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“They Much Prefer To Be ‘Good Boys’,” Victoria Times, Sunday Magazine. October 20, 1951.

Young First Offenders Find Reclamation In Forest Camps

By GORDON FORBES

A human experiment in treatment of youthful first offenders has paid off a grattifying 100 per cent for the British Columbia Forestry Service.

On June 19 this year 12 lads were taken from Oakalla Prison to a forestry camp at Kettle Valley in the Nelson area. They were young men who ha come into conflict with the law through the over-exuberance of their youth.

The boys were given exactly the same treatment as hundreds of other youths in 10 other forestry department ‘youth training camps.’ They did the same work. Only difference was that they composed a complete camp of first offenders.

CLEAN RECORD
Lands and Forests Minister E. T. Kenney, who originated the plan, reports now that there was not ‘a single defection’ during the summer-long camp.

The boys are not treated as criminals. In fact, the very important thing about the camp is that they are separated from chronic criminals. If they had remained in prison they might have associated with hardened criminals and emerged the worse for the experience.

The camp was supervised by the district forest ranger and the boys came under the direct supervision of ‘custodian’ Robert Deildal, appointed by the penal institution.

Treated as potential citizens, with a great contribution to make to the state and society, the boys responded by co-operating to the fullest.

The forestry service anticipates their progress and co-operation to the point where they may eventually find permanent employment with the forest industry or administration. 

Officials are intending to expand this branch of their work materially. The success of this initial camp undoubtedly will spur this effort.

The boys are employed on construction of forest-protection roads and trails, slash disposal to reduce fire hazard and fight fires. Several of them have been used by forest rangers on compass work and surveying.

The boys are paid $3 a day, but only receive 50 cents of that. The rest is held back and credited to them.

FULL FREEDOM.
They are given as much freedom as boys in the regular camps. On occasion, they go to nearby dances or movies. The forestry department also has shipped in a projector and equipment to show films in a small settlement next to the camp.

The forest service feels it is getting a good dollar’s worth of service from every dollar expended. In addition, the youths are being given an opportunity to expend their energy, ingenuity and enthusiasm – on projects essential to the economy of the province.

Moreover, they are spending a summer amid beautiful and peaceful surroundings and learning a useful vocation that will be in continuous demand in this forested province.

Someone once said: ‘Man is at his best when pitted against Nature.’

In all the forest services youth camps this summer there was a total of nearly 150 boys. They all received $3 a day plus board and transportation to and from their homes.

The idea of a youth-use in conjunction with the forest resource is not a new conception by any means, but previous projects of this nature (exclusive of the first offenders’ camp idea which was first done this year) have unfortunately had their genesis in a depression period.

The present development is distinctive in that it came into being in 1949 when employment was available to all.

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“Racine s’était évadé du
Palais de Justice avec
un otage: 4 ans de bagne ,” La Presse. October 1, 1980. Page H-12.

Denis «Poker»
Racine, le jeune
homme de 21 ans qui
avait réussi à s’évader du Palais de justice,
le 21 mars dernier,
alors qu’il plaidait lui même sa cause devant
la Cour d’appel,
et en séquestrant
momentanément une
femme greffier en la
menaçant d’un couteau,
a écopé d’une
peinte totale de quatre années de pénitencier,
hier, devant le
juge Guy Guerin.

En prononçant cette
peine, le magistrat
avait souligné qu’il
fallait comprendre,
sans qu’il soit excusable,
l’esprit de revolte
de ce jeune homme
qui avait quitté le
domicile familial à
l’âge de 12 ans, pour
ensuite être «trimballe»
d’institution en
institution, et finalement
aboutir à Pinel,
au moment de sa
majorité.

«Très certainement
que la Société a lt
droit de demander
protection aux tribunaux
dans des cas de
ce genre, de dire le
juge, mais on doit
également convenir
qu’elle récolte les
fruits amers qu’elle a
semés, l’accusé ayant
le droit, lui aussi, de
poser la question:
«Qu’avez-vous fait
pour moi. alors que
j’avais douze et quinze
ans».

Avant que le tribunal
ne se prononce
définitivement sur
son cas. Racine avait  voulu lui-même rappeler que sa situation
avait dramatiquement changé il y a
une dizaine de jours à
peine. Et pour le
mieux, cette fois.

Alors qu’il purgeait
une peine de prison à
vie pour meurtre au
premier degré (celui
d’un adolescent à qui
on avait voulu voler
son veston de cuir, à
la Place des Nations),
la Cour d’appel avait
modifié le verdict,
pour meurtre au second
degré, et sans
recommandation
quant à la période de
détention minimale
qu’il devra purger.

