Posts Tagged ‘sexual deviancy in prison’

“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


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


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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“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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“Gripping the leatherette arms of an easy chair in a darkened
room, a convicted rapist gasped as scenes of frightened
women and aggressive sex flashed on screen. A recorded
voice droned, telling intimate scenes of women and men
“. .. the little pigs, how you hate them all." 

"Stop!” Fantasy, tape, pictures halt, the rapist flicks an elastic
band on his wrist. He is well into a course of behavior
therapy – the elastic band, sex scenes, and droning voice
are part of the day’s session. 

Behavioral therapy, behavioral modification, either expression
evokes strong reaction, especially when in a prison
setting. A scalpel, an inert figure stretched on an operating
table, and surgeons redirecting the patient’s actions by deft
movements into his brain – this is the picture behavioral
modification conjures up to the uninitiated. At the prison
medical centre in Ontario, there’s no operating table or scalpel
– but words projected into understanding of a man’s
problem. It isn’t new. Various forms of changing human
habits have been used throughout the ages. What is new at
the Regional Medical Centre in Ontario is the application of
tried methods in a prison setting. The special treatment
program functions on an evaluation teaching and treatment
centre for the Ontario region of the Canadian Penitentiary
Service, where some 2,200 inmates are incarcerated. 

Critical reactions to behavioral modification techniques vibrate
around the world. In Canada, Transition, March 1974,
a magazine written and edited by inmates and former inmates,
expressed fear that inmates are used inhumanely
in behavioral modification experiments. But the Canadian
Penitentiary Service has established ethical procedures to
protect inmates from being used in research that would be
detrimental to physical or mental health. “We do not feel we
can impose treatment or experimentation on people simply
because they are found guilty of an offense under the criminal
code,” stressed John Braithwaite, deputy commissioner,
inmate programs. Any treatment program for inmates is explained
in detail and requires the inmate’s signed consent. 

An article appearing in Psychology Today, estimates 70,000
brain operations were performed in the United States and

Britain from 1930 to 1950 in an effort to change man’s
habits. According to the article psychosurgical practise was
halted when after-effects, such as blunting of the intellect,
impairing judgment, and reducing creativity, were

In the last 20 years, the magazine says, psychosurgeons
have developed a technique where probes or electrodes
composed of fine insulated wires are directed through the
skull into specific areas of the brain. A weak electric current
directed through the implanted electrode can produce a behavioral response in the patient, and a strong current can
destroy the brain tissue in the vicinity of the electrode tip.
These practices are not used in CPS.

A less intense form of behavioral change used today
guides the patient through therapy sessions intended to acquaint
him with the need for behavioral change. Aversion
conditioning, premised on punishing undesirable behavior,
conditions the patient not to repeat the behavior. Drugs,
such as the vomit-inducing apomorphine can be used, but
are not used in CPS. Electric shock, another form of treatment,
is used by the Service but not frequently. Most treatment
is directed toward therapy that encourages the patient
to change unacceptable behavioral habits himself, minus
the scalpel or electrodes.

Questions on the duration of aversion conditioning have
been raised. According to some psychological authorities,

behavioral change wears off, patients need booster treatments
to retain changed behavior. There are others who do
not believe in the treatment at all. 

Reward systems, changing behavior with positive
reinforcements for desired behavior, according to Dr Hugh
Haley, CPS chief psychology services, are contemporary
techniques which have greater success potential. Teachers,
he says, are reaping the benefits of these systems in controlling
difficult children. 

People seem to think behavioral modification techniques involve
strange awesome powers, says Dr Haley. “Apply the
principles of learning theory to treatment programs that do
not involve chemical or physical intervention and it would
appear behavioral modification has the greatest potential in
dealing with anti-social behavior learned through an inadequate
social environment.”
Hidden behind the high gray limestone walls of Kingston
Penitentiary, on the shores of Lake Ontario, the Regional
Medical Centre harbors a group of inmates with sexual problems.
They are all volunteer patients. Psychosurgery is not
performed, neither is it contemplated. Chemotherapy is
available, but its use is discouraged. The program emphasizes
that treatment is only “a stab” at giving soon-to-be
released sexual offenders a chance for treatment before returning
to society. 

Following recommendations of the Sex Offenders Advisory
Board, at CPS, Ottawa, Dr G D Scott, director of the Centre,
initiated a program for treatment of sex offenders. Dr D J
McCaldon, a psychiatrist, and psychologist Dr Bill Marshall
set up the unit a year ago. They blended psychotherapy and
behavioral therapy, described as traditionally uneasy companions.
Imminent release or parole consideration was a
selection criteria. “Our goal was to take people who were 16
to 20 weeks away from release. We felt we’d be able to do
vigorous therapy and make changes fairly rapidly,” said Dr

The two doctors based their treatment on seven weeks of
psychotherapy and seven of behavioral therapy, with a
week for assessment at the beginning, middle and end of
the program. Inmates were put into one of the two sessions
and exchanged at mid-point. 

Determining who should be invited to participate was a
laborious job. Stacks of files were searched and classification
officers contacted. “It was not only finding the overt
sexual offender, but trying to identify the latent ones that
made the search difficult. After selection, we explained the
program to each inmate, pointing out we hoped to modify
the problem that brought him to prison. Treatment, we emphasized,
was voluntary,” said Dr McCaldon.

All were evaluated through assessment surveys involving
sexual attitude questionaires and physiological response
testing apparatus. When the inmate’s deviance was found,
treatment was plotted by therapists. 

Behavioral therapy involves sexual reeducation, whereby a
person’s basic sexual urges, from a deviant object to a more
appropriate one, are changed. Social education is also
necessary, noted the doctor. “It doesn’t help a patient if he
gives up a fantasy for little children, replacing it with fantasy
for adults, if he still doesn’t know how to talk to girls. He can
hardly suggest sexual intercourse if he doesn’t first have the
wherewithal to make a female’s acquaintance." 

