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Posts Tagged ‘reformatory moment’

“Strap Mercer Riot Leaders, Says Official,” Toronto Star. July 19, 1948. Page 01.

Ringleaders in the Mercer reformatory riot were strapped, A. R. Virgin, director of reform institutions, said today. He was commenting on the statement of a woman in police court today that prisoners ‘were beaten black and blue’ and tear gas used.

Asked if this was correct, Mr. Virgin said he was not going to deny or confirm it, but that ‘we do not hesitate to use tear gas whenever we find it necessary.’

There has been no more trouble at Guelph, he added. He said the men are working hard and those kept in the exercise yard and dormitories are punishment for a demonstration agaisnt the food ‘seemed sorry they had caused trouble.’

Lights in the whole of Ontario reformatory were blazing at 11 o’clock last night, but there was no trouble, Mr. Virgin stated. He said lights usually were out at 10 p.m. Passengers on a train that passes near the reformatory said it was unusual to see the lights on at such a late hour.

‘I just got out of the Mercer last Friday,’ the woman, Lillian Johnson, 50, said in police court, when charged with being drunk, ‘and my nerves were shot after the riots.’

After a list of previous drunk convictions was read by the court clerk, Magistrate Elmore imposed sentence of 40 days.

‘You can’t send me back there,’ said the woman. ‘Why didn’t they print the truth about how we were beaten and given tear gas. I wasn’t in the riot, but I saw those girls beaten black and blue.’

A police matron and a court policeman struggled with accused several minutes before removing her to the cells.

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“Bread, Water Is Diet of 310 Guelph Rioters Held In Auditorium,” Toronto Star. July 14, 1948. Page 03.

Special to The Star
Guelph, July 14 – More than one-third of the inmates at the Ontario reformatory are still undergoing dietary punishment today although officials relented somewhat last evening and allowed them to spend the night in the assembly hall, Col. Hedley Basher, superintendent, said today. Monday night the 310 men who refused to work were locked out in an exercise yard without blankets.

‘There was some noise during the night, but things were reasonably quiet,’ Col. Basher said. He could not state when disciplinary measures would be eased. The men are receiving only bread and water.

When spokesmen for the rowdy prisoners sought an audience with reformatory officials late Tuesday they asked to be taken back into the buildings.

Instead of being returned to their dormitories, as some had hoped, the inmates were ordered into the large assembly hall immediately behind the administration offices. Col. Basher spoke to the group and warned them they would be kept on reduced rations, until the last evidence of their hold-out had disappeared.

The superintendent’s statement that all was not perfectly quiet indicated it was likely some hotheads were still trying to buck authority.

‘Youngsters’ Among Leaders
An inmate said the ringleaders were either ‘youngsters’ who acted spontaneously or in a few instances ‘old timers’ who were ‘little more than bums.’

Again today only a few inmates are working. For the most part, they are trustees who are permitted to wander with only loose supervision as they go about the park-like grounds of the institution. Some are clipping hedges. Others are cutting grass and weeding the many flower gardens. Another inmate and an electrician are finishing their task of repairing a lamp standard near the superintendent’s house some 100 yards north of the main buildings.

Those who spent the night in the assembly hall did ‘some singing and shouting,’ it was learned. Again today they were offered only bread for food and water to drink but officials declined to state whether any or all had accepted this diet.

Although the complete day staff of guards was kept on duty throughout Monday night following the disturbance which started at noon that day, a large percentage were permitted to return to their homes last night. All said they were under strict orders not to divulge information concerning condition in the institution.

Won’t Discuss Outbreak
Storekeepers in the area of the reformatory proved equally close-lipped since they did not want to cast suspicion on their customers, among whom are many guards.

Hon. George Dunbar, minister of reform institutions said, ‘Many persons forget that the type of person we get in the institutions does not take kindly to discipline. We intend to maintain that discipline by such as are necessary. We are not going to have the inmates trying to run the institutions.’

About one year ago the inmates at Burwash farm took over the administration of the reformatory and held possession for several days. Last month women inmates at Mercer Reformatory in Toronto staged one of the worst riots in years when they smashed furniture and beat up policemen and guards who tried to control them.’