«Je considérais la
première peine comme
inhumaine, dit-il.
Je ne serais sorti du
bagne qu’ à 16 ans.
Mais, aujourd’hui, je
puis envisager d’être
libéré dans environ
six ans. Ce n’est plus
la même chose, j’ai
repris espoir, et j’espère aussi que vous
n’ajouterez pas vous même
à ce châtiment
déjà lourd.»

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“«Poker» Racine en voie de réhabilitation?” La Presse, September 20, 1980. Page F-28.

LEOPOLD  LIZOTTE

Denis «Poker » Racine, 24 ans, déjà douze
années de démêlées avec la justice derrire
lui. ballotté tout au long de son adolescence
d’une maison de correction à une autre, pour
finalement aboutir à Pinel et au bagne, aurait-il
compris, au cours des dernières heures,
que les juges n’étaient pas nécessairement
rancuniers, et la justic e fatalement
vengeresse? 

Airs qu’il y a quelques mois, il n’avait
apparemment en tête qu’un projet, celui de
quitter le pénitencier par tous les moyens,
hier, il a reconnu sa culpabilité à trois accusations
graves qui lui vaudront peut-être
deux ou trois autres années, à cet endroit.

Et le jeune homme super-agressif qui
avait fait pied de nez à la cour et aux autorités
policières, le 24 mars dernier, avait même
un certain air de repentence, lorsqu’il a reconnu
s’être évadé de la Cour d’appel en pointant
un «pic» sur la gorge d’une greffière pour
sortir de la sall e d’audienc e sans ennuis,
après avoir «désatmé» un garde, et quitter le
Palais de justice dix-sept étages plus bas,
après avoir retenu son otage pendant tout ce
temps.

Que s’est-il donc passé entre-temps?

C’est très impie, pourrait-on dire.

Lundi, son avocat. Me Dominique Talerico,
de l’Aide juridique, plaidait justement
devant cette même Cour d’appel son pourvoi
contre la condamnation à vie qui lui avait été
imposé e pour le meurtre, commis en 1977,
d’un adolescent à qui l’on avait voulu voler sa
veste de cuir.

L e verdic t du jury en avant été un de
meurtre au premier degré, il faisait face à la
détention ferme pour vingt-cinq ans.

Mais devant trois juges du plus haut tribunal
québécois, différents il est vrai de ceux
qui avaient ét é témoins de son évasion du
printemps, il plaida que la préméditation
n’avait pas ét é été prouvée , dans ce cas, et
que, partant, c’était un verdict de meurtre au
deuxième degré qui aurait dû être rendu.

La cour se déclar a du même avis, et la
condamnation fut conséquemment modifiée.

Restait à déterminer la sentence. Ou, tout
au moins, la durée minimale ce celle-ci.

Jeudi, les trois magistrats décidaient
donc, dans un autre temps de ne prononcer
aucune ordonnance, sur ce sujet. Ce qui veut
donc dire que Racine, au mieux-aller, pourrait
être remis en liberté après dix années
seulement de sa peine à perpétuité.

Et, selon son avocat, c’est ce qui a tout
changé.

Alors qu’il voulait combattre, et tout seul
au besoin, les accusations à la preuve aussi
évidente que suabondante, la double décision
de la Cour d’appel semble avoir tout changé
chez lui, a-t-il dit hier au juge Guérin.

Ce n’est plus le jeune homme qui faisait,
face à un quart de siècle au bagne, et qui n’a
pratiquement rien à perdre.

Il peut maintenant espérer.

Quant au procureur de la Couronne, M e
Contran Chamard, il n’a aucunement
«chargé» contre le prévenu qui, pendant deux
jours, avait été littéralement considéré
comme l’ennemi public no. 1, dans la métropole,
avant qu’il ne soit coincé dans une luxueuse
chambre de l’hôtel Bonaventure, où sa
bombance avait pris fin plus rapidement que
prévu.

Il a réclamé une année de détention pour
son évasion, deux autres pour la séquestration
de la greffière, et une autre pour avoir
tiré un coup de feu dans l’un des murs de
l’austère salle d’audience principale du plus
haut tribunal québécois.

Ces peines seront-elles concurrentes entre
elles? Ou s’ajouteront-elles à la peine à vi e
qui peut prendr e fin après dix ans, maintenant?

C’est ce que le juge Guérin décidera le 30.

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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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“492 Prisoners in Penitentiary,” Kingston Daily Standard. September 5, 1912. Page 02.

Largest Number Since Year 1839.

Sixty Lifers Also Mark Record – Fewer Women Convicts – Parole Release Nearly 600.