Aversive conditioning by electric shock is used occasionally
in the program. Greater than a tickle and less than a sharp
pain, the strength of the shock is predetermined by the inmate
before treatment. "It used to be thought if you had
very strong aversive stimulus and could make it horrible for
the person, it would really make an impression. It does! The
patient usually ends up becoming aversive to his therapist
instead of his deviances,” said Dr McCaldon. 

Seated in the darkened treatment room, listening to his own
pre-recorded fantasies, the inmate-patient observes pictures
projected on the wall. Known to have molested little girls, he
watches a sequence of events unfold until he is faced (on
screen) by a little girl. The pictures depict the molester as he

becomes interested and approaches the little girl, ultimately
forcing sexual relations. Dr McCaldon explained, the inmate-patient
will react to these slides. In aversive conditioning,
during the time the slide is shown, a shock is applied
to his ankle or calf, thereby punishing the undesired

Similarly, using a thought-stopping technique, the inmate-patient
is allowed to engage in his fantasy. When aroused
sexually a thought-stopping reaction is applied. "Stop!”
shouts the therapist, or an elastic band on the man’s wrist is
flicked. Both actions demand quick action. Whenever the
patient feels his thoughts are getting out of hand, when
away from treatment, he resorts to the rubber band or
“stop” action. 

Dr McCaldon believes depriving a person of his sexual drive
through chemical means is preferable to castration. Stilboestrol,
a synthetic female hormone, relieves potency, he
says, and cyproterone acetate, acts as a sexual dampening-down
drug. He hasn’t used the drugs at the Centre. 

Occasionally Dr McCaldon uses pentothal or methidrine,
a disinhibitor and stimulant. “Inmates hear about them and
feel the drugs help them to remember something in their
past. One case had immediate results. Memories the patient
had hysterically repressed or had forgotten, were graphically
brought back and replaced by positive direction." 

One problem constantly harassing Dr McCaldon is the
guessing game in selecting inmates close to their release
date. "If a man is due for parole in a few months we don’t
know how the parole board will view his case. You can’t just
apply treatment and say, ‘0K, you’re done. You can go out
on the street — goodby!’ We don’t know when they are
going to be released for sure.” The doctor’s problem could
be solved ere long. The National Parole Board is discussing
collaboration with CPS on the treatment program. 

Dr McCaldon is also concerned with a problem that affects
a patient returned to a non-medical institution. Identified as
a sex-offender, he is liable to face hostility. “We don’t see
manifestations of inmate subculture in the RMC. Acceptance
is general. We tell our patients there’s no such thing
as undesirable." 

Admitting to guesswork in the program, he conceded, "How
can we be sure a person is cured?” A sign Dr McCaldon
watches for is less reaction to a deviant stimulus and more
to planned treatment. “When this occurs the patient is a
good bet to stay out of trouble." 

Physiological tests, questionnaires, clinical impressions, and
reactions to staff and other inmates, are also noted, ”.. .
mostly we’re enthusiastic about our recommendations, confident
the patient will do well on parole with Dr. McCaldon’s

Reactions from inmate patients to the program vary. One
found the behavioral therapy positive and helpful. Although
not close to release, he volunteered for treatment. A convicted
arsonist, his criminal actions were considered sexually
motivated. Dr McCaldon, describing the case as a
psychiatric emergency, accepted the inmate because of his
willingness to subject himself to therapy.

 Said the inmate, “I thought the group therapy was good. I
was shaking when I first joined. But I had to bring out my
horrible problem in front of the others. I wanted to quit, but I
didn’t. After I had heard the problems of others, I didn’t feel
so bad." 

Having attempted suicide 13 times the man knew he had to
seek help. He feared being released with the same problem
after a seven-year sentence. Another offense he knew
would mean prison for life. 

Behavioral therapy gave him a positive reaction. "I can look
at the pictures that used to turn me on and now they don’t.”
He is sure his problem is 75 per cent solved. “If I start thinking
of the wrong thing, I think the word ‘stop!’ I get myself
away from the wrong thought. Before the treatment I would
dwell on it and hate myself." 

Not only has the program helped the patient toward overcoming
his problem, he can now articulate. "A year ago I
couldn’t talk about my problem. Now I can and not feel bad
about it. Changing my fantasies is very hard, but if you’re
willing to take the treatment, it works.”
A rapist found treatment at the RMC easy after undergoing
four months of intensive therapy at a provincial psychiatric
hospital. “I was on a punishment program most of the time.
It was rigid — heavy confrontation from morning till night. I
hated the place with a passion, but I’m thrilled I went there
because it helped me." 

A strong believer in psychotherapy, the innnate knew his
attitudes changed during his stay at the provincial hospital.
Back at RMC in Kingston, he volunteered for Dr McCaldon’s
program. He described the psychotherapy there as anticlimactic
and said he didn’t get much from behavioral

Dr McCaldon said the two cases indicate there’s no single
answer to treatment of sexual problems. "Ithing we’re going
to find this with most of our patients — some are going to
benefit more from one phase than another." 

What Dr McCaldon and his team, at the Regional Medical
Centre in Ontario offers is a chance for treatment before an
inmate with sexual problems returns to society. He is seeking
greater support for his work, and in surroundings conducive
to mental therapy.”

– “A Chance to Help,” Discussion. Vol. 2, no. 4. Dec. 1974.

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Ron Bull, “A cure?: A sexual offender at Kingston sits in one of three laboratories at the centre while waiting to see a videotape. His reactions to it will be closely monitored.” Black and white photogragh, 1984. From the Toronto Star archives. 

