problems before major incidents occur. That recommendation is consistent with the federal government’s stated intention to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture, which requires domestic processes for inspecting places of confinement. This is one of many measures required in order to address the problems that the Burnside prisoners have raised.

The prisoners at Burnside have shown a willingness to find common ground with staff, who similarly want better conditions including improved access to health and programming for prisoners. Through this peaceful protest, the Burnside prisoners have invited the province to show that it is listening.

We ask the ministers of Justice and Health: How do they propose to show that they are listening? How do they propose to demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that conditions of confinement are improved to meet basic human rights standards?

East Coast Prison Justice Society encourages government to publicly commit to a set of concrete measures through which it will respond to the concerns of the prisoners at Burnside and throughout the province.”

– East Coast Prison Justice Society, “As prisoners protest, is the province listening?The Coast, September 5, 2018.

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This column was written by an inmate at Burnside jail, as told to prisoner advocate El Jones. The writer’s name has been withheld to ensure his personal safety, and to protect the identity of his children.

A comment I heard on CBC Radio recently, made by someone who had been sentenced time and time again to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, resonated deeply with me:

“This facility gets worse and worse every time I come back.”

Another brother stated, “When you’re housed in this facility to be rehabilitated but instead you’re warehoused like merchandise, your government has failed you.”

The truth in these comments is real to me, even though it’s my first time being incarcerated. I personally feel that the public should be very much concerned with what has taken place inside the Burnside jail, because it is they, as taxpayers, who keep these doors open.

“Rehabilitation” and “transparency” are two words that should never be used in describing this facility. The bare necessities required for a healthy and productive life aren’t being provided here. Every time you can’t get a towel, a change of clothes, or a pair of shoes your size — “your government has failed you,” as my friend said.

Conditions at Burnside

Last Sunday, as we listened to callers to CBC tell us that we don’t deserve breathable air because if you “do the crime, you do the time,” three new people came onto our range without clothes, shoes or a towel to even take a shower. People have been assigned to this range without a change of underwear, or a mattress and without even a radio to pass the time.

It’s hard to even get a Tylenol, never mind medical treatment. I’ve seen people with diabetes and asthma not get the medication they need. If you don’t believe us about the conditions in here, you should believe the auditor general’s reports, or even what staff who work here have been saying.

There hasn’t been any programing for months, and we’ve been locked down for 23 hours per day. We are guaranteed time outside in accordance with the Corrections Act, but it only seems to matter to people that you get punished for breaking the rules when it’s our rights that are being violated.

We must also keep in mind that the majority (around two-thirds) at Burnside are here on remand. They, in the eyes of the law, are innocent until proven guilty. And those who are here who have been sentenced, well, they then have been sent to Burnside as punishment, not for punishment.

Our children are certainly innocent, and yet they can go years without even touching us, because they have to visit us behind glass. Most people don’t let their children go through that.

We are still human beings.

This is why we at Burnside are engaged in a peaceful protest. Through it, we hope to spread awareness of our plight, and raise the voices of the voiceless through solidarity with the communities we’ve come from, as well as activists who hear our call for dignity and constitutionally appropriate treatment.

We are making sure that nobody is confrontational with the guards because we want this to remain peaceful. Since August 19, when we released our statement, no one on the range has received a single disciplinary infraction. We are keeping ourselves calm and ordered because we want our non-violent message to be carried by those outside in solidarity with us.

Getting eyes on Burnside

The old ways of conversation, complaints, petitions and negotiations no longer work, and we want to avoid the violence of past protests. In those cases, people might refuse lock up, or damage property, but our protest is principled.

Through our outside support network, we decided to take a different approach, which has gained national and global attention. Right now, across the country, a lot of eyes are on Burnside — perhaps more than ever before — and so before the next “hot” news hits the papers, and the attention shifts to the next “hot” story, we hope to gain some traction in addressing some of the serious issues of our current situation.

We strikers want to send a big token of appreciation to all those who are in solidarity with us. Those who have spoken on our behalf, and shared our story. And for those still on the fence, it’s important to remember the words of Nelson Mandela: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

– “I’m a Burnside jail inmate, and also a human being. Here’s why you should care about our protest,” CBC News. September 4, 2018.