Portsmouth Penitentiary now boasts a population of four hundred and nine-two, the largest since 1839, when six hundred and twenty names were on the roll call. Of these, sixty are life prisoners, also a record number. Despite these figures there has been a slight decrease in the number of convictions especially those of a serious nature. This is because of the changed attitude of the judges in regard to capital punishment. Of the 442 souls only eleven are women. This much smaller than usual, the record being 30.

The parole system has been in effect since 1900 and since that time 580 convicts have been released upon the conditions of the act. This, of course, must be taken into consideration when one looks at the figures in total.

Upon the whole the conditions among criminals are better than they were even a few years ago. The parole system is one feature which has been instrumental in reducing that criminal type of convict, who disheartened and desperate, has been truly a menace to society. The realms of insanity and crime have also been more clearly defined, with encouraging results

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“A New Home for Tough Guys,” The Globe Magazine. August 30, 1958. Cover and pages 03-05.

Millbrook has a bad name, and its officials are just delighted

…a big bit is preffered

By DAVID MacDONALD

It was a sunny morning in June, the traditional time for graduations. In a rambling red-brick building overlooking the Ontario village of Millbrook – a building with the glass, tile and pastel decor of a modern high school – superintendent Hartley Paterson shuffled a sheaf of papers and glanced up at the youth who stood before him.

‘You’ve done well here,’ he said. The compliment was acknowledged with a quiet smile. ‘So you’re going to have the honor of becoming Millbrook’s first graduate. Tomorrow we’re sending you to Burwash. Congratulations.’

Though the prospect of going to the provincial prison farm at Burwash is normally not cause for rejoicing, the youth in faded blue denims broke into a wide grin and took the superintendent’s outstretched hand. After the months he’d spent behind the towering walls of Millbrook, Ontario’s tough new maximum security reformatory, the chance to serve out the rest of his sentence somewhere else seemed almost as welcome as a parole.

A petty but promising criminal and never a model prisoner, he’d been among the charter inmates of Millbrook when it was opened last September to isolate troublemakers from other reformatories in the province. Some had been released earlier after completing their time – one has since returned for a second stretch  – but this was the first to win a good-behavior transfer.

That same day, a few minutes later, another inmate came before Paterson with a special request. Soon due for release, he wanted to complete the last few days of his term in a regular reformatory. ‘Just having a record is bad enough, he explained with feeling, ‘but a discharge from Millbrook is a worse black eye.’

WITH the men who know penal institutions best – i.e. residents – Millbrook is scarcely the most popular, a fact readily acknowledged by its superintendent. ‘This isn’t the nicest place to do time,’ says Paterson, former governor of Toronto’s DDon Jail,’ and it’s not meant to be.’

What Millbrook is meant to be, what it was specially designed for shortly after an outbreak of rioting at Guelph reformatory in 1952, is a place of stern no-nonsense discipline for the more difficult inmates of other provincial institutions. It differs from most reformatories about as much as Dorchester Penitentiary differs from Disneyland. Unlike the unfenced so-called open institutions – where prisoners usually live in barracks-like dormitories, eat together and enjoy comparative freedom of movement and communication – Millbrook is tough, and a man imprisoned behind its 23-foot wall has a monastic time of it.

The first 16 days of his term there are spent in his closed-in cell, cut off from contact with everyone but his jailers, the reformatory psychologist, chaplain and doctor. His meals are pushed in to him through a small opening in the foot of his cell door and he gets out only for short solitary walks in a small exercise yard.

IF behaves well in quarantine, his life at Millbrook improves slightly. He’s allowed cigarets, visitors, a novel from the prison library and a nightly half-hour period to mingle with the other 25 occupants in his cell block. He also gets to work eight hours a day, scrubbing floors.

In time, he can win other privileges – a thin mattress for his steel bunk, newspapers, mail, movies, sports in the yard, a job making license plates, hobby periods or high-school correspondence classes. At Millbrook, a prisoner has no privileges but those he earned by good behavior. He can lose any or all of them easily – by sassing a guard, loafing at his job, or even swearing at another inmate – and he also runs the risk of solitary confinement ‘behind the little green door’ or, for really serious offences, the strap.

At a time when the trend in penology is clearly toward open institutions for treating criminal offenders rather than merely punishin them, the $3,500,000 stronghold at Millbrook has been criticized for its iron discipline, steel bars, brick walls and bullet-proof glass. As one authority in the field of corrections put it recently, ‘How are you going to prepare a man for the outside world by keeping him in a cage?’

THEN is Millbrook, for all its modern custodial trappings, an anachronism? Far from it, asserts Ontario’s deputy minister of reform institutions, Hedley Basher. You can’t have effective minimum security,’ he says, ‘without maximum security to back it up. Just the fact that there is a place like Millbrook has greatly improved discipline in our other reformatories. Maybe it’s largely a fear of the unknown. At any rate, with the troublemakers moved to Millbrook, we’ve already been able to disarm the guard at Guelph and Burwash and we expect to do a great deal more there in the way of corrective treatment and rehabilitation.’ 