Toronto Reference LibraryBaldwin Collection. Call Number / Accession Number: tspa_0011242f

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“Buckner’s short-lived program at
the Neuro-Psychiatric Clinic (NPC) was the closest Ontario came to transforming
the prison into a therapeutic environment, and to treating sex offenders as
more mentally disturbed than criminally motivated. In this respect, the
transfer of ‘sex deviants’ from Guelph to the newly opened maximum-security
facility in Millbrook was a giant step backward for the prison reform movement.
Touted by the Department of Reform Institutions as the first North American
facility for psychopathic inmates, Millbrook was intended to house the ‘tougher
and meaner breed of inmates’ that guards complained were overrunning the Guelph
Reformatory and corrupting young, first-time offenders. Officials claimed that
the province’s most incorrigible inmates were to be reformed by the new
prison’s highly regimented and strictly controlled environment, in which
treatment, not punishment, would be the guiding spirit. However, it was
precisely the opposite. By the mid-1960s, critics denounced Millbrook as
Ontario’s Alcatraz.

Intended to house the province’s
most violent prisoners, Millbrook was an extremely punitive environment.
Situated on one hundred acres of bucolic Ontario countryside, the prison
buildings were immured in a twenty-foot concrete wall. Eight glass-enclosed
towers housed guards who were on watch twenty-four hours a day. According to
the sentencing guide for magistrates, an inmate was ‘lodged in a single cell
bare of anything but a matressless steel bunk, bedding, and flush-to-wall
button wash-basin and toilet; with a frosted bullet-proof glass window set in
masonry and solid flush-with-wall door. The atmosphere of the place is chill,
clean, silent, and self-revealing.’ Though each cell had a window, it was too
high to look through, and prisoners were forbidden to stand on their beds to do
so. In an effort to prevent organized protests and riots, there were no dining
facilities where inmates could gather. Meals were delivered through a small
opening at the bottom of cell doors and consumed alone. In a letter to his
father, one inmate wrote, ‘You read about the palace a while back how tough it
is. You either resolve to a zombie state of mind or go out of it completely
whether that is the intention or not. All I can say it is a survival of the
fittest this is mentally.’ Indeed, a year earlier Millbrook’s consultant
psychiatrist, F. E. Webb, expressed grave concern over the growing number of
inmates showing signs of severe emotional and psychological damage. At least
one Group II (Sex deviant) inmate was sent to the nearby psychiatric hospital
in Penentanguishene, Webb anticipated that it was only a matter of time before
more would follow.

A major aspect of the disciplinary
regime at Millbrook was the Progressive Stage System, which aimed on the one
hand to force compliance with prison regulations through the withdrawal of
sensory stimulation, and on the other hand to reward compliance by
incrementally introducing the pleasures of food, human contact, and leisurely
pursuits. Upon arrival, inmates spent sixteen days on a ‘special diet’ without
letters, visitors, opportunities to exercise, and with only a Bible to read. At
Stage 2, inmates were permitted regular meals, one non-fiction book, tobacco,
forty-five minutes of recreation, and one thirty minute visit from a family
member each week. The best-behaved inmates entered Stage 3, where they were
granted library privileges, one letter out to family, one movie a week, and the
opportunity to take a correspondence course. Initially, all inmates entered at
Stage 1, but staff pointed out that Group II (sex deviants) and Group III (drug
addicts) were not sent there for punishment, and therefore should not be forced
to endure two weeks of what ammunted to solitary confinement. Soon thereafter,
the policy was changed so that Groups II and III entered at Stage 2. It was a
slight improvement, but they still had to ‘earn’ their way to Stage 3.

Despite promises that Millbrook would be a laboratory for the treatment of
sexual deviation, the reality was that the warehousing of homosexuals, sexual
predators within the inmate population, and men charged with crimes of sexual
violence and the sexual assault if children violated every tenet of the
treatment ideal. First, Millbrook made to distinction between male homosexuals,
male sexual predators within the prison system, and men incarcerated for sex
crimes. While it is true that male homosexuality was medically and popularly
regarded as a sexual deviation, public demands for prison treatment programs
grew out of a concern over sex crimes against children and, to a lesser extent,
women. Most would have agreed that homosexuals should have the opportunity to
receive treatment, but pedophiles were the primary object of concern. Second,
placing sex ‘deviants’ of any kind in a maximum-security facility was
diametrically opposed to the fundamental belief that perpetrators of sex crimes
needed psychological help, not punishment. Sending them to a maximum-security
prison for the ‘disturbers and disturbed’ is ‘really a terrible way to deal
with this type of offender,’ complained Helen Kinnear, one of the three
commissioners who studied and reported on Canada’s criminal sexual psychopath
legislation. ‘[The commissioners] would think that was discriminating against
the sex offender as compared with other offenders.’ Some experts simply
protested against the inclusion of homosexuals in the Millbrook program. For
example, W. T. McGrath, a leader in Ontario’s prison reform movement,
complained that the criminal justice system was being used to enforce a moral
order that ‘made criminals out of otherwise normal people.’ Learning to see
that most homosexuals are ‘in no way dangerous’ would solve the problem of
homosexuality in prison, he argued. It would reduce the number of homosexuals
committee to prisons and would ‘remove the need to plan for these special types
of inmates.’

Department of Reform Institutions
officials were unfazed by their critics. In fact, Frank van Nostrand
acknowledged that there was no plan to treat Millbrook’s homosexual prisoners
and that the policies were intended only ‘to remove them as a disturbance
factor.’ Officially, the primary objective of Millbrook’s ‘sex deviate’ unit was
the ‘complete segregation of some of the sexual perverts … for the protection
of other inmates,’ but even this was a gross abuse of the purpose of treatment
programs for convicted sex offenders. As far as the supporting public was
concerned, treatment was intended to facilitate safe release of sex criminals
into the community, not to provide inmates with protection from sexual
predation within the institution. Yet this is precisely how van Nostrand
justified the sex deviate unit. Providing treatment was never an imperative.