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

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

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

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

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

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“Striking Guelph Inmates Sue for Peace at End of 30-Hour Vigil in Yard,” Globe and Mail, July 14, 1948. Page 01 & 03.

Guelph, July 13 (Special). – After being cooped up in an exercise yard for more than 30 hours on a bread-and-water diet, 311 rebellious inmates at Guelph Reformatory early last night sued for peace and were brought into the assembly hall to spend the night.

The ‘fresh air’ treatment began to have its desired effect during the afternoon when Supt. Hedley Basher was asked to receive spokesmen for the group.

These spokesmen said that practically all of the prisoners involved had changed their minds about not working and promised to behave if the rigid discipline would be relaxed. After considering the matter at length, Supt. Basher ordered the men brought inside and blankets were issued to them.

The punishment diet will be continued for the time being. Its lifting will depend upon the conduct of the group during tonight and the early part of tomorrow.

The men, who comprise slightly more than one-third of the total prison population, refused to go to work after the noon-day meal Monday. While no official protest had been made, some of them shouted: ‘What about the food?’

After the officials talked to the men and insisted they go to work there was a minor demonstration of singing and shouting which was quelled by the use of tear gas. After that there was order and no further demonstration.

Some of the prisoners changed their minds early Monday afternoon, but it was decided to keep them out in the open as a disciplinary measure. They remained there throughout last night without blankets. However, as the weather was warm, none experienced any discomfort other than the fact they had to sleep on concrete.

Pictures taken from the air by a Globe and Mail photographer yesterday showed the men lounging in small groups, while others were standing in the shade of the four three-story walls forming the yard.

Officials were at a loss concerning the remarks about the food. They insisted the food is on par with that served in any other institution on the continent.

At Toronto, Reform Institutions Minister George Dunbar confirmed that the men were kept in the open purely as a disciplinary measure.

‘Many persons forget that the type of person we get in the institutions does not take kindly to discipline,’ he said. ‘We intend to maintain that discipline by such as are necessary. We are not going to have the inmates trying to run the institutions.’

He declared that complaints relating to food were ill-founded. Meat and fresh vegetables prepared by trained cooks are served daily.

He said that about 20 men had caused the trouble by persuading others in the group not to leave for their work in the fields and the workshops.

Image Captions:

Left: Bread and water and lots of fresh air was the treatment accorded 311 prisoners at Guelph Reformatory who refused to work. Here’s an aerial view yesterday afternoon of the rebellious inmates who have been kept in an exercise yard since theyr struck after noon-day meal Monday. Officials decided to keep them there as disciplinary measure. From the air it appeared as if bread had been scattered around in corner of yard.

Right:  One of the more modern reform institutions on the continent, the reformatory at Guelph, where 311 prisoners are on strike, is shown in this overall aerial picture. (1) Administration building. (2) Yard where striking inmates are being detained. (3) Main wing. (4) Recreational field. (5) Power house. (6) Workshops. (7) Abattoir. A few of those who refused to work are said to have complained a bout the food.

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“300 ‘Sit Down’ in Prison Yard,” Toronto Star. July 13, 1948. Page 01.

Work Or Starve Order Given 300 at Guelph – ‘Rebels’ Defy Tear Gas

Special To The Star
Guelph, July 13 – Prison officials said today they were prepared to ‘starve out’ 300 prisoners at Guelph Reformatory who are staging a hunger and sit-down strike in the exercise yard. The prisoners remained throughout the night in the yard with every available guard on duty.

Officials declared the situation is tense, but said they did not think it would break into a riot. Armed guards circle the exercise yard where the men met after the noon-day meal yesterday. Tear gas used to attempt to rout them had little effect and it was decided that it would not be used again, but that the policy of ‘No work, no food’ would be adopted.

A. R. Virgin, director of reform institutions, said in Toronto today that this already has had some effect on a number of the men who had asked to rejoin the majority of the prisoners inside. Almost 500 had no part in the strike, officials stated.