If most reformatory inmates stay in line, and out of Millbrook, what about the others who don’t? There are 125 of them at Millbrook now, in three categories. The first is made up of stars, a misleading term for problem prisoners. Most of these are younger men, in their late teens and early twenties, who have already done time before. Group Two is made up of 25 sex deviates. Not rated as security risks or troublemakers – though sex offenders can disrupt normal prison life – they’re confined to Millbrook chiefly for lack of a better place to keep them. Group Three includes 40 drug addicts.

The youngest convict at Millbrook is a baby-faced 17-year-old who knifed a guard at Guelph, the oldest a sex offender of 61. Most inmates have little education but there are some striking exceptions – a dope-addicted doctor and two high-school teachers, both in for sex crimes.

IT’S worth noting that the star prisoners – the troublemakers – cause little trouble at Millbrook, if only because they get little opportunity. Says Paterson: ‘Most of them come here with that hostile spit-in-your-eye attitude. But after a couple of weeks in their cells, with nothing much to do but think, they usually simmer down.’ One reason for this, the superintendent thinks, is the incentive system of privileges. ‘They soon realize that the kind of life they lead here is entirely up to them. If they behave, it gets progressively easier. If not, they can do hard time. The choice is as simple as that.’

Another reason is advanced by Douglas Penfold, a psychologist with the Department of Reform Institutions who spends most of his time at Millbrook. ‘A lot of these men just can’t seem to adjust to group living in an open institution,’ he says. ‘Here they get lots of time to themselves, away from the influence and distractions of other inmates, and they have a better chance to start thinking seriously about their problems and their future. I’d say the attitude of at least 25 per cent of our so-called disturbers had undergone a distinct change for the better.’

While Millbrook may never set any records for turning out model citizens – since its clients are judged to be the worst of a pretty bad lot – an attempt is being made there to reform them. As well as up-to-date medical and dental clinics, two psychologists, a psychiatrist and a case-worker from the John Howard after-care agency are on hand to help prisoners get at the causes of their criminal behavior and fix on some way of overcoming them.

AFTER careful screening and preliminary treatment at Millbrook, many Group Three prisoners have been sent on the provincial clinic for addicts at Mimico. In addition, one Millbrook psychologist, Gordon Johnson, has recently been working at the forensic clinic of the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital, preparing a rehabilitation program for the reformatory’s sex offenders.

Perhaps the most significant development at Millbrook is the fact that its star prisoners will soon be introduced to group counselling, a form of psychotherapy that has proved highly successful in some of the world’s most advanced penal institutions. Members of the custodial staff, who will act as group leaders, are now attending a series of lectures by psychiatrists and sociologists – on their own time and by their own choice.

All such clinical work has the full approval and support of superintendent Paterson, a breezy 44-year-old onetime Royal Canadian Regiment colonel, and his chief aid, James Rea, a big greying man with 20 years’ experience in prison work.

‘This place could never justify itself,’ Paterson believes, ‘if it was nothing but a lockup for bad actors. True, it’s having a good effect on other reformatories. But we want Millbrook to have some positive value for the men who are here, to help them go straight when they leave. If so, Millbrook could be a big advance in penology in Canada.’

AS for Millbrook’s inmates, its strict discipline and rigid routine affect them in various ways. ‘I guess I’d better behave myself here,’ one prisoner wrote to his wife. ‘They’ve got more strap than I’ve got backside.’ Another, on the eve of his discharge, told Paterson that he’d never, never be back in Millbrook again. ‘Next time,’ he said, ‘I’ll make sure I get a big bit.’ In prison parlance, a big bit is two years or more, a term in a federal penitentiary. Perhaps the most remarkable reaction to Millbrook was expressed not long ago by a 19-year-old star prisoner. He arrived there spouting defiance, paid for it in solitary confinement and wound up meekly asking for vocational guidance and advice from psychologist Doug Penfold. When his behavior had improved so markedly that he was offered a transfer back to an open institution, he astounded all by declining with thanks. ‘I can learn a lot more here and keep out of trouble,’ he said. ‘So I’d like to stay till my time’s up.’

Millbrook officials were secretly delighted at this unlikely testimonial. But they didn’t advertise it. After all, the place just can’t afford to get a good name.