Emboldened by the 1958 retirement
of van Nostrand and the hiring of long-time reform activist J. D. Atcheson as
director of treatment services, Millbrook’s treatment staff, its pastor, and
its pro-reform Superintendent R. H. Paterson appealed to the deputy minister to
move forward with a sex deviant treatment program. Concerned that some staff
treated homosexual inmates poorly that non-homosexual Group II inmates were
distressed by the ‘constant sex talk’ among homosexuals, Millbrook staff
pressed Basher to allow the two groups to be separated from each other. They
claimed that homosexuals showed ‘a higher incidence of major personality
disorder, or potential mental illness,’ and that they ‘present less criminal
tendencies’ than other Group II (sex deviant) inmates. If homosexuals could be
separated, staff that had a strong dislike of homosexuals would not have to
work among them. They recommended hiring ‘Custodial Staff who are manly,
well-adjusted types and who have some understanding and acceptance of their
charges’ to work with them exclusively.

The suggestion that homosexuals
would benefit from appropriate role models whose gender presentation fit the
masculine ideal demonstrates the enduring link between gender and sexuality in
the 1950s and was consistent with popular theories of developmental psychology,
now widely considered oppressive. However, DRI records clearly demonstrate that
Paterson’s advocacy on behalf of Group II inmates was intended to ease the
extremely punitive and hostile conditions homosexual inmates were forced to
endure. At that time, there were a total of forty-four Group II (sex deviant)
inmates, almost half of whom were labelled homosexual (often based on prison
activity, not criminal conviction). Surprisingly, the deputy minister approved
the request and hired two new guards to work in a special wing created for
homosexual inmates. Custodial staff were given the option to refuse work in
that section.

Millbrook had an even worse track
record for providing treatment than did the Guelph Reformatory. Millbrook’s
first consultant psychiatrist, F. E. Webb, prescribed narcotics to the ‘sex
deviant’ population to ‘jump start’ the therapeutic process, and just before
retiring in the early 1960s began to administer ECT to those willing to
volunteer for the treatment. Based on the few surviving case files, it is clear
that he administered both sodium pentothal (popularly known as ‘truth serum’)
and shock therapy to make patients ‘more accessible to psychotherapy.’ …both
types were becoming a popular aid to facilitate psychotherapy. However, at
least one file suggests that ECT may also have been used punitively. In
February 1958, ‘Norman,’ a French-Canadian prisoner in an Ontario facility, was
cited for ‘doing his hair in a feminine way’ and was docked seven days good
conduct remission. One month later, Officer Woodly reported the same prisoner
for ‘biting his lips and rubbing his cheeks to make them red and also plucking
his eyebrows.’ This time Norman was sentenced to three days in solitary
confinement on a rationed diet. On 1 April he received yet another misconduct
report for ‘failing to achieve the required standard in conduct and industry
for 5 weeks,’ and lost yet another five days of good conduct. Two weeks later Norman
was admitted to the prison hospital for a course of ECT. He received a total of
six treatments and was released back into the prison. It is impossible to
conclude with certainty that his refusal to conform to institutional masculine
ideals and the disciplinary regime resulted in his receiving ECT, but given the
absence of any other documented explanation – medical or otherwise – it seems
reasonable to assume that his persistent effort to feminize his appearance was
the problem in need of treatment.

Despite ongoing requests from the
superintendent to create a therapeutic community, Webb’s ECT experiment was the
last significant venture in treating the sex criminal and homosexual population
at Millbrook. Yet, over the next four years, the Group II population almost
doubled from forty-four to eighty-three. In 1962, the few remaining members of
the treatment staff unanimously agreed that a program for sex offenders could
not be carried out at that institution and that other alternatives should be
pursued. Potts cited Millbrook’ss remote location as one of the reasons quality
staff were difficult to attract and retain. Other obstacles to building up a
program included conflict with the prison administration, lack of flexibility,
and the architecture of the building itself. The abandonment of treatment was
abetted by Webb’s successor, B. A. Kelly, who maintained that ‘incarceration is
a useful thing’ for Group II inmates and that most sex offenders were not
amenable to treatment. Even among those who were, Kelly insisted that treatment
in an outpatient setting was most suitable, since ‘sincere motivations for
changed sexual behaviour can only be assessed by a patient’s willingness to
keep appointments.’

In 1957 Minister Major John Foote,
the DRI’s most important advocate, retired. In the six years that followed, the
DRI portfolio changed hands five times. J. D. Atcheson, an outspoken activist
for criminal justice reform and former head psychiatrist of the Toronto Family
and Juvenile Court, was hired as the director of research and treatment
services the year Foote left, but could do little to keep the Ontario Plan
vision alive. In 1958 he complained to the minister that inmates were being
transferred to Millbrook simply to keep the marker plant running at full capacity,
to no avail. A year later, following a series of articles in the Toronto
Daily Star
and the Toronto Telegram denouncing the continued use of
the strap to administer punishment for rules infractions, ministry staff held a
special meeting on the issue, but because of Atcheson’s known opposition to
corporal punishment, he was not invited to attend. In light of the negative
publicity, Ontario Premier Leslie Frost approved its continued use only at
Millbrook. Alarmed by reportss that inmates were actually requesting transfers
to Millbrook Frost warned his deputy minister to ‘Keep Millbrook tough,’ and
custodial officers were told to keep their distance from inmates. Millbrook’s
pro-reform superintendent resigned in disgust.