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“There was, in his opinion, in the present day, altogether too much of that maudlin sentimentality abroad in the world, which extended charity to vice at the expense of honesty and industry,…which sympathized with crime, and neglected the really honest man…He thought the best punishment was to tie them up and give them a good thrashing; he would whip them and send them to bed. It was really too absurd to talk of a moral school for such characters. He would be glad to see a house of correction in the rear of each prison, where they would be taken, tied up, and treated in the way he had pointed out.”

– Member of Parliament William Dunlop, Legislative Assembly, Debates of the Legislative Assembly of United Canada. 1843, p. 383.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Guards Use Tear Gas To End Burwash Riot Over Baked Beans Fare,” The Globe & Mail. July 3, 1948. Page 01.

After being suppressed for four days, news of another riot at Burwash Industrial Farm, leaked out yesterday and Reform Institutions Minister George Dunbar then revealed the uprising was due to complaints against the food. The trouble which occurred Monday night, was finally settled after three hours of violence when the guards hurled tear gas at the prisoners.

The riot was the second at the huge industrial prison in eight months. It followed by three days a similar outbreak at the Mercer Reformatory for females in Toronto which was brought under control by city and provincial police.

Just how many prisoners took part in the more recent Burwash rebellion could not be definitely determined. Superintendent Ralph Ayres, who took over after the riots last October, refused to give any information. One guard said 510 inmates had to be subdued after they smashed tables, dormitory windows and attempted to batter down the steel corridor gates. Deputy MInister C. F. Neelands, who like Supt. Ayres, was uncommunicative, would only say that the number involved was considerably that mentioned by the guard.

The violence is said to have started over baked beans served for supper. The prisoners housed in dormitories reportedly complained about the fare, but ate it. Then 165 men from the cells filed into the mess hall and began banging on the tables with cups and plates. This action stirred the 345 men in the dormitories to a demonstration of their own.

After three hours of rioting destruction tear gas was thrown at the prisoners and order was restored. Eighteen men have been singled out as the ringleaders and will be disciplined presumably by being strapped, or being placed in solitary confinement.

On top of all this, two prisoners, Leonard Erwin Staley, 29, Toronto, and Admiral Killingsworth, 32, Hamilton, escaped Thursday night and the body of another escapee, Wilson Broch, was found in Long Lake at Bayswater, 16 miles south of Burwash. Broch had been missing since June 19. He was from Hamilton.

Dr. Gillies Desmarais, coroner, said Broch’s death was due to drowning. George Waynott, Hamilton, who escaped with Broch is still at large.

Tear gas was used last October when 10 prisoners, led by Raymond (Dolly) Quinton, Windsor, were in control of the 7,000 acre farm for three days. This ‘committee’ of 10 issued orders to prisoners and guards alike and commandeered trucks. The guards claimed they were powerless to resist the prisoners until they received authority to use the gas.

Such authority was vested in them by an act of the legislature at the last session when the guards of all reform institutions were given the powers of police officers in handling prisoners.

Prof. Stuart Jaffray, who investigated the October riots, said they were caused by a breakdown in the administration system. He also remarked that the food could be improved. In that outbreak, some $3,000 damage was done to furniture and other property.

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“Hunger Strike On At Burwash Sudbury Report,” Toronto Star. July 3, 1948. Page 01.

Special to The Star
Sudbury, July 3 – Prisoners at Burwash reformatory are staging a hunger strike against the quality of food being served, it was learned her today. Officials refused comment and Supt. Ralph Ayers said ‘everything is normal.’

The hunger strike followed the riot staged in No. 2 dormitory, which contains cells and in which are kept the more hardened and what is regarded as habitual, criminals. It was learned there have been several other hunger strikes, some among small groups of prisoners, since the big riot of last October, when prisoners were virtually in control of the whole farm.

The riot started when a plate of cold beans served last Monday night was hurled at Supt. Ayers. He had come to the dining-room on demand of the prisoners who protested serving of the beans cold. Other prisoners who ate at an earlier sitting had hot beans.

C. F. Neelands, deputy minister of reform institutions, said he ‘had no comment’ on the reported hunger strike. A prisoner released Thursday said no one in No. 2 dormitory had eaten since Monday night except maybe a ‘few scabs.’ They were being ‘tonge-lashed’ for it, he said.