Mr. MacDonald was the author of a recent Globe Magazine article on problems facing the courts

Captions:

1) If he behaves, he’s allowed a mattress, mail, novels, prison company and visitors

2) The design of Millbrook is modern, but the walls that make a prison haven’t changed much over the years; Millbrook’s are 23 feet high

3) The job of making license plates for cars is a privilege, awarded for good conduct

4) Guard Lawrence Wiles keeps watch as one prisoner cuts another’s hair; at Millbrook, an inmate has to win the right of mixing with his fellows.

5) Head man: Superintendent Hartley Paterson; The resident chaplain, Dr. Harold Neal, conducts a service; Deputy Superintendent James Rea

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Citizen advisory committee groups have become a
strong arm in the community, reaching out to local
penitentiaries, helping to understand why resocialization
of inmates is important for the community and the
inmate. The following extracts from a story in the
Gravenhurst News portrays an incisive picture of a
citizen committee working to help correctional endeavors.
Author Michael Cole is a member of the
citizen’s advisory committee working with inmates
and staff at Beaver Creek Correctional Camp, Ont.

I am becoming more and more aware of a very special,
valuable, and unique relationship between Beaver Creek
Correctional Camp and the community in which it is
situated. This article explains why I feel we are “lucky” to
have Beaver Creek in our midst.

I say lucky because Beaver Creek affords us — the citizens
of Muskoka — an unparalleled opportunity to help the
residents of Beaver Creek help themselves get back into the
mainstream of Canadian life, and in return, we are fortunate
in reaping the rewards of the many and varied projects the
fellows from Beaver Creek have undertaken in this
community — most of them at no cost to us whatsoever.
Our relationship with Beaver Creek is a two way — give
and take — affair. But for us to give, we have to fully
understand what Beaver Creek is all about.

Briefly, for those who are unfamiliar, or are new to the
community, Beaver Creek Correctional Camp is a minimum
security penal institution situated between Gravenhurst and
Bracebridge off Hwy 11, with a resident population of about
100, and a staff of 20. There are no bars, no gates —
nothing to prevent somebody getting out — or in — at
any time. The only barrier is a bond of understanding that
exists in the minds of the residents and the administration.

There are rules, to be sure, but on any given day quite a
number of the residents travel into nearby towns to work, go

to the doctor or dentist, do volunteer jobs, or go to a movie.
Many of them get day or weekend passes enabling them to
spend a few days with their families at home.

Residents of Beaver Creek are given something rather incongruous
in a penal institution — freedom. But freedom
implies responsibility. At Beaver Creek the residents learn to
discipline themselves — they work together collectively
trying to maintain as good an image as possible in the
community. Granted, there is the odd unfortunate incident
— usually blown far out of proportion by a sometimes unfair
and ill-informed public — but by and large their percentage
of good deeds to bad is no worse (and sometimes even better)
than what exists in any office, school, or large group of
people here, or anywhere else.

In 1961, when it was announced that Beaver Creek was to
be established in this area, some people felt that the lives of
those who lived near the camp would be in danger. Others
looked at the whole project with some concern, but luckily
these fears quickly faded as people began to learn more
about the camp, and as they realized that their preconceived
notions about the camp had little or no basis in fact.

The Citizens Advisory Committee, of which I am a member,
is composed of 12 men and women chosen from all over
Muskoka. It meets regularly at Beaver Creek and acts as a
liaison between the camp and the surrounding community to
identify the needs of both groups, to try to fill these needs by
creating the situations and opportunities for the Beaver
Creek residents to involve themselves in the community.

As Rev Jim Thompson, another member of the committee
put it, “How can a person who has been artificially separated
from society for a period of time be expected to function
as a responsible citizen on release without a graduai
reintroduction into society.

"This requires mutual cooperation between the institution
and the society surrounding it, and it is in this area that we,
as citizens, can help, if only by changing our own attitudes
toward Beaver Creek.”

Examples of the many volunteer community projects that
Beaver Creek has done are too numerous to list, however
here are a few examples. They do a variety of work at the
Ontario hospitals in Gravenhurst and Orillia. Some of the
residents form a band which plays free at The Pines in
Bracebridge, during the winter carnival, and for other local
functions. Over 40 Beaver Creek men were involved doing
volunteer work during the winter carnival maintaining the fire
in front of the opera house, refereeing hockey games, marshalling
the opening night snowmobile parade, building up
the trail for the snowmobile races, and many more jobs.
They do free maintenance for the Children’s Aid at
Longhurst House in Bracebridge, and at their summer

camp. They do work for the boy scouts and girl guides,
chopping wood, and preparing campsites for them. During
the recent renovations of the Gravenhurst opera house, an
entire crew from Beaver Creek spent hundreds of hours
working on the floors and ceilings of the auditorium.

And they provide assistance to individuals, many of them
elderly, who are unable to do needed repair work on their
homes. All of this is strictly on a volunteer basis, and while
there are problems providing transportation and supervision,
Beaver Creek volunteers are available for this type of work
on an individual basis in either community.