By 1963 Millbrook’s skeletal treatment team of
two part-time consulting psychiatrists could no longer provide even a general
counselling service for inmates. Staff agreed that the maximum-security needs
of Group I inmates, the ‘troublemakers,’ clashed with the therapeutic needs of
Group II inmates, and the clinical program never got beyond conducting intake
assessments. R. R. Ross, the supervising psychologist for the region, reported
that treatment services would ‘henceforth be extremely limited in scope,’ and
that because of the shortage of staff, ‘there is little room for optimism about
future expansion.’ Ross recommended that the department transfer to a custodial
officer many of the duties that normally fell to the social worker and
psychologist, such as general counselling, psychological testing, and intake
interviewing. Various political appointments and public promises during the
late 1950s and 1960s kept afloat the illusion of the DRI as a therapeutic
haven, and magistrates continued to assume homosexuals and others charges with
sex crimes would receive treatment in prison. However, insiders regarded
Millbrook as little more than a ‘storage bin’ for problem inmates. In 1965 tow
inmates tried to draw public attention to the poor conditions at the prison by
hoarding their lighter fluid rations and lighting a fire. Guards anonymously
met with journalists to describe the appalling conditions inmates were forced
to endure. The opposition party called Millbrook the ‘Alcatraz of Ontario,’ and
demanded its closure.

The problem was not limited to
Millbrook. The treatment sham exploded in 1961 when all but two of the staff at
Toronto’s Juvenile and Family Court quit after the government imposed new and
highly punitive policies on the clinical management of the court’s clients.
Later that same year, eight staff members at the Alex G. Brown Memorial Clinic
resigned en masse. The DRI claimed the problem was budget cuts, but
according to Stuart Jaffary, increasingly rigid custodial regulations and
practices were creating insurmountable obstacles for professional staff who
were operating treatment programs in the clinic. ‘Despite its name,’ Jaffary
argued, ‘ they got little indication that the therapeutic program was really
the primary purpose of the clinic.’ The only hope for saving the system was for
the DRI to take concrete steps toward resolving the conflict between punishment
and treatment. ‘Does the institution exist for the man, or the man for the
institution?’ he asked. ‘If the former, it will have to have a full complement
of treatment services, and use them. If the latter, all you need is a rockpile
and a treadmill.’ As it stands, the pretense of ‘treatment,’ he concluded,
gives a show of humanity with one hand and keeps a firm hold on the inmate
population with the other.

By 1961, the director of treatment
services, director of psychiatry, and director of social work positions in the
Department of Reform Institutions were vacant. F. H. Potts, the first
psychologist hired by the department, was the only mental health administrator
remaining on staff. Minister George Calvin Wardrope announced that he was
retreating from the ‘idea that every offender, given the proper treatment and
assignment, could be successfully molded into a useful citizen. Penologically
speaking,’ he concluded, ‘the pendulum is swinging nearer to where it should
[be].’ Allan Grossman revived the rhetoric of rehabilitation while he served as
minister from 1963 to 1971, but the DRI continued to function in much the same
manner as it had since the Second World War, if not earlier.  

As the only province to respond to
public pressure and provide treatment for incarcerated sex criminals, Ontario
must have appeared progressive indeed. Appearances, however, were deceiving.
Unfortunately, Ontario was not unique in this regard. The conflict between the
postwar treatment ideal and the military-style disciplinary regime played out
whereever treatment staff were hired. Guy Richmond, a psychiatrist at the
British Columbia federal prison, lamented that prison doctors were forced to render
unto Caesar, not Hippocrates. According to another British Columbia
psychiatrist who undertook a study of sex offenders in prison, ‘the real power
structure in the institution is mainly concerned with custody, with keeping the
inmates in line, in order, and above all, inside…This is not an
environment in which the principals of reform and rehabilitation can even exist
and to say otherwise would be a mockery.’ Showing predictable restraint, the
1969 report of the Canadian Committee on Corrections concluded that the
relationship between prison services and treatment professionals in the federal
system was an uneasy alliance of opposing ideologies, the latter lacking the
support of the former.

As for the Group II program, top administrators would concede only that
Millbrook’s remote location and the nature of the work undermined any chance of
success. In 1962 Potts concluded that the only solution was to continue to
court outside help by building bridges between reformatories and faculties of
psychiatry, psychology, and social work. In the meantime, he recommended that a
sex deviant treatment program be set up at the Alex G. Brown Memorial Clinic
(AGBMC), where the DRI ran a pre-release treatment program for alcoholics and
drug addicts. There, he argued, research into the effective treatment of
homosexuals, who constituted approximately 25 per cent of the Millbrook Group
II population and who posed the greatest discipline problem for prison
administrators, could be set up.

If the use of mental health treatment
as a means to control prison discipline can be taken as a measure of the clash
of ideologies, Potts’s last proposal is a clear indication that nothing had
changed. Sex between inmates remained the primary concern. The public demand
for treatment for pedophiles, exhibitionists, and other sex criminals who were
considered a serious danger to the public was of no interested to the
Department of Reform Institutions.”

– Elise Chenier. Strangers in our Midst: Sexual Deviancy in Postwar Ontario. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008. pp. 152-159

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“Establishing a clinic to treat
incarcerated sex offenders was one thing. Finding the staff to run it was
another. The Department of Reform Institutions [DRI] had tremendous difficulty
hiring and keeping qualified staff to run a sex criminal treatment programs, in
part because there were almost no Canadian psychiatrists or psychologists with
experience working in the area of sexual deviation, and precious few who could
be enticed into the field. Moreover economic planning for postwar
reconstruction meant that there were plenty of decent jobs to go around. With
the growing popularity of industrial psychology, and the high demand for social
work services in the expanding welfare state, a DRI offer of low-paying
employment in a hostile or occasionally violent work environment in isolated
parts of the province was not much of a draw. Even those with a particular
interest in working with the criminal population were more likely to take up a
position with the Ontario Parole Board, which, under the auspices of the
attorney general, paid its social work and psychological staff significantly
better wages.