Tear gas was used to get the prisoners into the cells last Monday, Hon. George Dunbar, minister of reform institutions stated. Windows were smashed and considerable other damage done.

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“They Are ‘Boys,’ Not Prisoners,” Toronto Star. July 2, 1910. Page 01 & 07.

The New Provincial Prison Contrasted With The Old Central, The
One A Massive and Iron-Barred Structure, The Other a Great Farm Where
The Better Nature of the Prisoners Is Appealed To.

No Bars on…[Guards] Unarmed….tar….


Recreation, Farming…. Treatment…Tried

On Tuesday and Wednesday last week, Hon. W. J. Hanna….Secretary, entertained….of the Toronto papers….provincial Prison near Guelph…institution is the practical result of a scheme of prison….compares favorably with…up to the present time…prisoners do not live in cellblocks…wear striped clothes, nor have their hair cropped, nor are they burdened with any of the signs of incarceration which usually mark a prisoner.

The man who is at the [head of this] movement is Mr. Hanna.

The newspaper trio…the first time that…the press have been…prison property. Until…side knowledge of the…simply fragmentary…but…Hanna took his visitors….part of the grounds…whole of his scheme in operation.

About 800 Acres.
The property purchased for the site of the prison consists of about 800 acres, 2 1/3 miles east of Guelph and embraces several farms bought by the Government.

This land is varied in character. It may be divided into three sections. The centre will be used as the site of the permanent buildings, on account of its elevation and good drainage. There are numerous springs of good water, one of which will be sufficient to supply all the water needed. This section also furnishes good gravel and building sand. In addition there are several quarries, from which stone for hilly roads is being taken now, and dimension stone for building will soon be excavated. There is also an inexhaustible supply of limestone and a kiln is now being erected. The western section, over the River Speed, comprises over 300 acres of the prime agricultural land of Wellington County. Over 100 of these are now in crop, will cereal and vegetables, and are doing well.

To the east are pasture and bottom lands, with thousands of frame posts. This section when it is cleared will reveal a foot and a half of black loam on top, and clay beneath.

Not Called Convicts or Prisoners
This is the property on which ‘the boys’ are working, for that is the name always used by Mr. Hanna in speaking of the prisoners. The biggest undertaking at present is the excavating of stone and the building of a narrow-gauge railway to carry it to the site of the industrial buildings, which are to be erected this summer. There will be stone structures, 56 feet by 180 feet, and in them ‘the boys’ will work in the winter. A derrick is being placed in position to lift the stone to the cars of the miniature railway. All the work for this, as for the other undertakings, is being carried on by the prisoners themselves.

It is the intention that ultimately, after the buildings required are finished, the farm, including to the industrial buildings, farm buildings, administrative offices, etc., are completed that stone will be shipped for use by other Provincial institutions.

Building Roads.
The important work being carried on at present is the building of roads. They have Caesar beaten in every respect, declared Mr. Hanna, and, indeed, the ‘boys’ are making very respectable time and a great deal of good work has been made also in clearing way all the bush on the land at the front entrance of the institution and in various operations….

Minister Hanna special pride is in three subjects: a heard of Holstein cattle, 108 in all, which with the exception of four cows, will provide milk for the establishment, while the rest are yearlings. There are three heads of the milking gang.  Mr. Hanna took the party over the grounds, which are […] miles square, principally to see the Holsteins. They are certainly worthy of his admiration.

Dairying will be one of the chief occupations of the prisoners next summer. Hanna expected that in a couple of years they will be shipping a considerable amount per day of milk to the different Provincial Institutions, for instance, the General Hospital in Toronto.

In addition, the work carried out is the ordinary farm labour needed over 100 acres, as stated already, will provide fruits and vegetables from what is in crop now, and will be able to increase the numbers once the land cleared is extended to 200 acres or more next year.

Treatment for ‘the Boys.’
Over and above the interest in the land, however, are the prisoners themselves. It may be said safely that in this regard a r[….]gh the new Provincial Prison has been doing. It is so contrary to all previous notions to   see convicts, men who the public have thought of with a quivering shudder, living a healthy, comparatively free life in the open air, quite contented and   respectable.