I hope the preceeding will give the reader at least a small
insight into what Beaver Creek is all about. Again, I will repeat
that I feel we are very fortunate to have Beaver Creek
in our midst. Not only do their many community assistance
projects help us, but it affords us a rare opportunity to help a
lot of people that are eager for our understanding and assistance.
They don’t ask for anything really tangible – simply
a thank you when they do something worthwhile, a smile
now and then, and more than anything, they want an opportunity
to prove themselves. Let’s all of us give them this
chance at every opportunity. Let’s replace suspicion with
understanding.

– Michael Cole, “Prison Camp Offers Community Helping Hand.” Discussion, Vol. 2, no. 3, Sept. 1974. pp. 23-25.

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“…the lines of influence had to run not from the prison to the community but from the community to the prison. Rather than serve as a model to the society, the penitentiary was to model itself on the society; it was not to be an antidote to the external environment, but a faithful replication of it. ‘The conception of the prison as a community’ was the organizing formula. ‘Temporary exile into a temporary society as nearly as possible like normal society on the outside would seem the best solution.’

Such an orientation appeared first in the 1870′s, with the Declaration of Principles of the National Congress. But the Progressives enlarged on these ideas and made them relevant to the operation of all types of prisons. Persuaded of the essential soundness of the American system and committed wholeheartedly to the notion of individualizing criminal justice, they labeled the traditional prisons ‘machine-like,’ and criticized them as failures at rehabilitation. How could it be otherwise when they prescribed the same medicine to all inmates and did not prepare them to reenter society? ‘The old prison system,’ noted on reformer, ‘exists in terms of suppression and isolation of the individual and in a denial of a social existence.’ It was absurd to compel a prisoner to follow ironclad rules in the institution when he should have been helped to adjust to the democratic quality of community life. The prison had to be redesigned to meet individual needs and to facilitate an eventual return to society.

The task may well have appeared formidable. After all, every state prison held anywhere from one thousand to three thousand inmates in an environment that, at best, resembled a factory. But Progressives were certain of their ability to individualize and democratize the prison. They wished to abolish such inherited practices as the lock step and the striped uniforms. They encouraged liberalized correspondence and visitation rules; to maintain contact with the outside society would facilitate the inmate’s later adjustment. Further, they detested the rule of silence; inmates were social creatures and should be so treated. Progressives also looked to introduce amusements into the prison routine. Sports, exercise, movies, bands, and orchestras, all now seemed appropriate. And so did commissaries, where prisoners could purchase the small but significant amenities that would heighten their sense of a more ordinary life.”

– David J. Rothman, Conscience and Convenience: The Asylum and Its Alternatives in Progressive America. Revised Edition. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 2002 [1980] pp.118-119

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“It has been said that in prison all men are equal; but their natural inequalities are not removed by putting men in custody; they are only ignored; and prison treatment, being uniform, is therefore unequal treatment of individuals.”  

– James Devon, Glasgow Herald, 29 January, 1908.

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“We endeavor to cure crime by a system childlishly futile. As well might we sentence the lunatic to three months in the asylum, or the victim of smallpox to thirty days in the hospital, at the end of these periods to turn them loose, whether mad or sane, cured or still disease…Offenders must be dealt with as individuals, not as a class”

– Roland Molineux, “The Court of Rehabiliation.” Charities, 18 (1907), p. 739.

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“…it
is also certain, that, though
not adopting the American prison discipline without modification, we
might borrow from it a number of its principles and its advantages.
Thus every new prison which would be built according to the system of
cells, would have an incontestable superiority over the present
prisons. The separation of the prisoners during night, would put a
stop to the most dangerous communications, and destroy one of the
most active agents of corruption. We cannot imagine what objection,
possibly, could be made against the system of cells, if, as we
believe it to the case, the prisons built according to’ this system,
would not cost more than the others.* We have said that it seems to
difficult to maintain absolute silence among the convicts without the
assistance of corporal punishment. However, this is only an opinion,
and the example of Wethersfield, where the prisoners have been
governed without beating for several years, tends to prove that this
severe means of discipline is not absolutely necessary. It seems to
us, that the chance of success would make the trial on the part of
government well worth the attempt a trial which seems to us the more
reasonable, as we would be sure at least of approaching our end, in
case we should not succeed entirely : thus even if public opinion
should show itself decidedly hostile to corporal punishments, we
would be obliged, in order to establish the law of silence, to resort
to disciplinary chastisements of another nature, such as absolute
solitude without labour, and a reduction of food; there is good
ground to believe, that with the assistance of these latter
punishments, less rigorous than the first, but nevertheless
efficient, silence would be sufficiently maintained to avoid the evil
of moral intercourse between the prisoners; the most important point
would be, first to declare the principle of isolation and silence as
a rule of discipline of the new prisons; the application of the
principle would meet, perhaps with us, with more obstacles, because
it would not be aided by such energetic auxiliaries; but we have no
doubt, that regarding the great general end, much good would already
thus be effected. Radical reformations, perhaps, would not be
obtained by this imperfect system, but great corruptions would be
prevented, and we would thus derive from the American system, those
advantages which are the most incontestable. We believe that
government would do something useful in establishing a model
penitentiary, constructed upon the American plan, and governed as
much as possible according to the disciplinary rules which are in
force in the penitentiaries of the United States. It would be
necessary that this construction, planned according to all the
simplicity of the models we have brought with us, should be executed
without any architectural elegance. Care should be taken to place in
the penitentiary new convicts only; because if the nucleus of an old
prison should suddenly be introduced into the new penitentiary, it
would be difficult to submit to the severities of the new discipline,
individuals accustomed to the indulgent system of our “central
houses."”