Psychiatrists and psychologists who
did accept work in Ontario prisons quickly learned that most of the DRI’s upper
administration was overwhelmingly hostile toward the provision of mental health
treatment services for prisoners. Major John Foote, the minister of the
Department of Reforms from 1950 to 1957, was a staunch advocate of the Ontario
Plan, but his staff was not. His own deputy minister, Colonel G. Hedley Basher
remained steadfast in his refusal to assist psychologists in any way; and
regularly undermined their efforts to address some of the institutional
problems plaguing inmates. Basher was the superintendent of the Guelph
Reformatory when the Ontario Plan was introduced, and he was reprimanded for
ignoring psychological reports regarding appropriate work assignments for
inmates. He was later promoted to deputy minister, but not because he had a
change of heart. According to Donald MacDonald, the outspoken leader of the
provincial Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation, Basher had a
nineteenth-century military management style. The DRI is ‘Basher’s empire,’ he
argued, ‘and the motto of that empire is ‘Bash ‘em.’ Director of Psychiatry and
Neurology Dr. Frank van Nostrand, whose service as a military doctor during the
Second World War clearly influenced his hard-nosed management style,
consistently supported Basher’s approach.

Hostility was compounded by
parsimony. Canada’s federal and provincial governments had long been
tight-fisted in the administration of prisons, even in times of economic
prosperity. Newly recruited psychiatrists quickly realized that individual
therapy, the most time-consuming and consequently the most expensive form of
treatment, was virtually impossible to provide in an ongoing fashion. In
post-Second World War Canada, United States, and Britain, group therapy emerged
as an economical alternative. Not only could treatment be provided to an entire
group in just a single hour, group therapy sessions could be lead by
lesser-paid staff, such as psychologists, social workers, and even trained
custodial officers.

Group therapy also contributed to
building therapeutic communities, the other landmark development in
institutional treatment in this period. While practising in British military
hospitals during the Second World War, Maxwell Jones re-imagined the hospital
as an organic society where everyone played a role in patients’ emotional and
social rehabilitation. His model was based on creating planned, structured
activities in which every human interaction, including those between patients, had
an intrinsic value. This way, patients actively participated in their own
‘adjustment,’ and the therapeutic role that non-medical staff was recognized
and validated. Medical experts who advocated prison reform touted the
therapeutic community as that next, obvious step forward in the way modern
society could address criminal behaviour. Indeed, some of the most enthusiastic
reformers predicted that by the end of the 1960s, the entire prison system
would disappear and be replaced with therapeutic communities. Obviously, this
never came to pass, but later we will see how Jones’s ideas were applied in sex
deviant treatment programs…at the Guelph Reformatory in Ontario.

The public demand for sex offender
treatment in Ontario began in 1947 with the widely reported sexual assault and
murder of Arlene Anderson, a young disabled Toronto girl. In response to the
public outcry, the Department of Health appointed seven psychiatrists to a
Committee on Sex Delinquency with a mandate to explore the possibility of creating
a treatment program. Contrary to the commonly held view that psychiatrists were
eager to expand their realm of authority and expertise, committee members were
skeptical about the initiative. Most felt there were not enough sex offenders
in the prison system to warrant such a program. They also pointed out that
there was little authoritative data on the issue of treating sexual deviation
or even of the benefit if singling out sex criminals as a distinct group.
Finally, they concluded that there were no proven methods of treatment. In the
end, they would only recommend more research.

Once the question fell into the
hands of the Department of Reform Institutions, the sex deviant treatment
program was seen from an entirely different perspective. In the spring of 1952,
renewed public pressure to provide treatment for incarcerated sexual deviants
prompted the minister to assign his department’s chief psychologist to
investigate the matter. In his report, F. H. Potts supported the ideas on the
grounds that a separate clinic for sex deviates would allow Guelph Reformatory,
the province’s largest adult prison, to get rid of its homosexual inmates.
Segregating homosexual inmates from the rest of the prison population clearly
did nothing to satisfy the public demand for treatment of incarceration child
molesters. Yet none of the administrative records acknowledge the internal uses
of such a clinic differed from public desire, suggesting either that Potts and
his colleagues considered homosexuals, as ‘sex deviants,’ appropriate targets
for transfer to a clinic, or that they were so well isolated from public
scrutiny that consideration of public desire was rarely, if ever, put before
the drive to maintain traditional forms of regulation.

Disagreement occurred around defining
who the problem homosexuals were. For van Nostrand and many other prison
administrators who came of age in the pre-Second World War era, effeminate
homosexuals were a major disciplinary problem since, in addition to defying
gender norms, they persistently provoked and aroused other men’s sexual
passions. Pott’s thinking was more in line with post-Second World War experts
who viewed tough, masculine prisoners who sought out weaker men as sexual
partners as the source of the problem. As he explained in his final
recommendation, creating a separate clinic where ‘homosexuals’ could be
incarcerated would eliminate the ‘grave danger’ posed by inmates who ‘engage in
aberrant sexual activity.’ ‘Morale generally is likely to be improved if this
group is segregated because it is not unusual to find that several, for example
homosexuals, many combine forces in any Institution and through intimidation
and force make normal boys indulge in abnormal sex practices with them.’ Unlike
van Nostrand, Potts was less concerned with the ‘queens’ and ‘fairies’ who were
already kept in a segregated unit than he was with ‘wolves’ who used real
violence, or the mere threat of violence, to coerce other inmates into having
sex. Wolves did not consider themselves, nor were they considered by others, to
be ‘homosexual.’ However, in the postwar era, when definitions of sexual
identity shifted from gender to the biological sex of one’s sexual partners,
wolves were increasingly characterized as homosexual. More important, they were
also more likely to be considered the root of the ‘prison sex problem.’ Indeed,
Potts’s proposal was likely influenced by a psychological report issued only a
few months earlier that identified sexual violence as one of inmates’ main
grievances. Potts believed that by segregating ‘wolves,’ the department would
protect younger inmates from becoming homosexual prey, while at the same time
creating an opportunity to conduct research into the treatment of