There are at presents over 100 prisoners there. They are from the Central Prison; no one is sentenced directly to Guelph. The one qualification for the new institution is good behaviour in the old. It is not […]stion of the seriousness of the offence, for several men who are guilty of comparatively bad crimes are in Guelph, although, of course, there are some things which would disqualify a man altogether. The main point, however, is whether the man has made a good impression in Central. If he bears himself quietly and is a good worker, he will get to Guelph. There are no long term men, however, in the new prison, and a man is not sent until his sentence is well underway Most of the boys in Guelph have only three or four months to run, although there are a few with much longer. The idea of [restoring the lost…] privileges of the new scheme for short time men is obvious; there is clearly much less danger of a man attempting flight if he has only a short time to serve.

When a man is in on a first sentence or a fifth makes little difference. If he behaves at Central he goes to Guelph. Seveal of the ‘boys’ there have been in and out of prison for years and yet partake in this new system of trust.

The following is a sample list of offences for which some of the men in Guelph are serving terms: Theft, forgery, false utterences, blind pig operation, assault, taking.

No Bars on Windows.
The present headquarters are established in a large frame building of two storeys. There are no cells, and no bars. The windows are large and absolutely uncovered…. Here ‘the boys’ in the place where they sleep use a cot….

Most of the time, however, aside from those prisoners working in the working or those working in the industrial shops, are in the out of doors.

The nature of every day in prison life under the new prison system is an image of contrast with Central Prison, [with its] stone wall, four tiers [of cells], armed guards, lock step, solitary confinement in a cell behind iron bars, and [other]  features of ordinary prison life.

[At Guelph] the men are awakened …for breakfast at six…one it is too. On…the party was up this […] menu for the boys.

…bacon., fried potatoes – lots of butter…..

…[the dining hall] is large and airy, each of the tables covered …. the food is volumnmous and the manners are surprising….anything he wants…matters for the…much better than the Central Prison, meal…behind…ever …[the rest of this paragraph is really difficult to parse]

The menu [for lunch] is beef, beans, muttons, and quite substantial, for the amount of work is great….at 5 o’clock, the supper meal is served…cold roast, black bread, and….[illegible]

They Play Baseball
From tea until bedtime, the prisoners are free to do as they please, within reason. The preffered sport is baseball…some games of it get very competiive…the party witnessed the boys at play, and the game one of the highlights of the trip. It was carried on with the greatest of order…The men finished their game in good spirits, with no one objecting to the return to their bed…and no rowdyism…could show many of us a thing or two about baseball…and the players in many ways…are the equal of those who play in Toronto every Saturday.

[…this paragraph is kind of a confusing anecdote…]

These are but a sample of the remarks handed out by ‘Slim.’ He would roll around in the grass in sheer ecstasy, and his joy was contagious. Altogether it was a happy lively bunch of ball players and spectators.

At 8:30 p.m. Sergeant Lyon’s whistle blew, and at once everybody stopped, and the men lined up for the muster. The roll call was heard, none were missing, and the men dispersed into the building – not in lock step, but as they pleased to go. By 9 o’clock all was still.

‘Come in and see the boys in bed’ said Mr. Hanna, as he conducted his visitors to the dormitories. There were two occupied that night, long high ceilinged airy rooms, with over 40 beds in each. Every man was quiet, and apparently quite satisfied. Along the sides of the room were copies of magazines, which some good friends had sent.

To Reform Them.
Mr. Hanna is most enthusiastic about the scheme. ‘We are treating them like men,’ he said, ‘and they are responding splendidly. They are kept in good condition physically and mentally. When they go out, they are much more likely to become good citizens than if they had been shut up in a cell for several months, and treated as dangerous animals.

‘Of course, make no mistake about this. We are not condoning their misdeeds at all, but now that they have done wrong, we are trying to help them, so that when they are released they will not fall back again.

‘As far as the economic end of it is concerned, it will be a great gain for the province. There will be great productiveness here in cereals, milk, crushed and dimension stone, etc.’

Mr. Hanna’s enthusiasm is well justified, the results from three month’s work (for it was only on April 11 that the first men were taken from Central Prison to Guelph) are most encouraging. As for Mr. Hanna himself, ‘the boys’ have nothing but praise. Whenever he meets any of them, he speaks to them as a friend.

Only Two Were Lazy.
Sergeant Lyons also is optimistic about the new scheme.

