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“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.

By EDWARD CLIFFORD
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.

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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