Perhaps it was confusion and
disagreement over who was homosexual and which homosexuals were a disciplinary
problem that explains the failure to take any action on Potts’s proposal.
However, just two years later, the provincial Select Committee on Problems of
Delinquent Individuals and Custodial Questions spent an entire day discussing
sex criminals and deviant sexual behaviour within the prison system. When
committee members asked DRI Minister Foote about the current procedure for
placing men charged with sex crimes, he defended his department’s failure to
develop a policy on the grounds that there were no medical treatments known to
help sex deviants. A strong supporter of prison reform, he nevertheless saw no
use ‘in just herding them into one place.’ Aldwyn B. Stokes, a professor of
psychiatry at the University of Toronto and head psychiatrist at the Toronto
Psychiatric Hospital inpatient Forensic Unit, countered that the only way for
experts to discover effective treatments was to create research opportunities,
which would be provided by clinical programs. ‘If we could get an understanding
of how far our present treatment measures an assist,’ Stokes explained, ‘we
would be making some advance.’ The committee was convinced, and in its final
report recommended that a detailed study of sex offenders be made to help guide
magistrates in sentencing; that sex offenders be given indefinite sentences
that were not to be determined until ‘curative measures have taken effect’;
that a separate close-security unit, adequately staffed with trained personnel,
be established for their treatment; and that an extensive study should be
undertaken to develop an understanding of the nature of sex deviation and the
methods of dealing with it. Since men who committed sex crimes and men who had
sex with other men inside prison were both considered ‘sex deviants,’ little or
no distinction was made between what the contemporary reader clearly recognizes
as two separate matters.

Two significant initiatives were
undertaken toward meeting the committee’s recommendations. Plans for two new
DRI facilities already under construction – the first a hospital ward for
prisoners diagnosed with tuberculosis, and the second a maximum-security prison
in the town of Millbrook – were modified to create a separate space for housing
and treating sex deviants. The TB unit was changed to a Neuro-Psychiatric
Clinic (NPC), where sexually deviated prisoners were given priority. Plans for
Millbrook, a new facility intended to siphon off the most violent and
non-compliant prisoners from the Guelph Reformatory, were modified to
accommodate a special sex deviant wing for prisoners whose sexual aggression
toward other inmates made them a disciplinary problem or threat in a regular

At the official opening ceremony in
1955, the DRI proudly boasted that the NPC was to be more than just a treatment
facility. It was also designated as a research centre, the first of its kind in
Canada. Here, all first-time offenders convicted of carnal knowledge, incest,
rape, assault with intent to commit rape, indecent assault, indecent exposure,
seduction, and buggery were to receive a complete psychological and psychiatric
examination as a well as treatment. Interestingly, gross indecency, the charge
most commonly laid against men caught having sex with men, was not included on
this list, reflecting the priorities established by the public, not those of
the prison administration. However, case files reveal that homosexual men were
patients in the NPC.

Like many postwar sexologists, the
one hired to run the NPC embraced psychotherapy. What inmate patients needed,
claimed Dr. Buckner, was ‘insight into the fact that they were individually
responsible for their actions, to given them confidence in themselves, and to
help them [learn] to cooperate with their fellow beings.’ Buckner was an
advocate of the therapeutic community; he rejected the hierarchical
doctor-patient model and favoured active patient participation in an organized
collective of enlightened participants. He aspired to socialize patients out of
the prisoner culture of hostility, suspicion, and resistance and into a
clinical culture of healing by pairing new patients with established ones who
supported and accepted the treatment program. He showed inmates the federal
Department of Health and Welfare’s series of Mental Mechanisms films to help
explain the concept of unconscious motivation and the fundamental drives of
human behaviour. Inmates were expected to participate in the day-to-day
operation of the clinic, from running the library to producing an in-house
newsletter and participating in and even leading group therapy sessions.

Buckner was soon frustrated with
the lack of progress among his patients and he was not alone….treatment in a
medical facility, even when conducted on an out-patient basis with voluntary
patients, was unsuccessful. Prison psychiatrists and psychologists across
Canada and the United States felt they suffered additional obstacles. They
complained that prisoners were hostile to psychotherapy, that they refused to
take responsibility for their actions, and that they suspected treatment would
be treatment would be used against them. Even in the NPC’s hospital-like
setting, Buckner struggled against patient resistance.

To overcome this, selected inmates were treated twice weekly with CO2. Carbon
dioxide therapy was popularized in the 1950s and used to treat a variety of
disorders, including anxiety states, phobias, obsessive-compulsive neurosis,
and depression, all of which were seen as being at the root of homosexuality.
With a ‘controlled’ application of carbon dioxide, subjects were immediately
robbed of oxygen, inciting a panic state. Once oxygen was returned to the
lungs, patients frequently experienced a violent outburst. The theory was that
these outbursts of aggression broke though protective mechanisms and rendered a
patient more open to exploring repressed emotions through the preferred method
of treatment, psychotherapy.

Author and ex-inmate Roger Caron
was one of the ‘hostile’ inmates Buckner treated this way. Caron ‘volunteered’
as an alternative to receiving the strap for an earlier infraction. As
described in his prison memoir, Go-Boy!, he was escorted into a small
room where, without warning or explanation, he was placed in a full-length
canvas sack ‘with a heavy-duty zippier running from head to foot.’ The sack was
strapped to the table. A mask was clamped over his mouth and nose. Caron was
instantly unable to breathe; he panicked, ‘thinking that the doctor goofed.’ He
described a ‘buzzing sound as if my brain were being invaded by wasp’; he ‘felt
a surge of super human strength,’ the faces in the room appeared ‘hairy,’ and
the room started to spin. ‘I was being engulfed by a wave as thick and dark as
molasses, a wave that was carrying me off into a shadowy world full of lurking
horrors, a universe of flashing lights and buzzing sounds that were getting
louder and louder until I was being consumed.’ Once the mask was removed, Caron
‘felt an intense anger and began thrashing about.’ He endured seven treatments
in three weeks and finally quit. It is not known whether Buckner used CO2 with
his sexually deviated patients, but it was considered an appropriate and
effective treatment in such cases.