Armed Guards Leave Posts
From outward appearances everything at the reformatory was peaceful and normal. About a dozen men working in two and threes were cutting grass and trimming shrubs along the main driveway.

At the back of the building on a playing field another dozen or so were playing ball. About 50 inmate spectators at the game were sitting in the tiers of seats that line the field.

Only 50 men could be seen working in the fields at 10.30 a.m. today. There were 20 in a hayfield, 20 doing landscape gardening and 10 cultivating fields. An occasional shout could be heard from inside the exercise walls. Guards who earlier had been patrolling the walls with shotguns had left their posts.

The 300 in the yard looked to passing air passengers as if they were being prepared for barbecuing. Sprawling in a courtyard surrounding by three-storey stone walls, the prisoners steaming in their dark clothing as a mid-morning sun began beating down.

Less than one in 50 of the prisoners who were lying in disorganized clumps bothered to look up as planes passed overhead. Over 100 stood or lounged against one end of the shaded south wall as if it were a corner pool hall.

None of the 300 gathered in any sort of group, none were walking or strolling. A few seemed to have taken off their jackets to bathe in the sun beating into the abre dusty stone box of the square court. The hottest looking spot on the landscape was the steaming ‘pit’ where the 300 prisoners were put to ‘cool off.’

Slept on Ground
Col. Hedley Basher, once a Toronto policeman and former governor of the Toronto Jail and jail farm, is superintendent at Guelph reformatory. He would not make any statement on the strike, referring inquiries to the reforms branch at Toronto.

The prisoners in the exercise yard, which is surrounded by the cell block, slept on the ground, officials here said. Conditions for outdoor sleeping were described as ideal. There was plenty of space, officials said, because the yard will accommodate between 700 and 800.

Guards were kept on duty throughout the night. A bus load of close to 30 go home to Guelph every night, but their trip back was cancelled last night.

Complain of Food, Heat
There was considerable shouting when the strike first started after the noon meal. Leaders urged prisoners to refuse to go to the fields and they were able to get more than 300 volunteers.

The inmates were said to have been pained about the food and balked at having to go to the fields in the hot weather. They have to walk through the exercise yard after the meal to go to work.

Mr. Virgin said a few leaders incited the men to remain in the yard. Tear gas was used. While it caused the men discomfort, use of it in the open was not effective in getting them to leave.

Officials then took an adamant stand that the men would have to work to get their food. Those who asked to give in were refused permission to leave the exercise yard.

‘They must be taught obedience and they are going to take their punishment,’ Mr. Virgin declared.

Claims Food Good
Mr. Virgin laid blame for the trouble on ‘newspapers and radio stations’ which published and broadcast new of disturbances at Burwash and Mercer reformatory. ‘They have radios in their cell blocks,’ said Mr. Virgin. He added newspapers were not a general issue but prisoners have access to them at times.

‘As for complaints about food, the food served is exceptionally good,’ Mr. Virgin declared. ‘For breakfast this morning the men had pancakes, cooked cereal, bread and jam and tea. For lunch they would receive shepherd’s pie, potatoes, and gravy, soup, boiled cabbage, butterscotch pudding, tea and bread.

‘The diet is exceptionally good. I have always observed how well the food is prepared on every occasion I have been there,’ he added.

Mr. Virgin said there would be a thorough inquiry. As yet no one had been sent to investigate.

‘These men have rebelled for no apparent reason and they will take their punishment before they will be allowed to go back to work,’ he said.

The firm attitude taken by officials of the department of reform institutions is reported to be in contrast to the stand taken at Burwash after last October’s riot. In that disturbance, the prisoners took over and were in control for days. Then they were given an opportunity of telling their grievances to Prof. Jaffary of the University of Toronto. No disciplinary action was taken.

Image Caption: From the air, Guelph ‘rebels’ can be seen lounging on blankets, left, and standing in shade of prison wall, right

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

6 Outbreaks in 3 Years in Three Reformatories

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

Following are the dates:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image captions (from top left to right):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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….

NEW METHODS…

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.

REPORT 225 INVOLVED – SMASH MANY WINDOWS – EIGHT SAID ‘IN SOLITARY’

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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