– Gustave de Beaumont & Alexis de Toqueville, On The Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France. Translated by Francis Lieber. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchford, 1833. p. 105-106.

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“…sentencing reform — mainly consisting of reduced penalties for drug-related crimes — has received bipartisan support at both the federal and state levels. But this isn’t enough. We should also bring back discretionary parole — release before a sentence is completed — even for people convicted of violent crimes if they’ve demonstrated progress during their imprisonment.

Other democracies regularly allow such prisoners to be granted reduced sentences or conditional release. But in the United States the conversation about this common-sense policy became politicized decades ago. As a result, discretionary parole has largely disappeared in most states and was eliminated in the federal system. Prisoners whose sentences include a range of years — such as 15 to 25 years, or 25 years to life — can apply to their state’s parole board for discretionary parole, but they almost always face repeated denials and are sent back to wither away behind bars despite evidence of rehabilitation. (Inmates who have served their maximum sentence are released on what is called mandatory parole.)

Rejection is usually based on the “nature of the crime,” rather than an evaluation of a person’s transformation and accomplishments since they committed it. The deeper reason for the rejection of discretionary parole requests is simple: fear. Politicians and parole board members are terrified that a parolee will commit a new crime that attracts negative media attention.

But this fear-driven thinking is irrational, counterproductive and inhumane. It bears no connection to solid research on how criminals usually “age out” of crime, especially if they have had educational and vocational opportunities while incarcerated. It permanently excludes people who would be eager to contribute to society as law-abiding citizens, while taxpayers spend over $30,000 a year to house each prisoner. And it deprives hundreds of thousands of people of a meaningful chance to earn their freedom.

But are prisoners who have served long sentences for violent crimes genuinely capable of reforming and not reoffending? The evidence says yes. In fact, only about 1 percent of people convicted of homicide are arrested for homicide again after their release. Moreover, a recent “natural experiment” in Maryland is very telling. In 2012, the state’s highest court decided that Maryland juries in the 1970s had been given faulty instructions. Some defendants were retried, but many others accepted plea bargains for time served and were released. As a result, about 150 people who had been deemed the “worst of the worst” have been let out of prison — and none has committed a new crime or even violated parole.

This outcome may sound surprising, but having spent one afternoon a week for the past three years teaching in a maximum-security prison in Maryland, I’m not shocked at all. Many of the men I teach would succeed on the outside if given the chance. They openly recognize their past mistakes, deeply regret them and work every day to grow, learn and make amends. Many of them are serving life sentences with a theoretical chance of parole, but despite submitting thick dossiers of their accomplishments in prison along with letters of support from their supervisors and professors, they are routinely turned down.”

Marc Morjé Howard,

The Practical Case for Parole for Violent Offenders.” Opinion, The New York Times. August 8, 2018.

Photograph is
“An inmate at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Alabama.” William Widmer for The New York Times

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“If the diet in our prisons be dreaded, the idlers will not direct their steps so often towards these establishments. There are in the cities of Montreal and Quebec a certain number of rogues who quit the prisons to return to them, after an absence of a few days; for these miserable wretches – the greater number of whom are without any home – like to establish their abode at the common jail, where they find clean beds, an agreeable temperature, chiefly in winter time, and a certain abundance of food, comparatively speaking, all of which induce them to consider the prison as palaces.