‘It is a very heavy responsibility for me, I admit,’ he said, ‘but everything has been satifactory.’ When I came up, I saw that I must be a leader of the men. I played ball with them, worked with them, and showed sympathy all the time.

‘Only two men have had to be sent back to Central. They were too lazy to work, and might have demoralized the rest.’ Some of the officials, in fun, call the institution, ‘The Country Club, cuisine unexelled.’  This is only a joke, however. ‘It is certainly no summer resort,’ said the Sergeant. ‘The men are prisoners, and they have to work hard. They have been very decent, however, and I have no complaint. I have been in prison work for 32 years, and have never lost a man yet, and I certainly hope that I won’t lose one here. There are some interesting stories told by the prisoners. One of them was in on an 18-month sentence for stealing suits of clothes. Another for eight months for forging a check for $25. The latter was a particularly patheic case. He was a young man who had married before he was in a position to support a wife, and had forged this check to get some money. Another man had sixteen months for stealing some coal screenings.

The latter case seemed to interest Mr. Hana especially. At dinner he asked the man who was waiting on the visitor’s table, to tell the whole story. He seemed to be much interested, and to thank that the magistrate’s decision in the had case had been too severe.

Several of the men have appealed to the federal Minister of Justice for a reconsideration of their sentence, and this has brought up the question of a Provincial Pardon Board, which would meat in the Guelph Prison, hear the applications of the men, and in deserving cases shorten the sentence.

But Not A Popular Life.
It spite of all the advantages of the new prison, in spite of the comparatively nice life which the men lead, there is a certain undertone of sadness and wistfulness in many of the faces, which makes the visitor realize that there is no danger that prison life, even of this kind, ever will become popular and that men will want to enter it, however well treated they may have been, they are under supervision, they cannot leave the grounds, in short, they are prisoners. The public need have no fear on this score.

It is a new scheme. As early a February 26, 1907, Hon. W. J. Hanna made a speech in the Legislature, which outlined the essential features of the scheme now in operation. He traced the progress of prison reform, from the time ‘when society dealt with its crimes as a class only to be punished, and if necessary, exterminated.’

He pointed out the gradual amelioration of their condition, until the era of productive labor as at the Central. Here, however, there was not only the conflict between organized and prison labor, but also the health of the prisoners was not helped by their close confinement.

Helps Him On Discharge.
‘Any system adopted,’ says the speech, ‘should be one which will enable the prisoner to earn an honest livelihood on his discharge, and should turn him out in a fit physical condition to do a day’s work. Would the farm be the proper solution here?…Properly directed, how far could this farm go towards giving employment to these prisoners? How far would it go towards maintaining the prison, and maintaining other public institutions of the Province in this city, with the growth of the farm?

In the short term of the sentences,…away the inducements to escape…before the long term man….whould he escape to? To the…..They don’t want him. If …anxious enough to get him…could get him.’

…[the rest are fragments.]

Photo Captions:

1) Tiers of Cells In Central Prison, Toronto. Contrast with Wide Fields of the Provincial Prison, Guelph

2) Hon. W. J. Hanna, and One Of His Favorite Heards of Holsteins At the Provincial Prison, Guelph

3) Sergeant Lyons, Who As Deputy to Warden Gilmour, Is In Charge of the New Provincial Prison, Guelph

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“Burwash Guards Use Tear Gas,” Toronto Star. July 2, 1948. Page 01.


Sudbury, Ont., July 2 (CP) – Tear gas was used by guards to quell a riot in Burwash industrial farm last Monday night, it was revealed today. Hundreds of panes of window glass were broken in the dormitory and several tables were smashed.

The riot was reported to have centered in Camp 2, largest camp which serves as headquarters for the arm. About 225 prisoners were involved, but there was no trouble at the jail farm’s other two camps.

It is understand that the spark for the outbreak was set off over a protest about the quality of food being served.

Had Trouble Last Fall
The same jail farm was the scene of a major riot last fall when prisoners objected to their meals and general living conditions. An investigation was made by a board appointed by the department of reform institutions.

It was reported that last Monday’s riot broke ot when a guard slapped a piece of butter forcefully on a slice of pie and it splashed over the arm of a prisoner. After remonstrating the guard, the prisoner threw his pie on the floor and was removed from the dining hall.