Before building [a new central prison, for which the inspectors have been making the case for twenty years], it must be borne in mind that it is intended for all classes of criminals; that it will have to shelter the scum of society, wretches, who, half the time, have neither home, nor food, nor clothing, picked up by the police in the filthy streets and in the haunts of vice and infamy in our cities; and that, accustomed as they are to every misery and privation, it would not be right to lodge them in a palace, in a building which would create a desire to remain in it, in a word a dwelling affording more comfort than the dwellings of half the honest people of the country…The inhumanity and barbarity of by gone ages must be carefully avoided; but on the other hand we must not be carried away by a ridiculous and dangerous philanthropy.

If…prompted by an exaggerated sensitiveness,, a mistaken idea of philanthropy, we place these criminals in a better position than they were in before committing their crime, does not the punishment become an illusion, a mockery, I may even say a reward for crime. Let us ask ourselves whether the treatment of criminals in our gaols and penitentiaries is in the interest of society and of the state.”

– “Thirteenth Report of the Inspectors of Prisons, Asylums, &c.,&c. for the Province of Quebec for the Year 1882,” Quebec Sessional Papers, Volume 16, pt. 15, pp. 15-17.

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“We have no doubt, but that the habits of order to which the
prisoner is subjected for several years, influence very considerably
his moral conduct after his return to society.

The necessity of labour which overcomes his disposition to
idleness; the obligation of silence which makes him reflect; the
isolation which places him alone in presence of his crime and his
suffering; the religious instruction which enlightens and comforts
him; the obedience of every moment to inflexible rules; the
regularity of a uniform life; in a word, all the circumstances
belonging to this severe system, are calculated to produce a deep
impression upon his mind.

Perhaps, leaving the prison he is not an honest man; but he has
contracted honest habits. He was an idler; now he knows how to work.
His ignorance prevented him from pursuing a useful occupation; now he
knows how to read and to write; and the trade which he has learnt in
the prison, furnishes him the means of existence which formerly he
had not. Without loving virtue, he may detest the crime of which he
has suffered the cruel consequences; and if he is not more virtuous
he has become at least more judicious; his morality is not honour,
but interest. His religious faith is perhaps neither lively nor deep;
but even supposing that religion has not touched his heart, his mind
has contracted habits of order, and he possesses rules for his
conduct in life; without having a powerful religious conviction, he
has acquired a taste for moral principles which religion affords;
finally, if he has not become in truth better, he is at all their
vices, much in common with ourselves; but they never are redeemed by
laxity; on the contrary, they are hardened by it. Few, very few cases
indeed, ought to be excepted, viz. those in which neither jury nor
judge could help condemning according to the positive law, but in
which, nevertheless, a number of circumstances render the law for
this individual instance unjust; case which no human wisdom can
entirely prevent….if he has not become in truth better, he is at
least more obedient to the laws, and that is all which society has
the right to demand.”

–  Gustave de Beaumont & Alexis de Toqueville, On The Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France. Translated by Francis Lieber. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchford, 1833. p. 56.

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“THERE are in America as well as in Europe, estimable men whose
minds feed upon philosophical reveries, and whose extreme sensibility
feels the want of some illusion. These men, for whom philanthropy has
become a matter of necessity, find in the penitentiary system a
nourishment for this generous passion. Starting from abstractions
which deviate more or less from reality, they consider man, however
far advanced in crime, as still susceptible of being brought back to
virtue. They think that the most infamous being may yet recover the
sentiment of honour; and pursuing consistently this opinion, they
hope for an epoch when all criminals may be radically reformed, the
prisons be entirely empty, and justice find no crimes to punish.

Others, perhaps without so profound a conviction, pursue
nevertheless the same course; they occupy themselves continually with
prisons; it is the subject to which all the labours of their life
bear reference. Philanthropy has become for them a kind of
profession; and they have caught the monomanie of the penitentiary
system, which to them seems the remedy for all the evils of society.

We believe that both overrate the good to be expected from this
institution, of which the real benefican be acknowledged without
attributing to it imaginary effects.

There is, first, an incontestable advantage inherent in a
penitentiary system of which isolation forms the principal basis. It
is that the criminals do not become worse in the prison than they
were when they entered it. On this point this system differs
essentially from that pursued in our prisons, which not only render
the prisoner no better, but corrupt him still more. With us all great
crimes have been planned in some measure in a prison, and been
deliberated upon in the midst of assembled malefactors. Such is the
fatal influence of the wicked upon each other, that one finished
rogue in a prison suffices as a model for all who see and hear him,
to fashion their vices and immorality upon his.

Nothing, certainly, is more fatal to society than this course of
mutual evil instruction in prisons; and it is well ascertained that
we owe to this dangerous contagion a peculiar population of
malefactors, which every day becomes more numerous and more alarming.
It is an evil which the penitentiary system of the United States
cures completely.”

– Gustave de Beaumont & Alexis de Toqueville, On The Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France. Translated by Francis Lieber. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchford, 1833. p. 48-49.

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