Guards were reinforced and the prisoners were ordered to return to their cell block. When police surrounded the dormitories carrying rifles and tear gas occupants kicked out windows and pounded steel grills with heavy 12-foot tables.

The demonstration lasted almost three hours and tear gas was thrown in ‘B,’ ‘C’ and ‘D’ dormitories.

Farm officials said today normal routine has been resumed but a field day, scheduled for Thursday, has been cancelled. Eight men were placed in solitary confinement. Superintendent Ralph Ayers said there has been tension at the farm for the past two weeks.

‘I can’t understand what is back of it all,’ he said. ‘We feel we may have been treating the inmates better this part winter, and have given them every consideration in their complaints up to now. There was no reason for this outbreak.’

Escapees Identified
Special to The Star
Burwash, July 2 – Two prisoners escaped from Burwash Industrial farm here last night after Monday’s riot.

They are: Leonard Erwin Staley, 28, of George St., sentenced to two years in Toronto, July 30, 1947, and Admiral Killingworth, 32, of Hamilton, sentenced to two years on Aug. 16, 1947.

The two escaped men, the minister of reform institutions reported at his office in Toronto today, ‘just walked off during a sports program on the grounds. Yesterday was a holiday and there were sports events held in the afternoon.’

He said ‘they won’t get very far. The black flies will probably drive them back.’

Recall Mercer Trouble
The Burwash riot was a repetition of the uprising at Mercer Reformatory for women in Toronto 10 days ago.

About 100 city policeman, were rushed to the building on King St. to try to restore order. Two of the officers were injured so badly they required hospital treatment. Det.-Sergt. Welsford had his wrist fractured with a baseball bat and will be off duty for five weeks, police said.

The women ringleaders were eventually locked in cells and given only weak tea and bread when they refused to stop their yelling and screaming. Their shoes were taken from them.

Dunbar Tells of Riot
The riot started Monday night during supper hour, Hon. George Dunbar, minister of reform institutions reported today.

‘A hothead in the dining room threw his supper on the floor,’ the minister said. ‘The guards immediately hustled him out, His friends started a rumbling in the dining room but took no action.

‘The next day, Tuesday, it rained all day and some of the men locked themselves in their dormitories and didn’t come down to eat breakfast. Guards threw tear gas into the block and everything quieted down,’ he said.

Mr. Dunbar said the disturbance occurred at Camp No. 2, where there are 156 cells. ‘The riot didn’t spread to any other camp,’ he added. ‘There was lots of noise, but no action was taken by the prisoners. It’s all over now.’

This is the first time tear gas has been used by Burwash guards since they were given the powers of police officers, officials said. A bill introduced by the attorney-general and passed at the last session of the legislature, gave them this power as well as that of being armed and making arrests.

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“20 Heave Bricks At Guards – Mercer On Bread, Weak Tea,” Toronto Star. June 28, 1948. Page 01.

A score of women prisoners at Mercer reformatory are ‘still holding out’ in their riot against the prison administration, officials said today. Although on rations of weak tea and bread as punishment for continued defiance, they have refused to stop shouting and during the week-end, some dislodged pieces of bricks from the wall and flung them at guards in the corridors.

Using nail files and spoons, broken and sharpened on stone, they picked at the mortar. Some whole bricks were heaved at the guards, but mostly the missiles were pieces of brick.

A dozen guards were brought from Guelph and Mimico reformatories. They are to replace Toronto police. Chief Chisholm has detailed three constables each eight hours to be on duty.

Will ‘Have Their Way’
T. M. Gourlay, inspector of prisons, is making a report on the disturbance to Hon. George Dunbar, minister of reform institutions. Meanwhile, no action is being taken.

Nine provincial police are still on duty. Toronto police are patrolling outside the building and the patrol sergeant in charge makes one trip through the jail with the matron.

Reduced rations had an effect on most of the women, who have returned to their regular work in the reformatory, officers said. The 20 out of the 100 who originally went on a sit-down strike and then rioted last Friday morning, seem determined to ‘have their way,’ they said.

Plans to remove the ringleaders to Don jail have been abandoned, officials stated.

The form of punishment to be meted out has not been decided. The superintendent, like the governor of all jails, has power to order the girls strapped, it was stated.

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