The DRI appeared unconcerned with
the goings-on at the NPC until Buckner violated government protocol by inviting
a CBC radio journalist to witness a CO2 treatment without first gaining the
department’s permission Bucker defended himself on the grounds that just a
short time earlier the minister insisted that any journalist was free to visit
and report on any prison at any time. Van Nostrand retorted that Buckner’s
actions violated a number of regulations, including the obligation to protect
inmates’ identities. Shortly thereafter, the administration received a letter
from an ex-prisoner who claimed that he was forced to participate in group
therapy with other sex offenders. The group was led by two prisoners who
demanded that he reveal details about his sexual relationship with his wife,
something that he refused to do. Permitting inmates to run group therapy was in
keeping with the therapeutic community ideal. However, staff members confirmed
that Buckner had allowed two inmates to exert authority over other patients.
Department officials rarely paid attention to prisoners’ complaints, but when
inmates provide van Nostrand with the ammunition he needed to shut down the NPC
he proved an enthusiastic listener. Van Nostrand declared group therapy to be
problematic in a prison setting, particularly for those convicted of sex
offences. An inmate might reveal other crimes for which he had not been
charged, he explained, and emotionally vulnerable participants might reveal
details or information that could be used for personal gain by less ethical
participants. Though van Nostrand was never a champion of therapeutic treatment
for prisoners, it is true that confidentiality was a significant problem for
inmates involved in group therapy and led some to refuse to participate.

It was also of some concern that
the two inmates accused of dominating the NPC program were homosexual. Taking
his cues from Maxwell Jones, Buckner adopted a liberal attitude toward
homosexuality, but prison administrations were of a different mind on the
matter. Department of Reform Institution superintendents ran prisons like boot
camp, relying on a military-style regimen to maintain control oveer inmates and
public confidence in the prison system. The slightest appearance of
institutional laxity was instant fodder for political point-making in the House
of Commons. Although the DRI’s most persistent public critics – the CCF and
Stuart Jaffray of the University of Toronto School of Social Work – usually
attacked the department for not taking the treatment ideal far enough, it it
unlikely that even they would countenance giving homosexuals ‘free reign.’

Buckner’s group therapy sessions also violated one of the longest standing
practices in Canadian and American prisons: keeping younger inmates away from
the corrupting influence of adult prisoners, especially if the older prisoner
was known to engage in homosexual practices. Participants reportedly included
some ‘seasoned sex offenders, past middle-age, and some young first offenders,’
leading van Nostrand to conclude that ‘these sessions should have never been
tolerated.!’ Even more worrisome was the dormitory-style housing all NPC
patients shared. In a memo to the deputy minister, van Nostrand complained that
the Ontario Training School boys who shared some of the adult prison facilities
were ‘forced or permitted to associate with hardened incorrigible sexual
deviates whose conversation appears to centre around abnormal sexual

Despite van Nostrand’s complaints,
Buckner refused to change the way he the NPC and continued to openly violate
orders from the Guelph superintendent and even from van Nostrand, claiming a
proprietary right to run the clinic as he saw fit. In 1957 the DRI began
accepting inmates at its new, maximum-security prison in Millbrook, Ontario,
where the segregated treatment facility that experts had long recommended was
in place. Most sex deviants were to be transferred to Millbrook, and Buckner
was offered the opportunity to go with them. However, given that Buckner was
frequently criticized for devoting too much time to his private practice in town
at the expense of the NPC, van Nostrand correctly anticipated that Buckner
would turn down the offer and resign.

With the transfer of sex deviants
and the forced resignation of Buckner, van Nostrand saw an opportunity to scale
back the NPC program. The DRI’s head psychologist and the remaining NPC staff
argued that mandatory assessments for all inmates convicted of a sex offence
used up precious few resources and robbed seriously mentally disturbed patients
of much-needed care.  Although the NPC
continued to assess and recommend treatment for a handful of men serving time
on sex-related charges, Potts dramatically reduced the original 1955 list of
offences meriting a full assessment by eliminating those charged with rape,
which he viewed as a violent crime, not a crime of sexual deviation; carnal
knowledge, a charge that was erroneously believed to be used in cases of
non-coercive sexual activity, most often between a male sixteen years of age or
slightly older and an adolescent female fifteen years of younger; and
seduction, perceived as a crime of sexual betrayal, not assault. Significantly,
the new list identified the sexual act rather than the criminal charge and
expanded to include inmates who were discovered to have engaged in any of the
listed sex acts, regardless of the charge that brought them to prison. Those
acts included having sexual relations with a person of the same sex, a person
of the opposite se who had not obtained puberty, an animal, one’s own children,
or having engaged in exhibitionism. Such men were to be examined by a staff
psychologist. Notably, men who engaged in sex with other men were first on the

The DRI’s new policy was created in consultation with the Toronto Psychiatric
Hospital’s Forensic Clinic and clearly reflects the clinic’s own working
definition of what constituted sexual deviancy. Defined as ‘an act performed
for sexual gratification other than sexual intercourse with an adult of the
opposite sex,’ sexually deviant acts were further divided into two groups: the
first included those who made a normal object choice but engaged in sexual acts
that were abnormal. These included sadism, masochism, exhibitionism, and
voyeurism. The second group included those who made ‘abnormal object choices’;
examples included homosexuality, paedophilia, transvestism, fetishism, and
bestiality. Rape and other forms of sexual assault where adult (or adult-like)
women were victims were not considered deviant unless the accompanying violence
was deemed ‘sadistic.’ There was no clear demarcation showing where this
threshold might be, but presumably physical violence that was superfluous to
the act of forcible vaginal penetration qualified as such.

Using this model, the DRI removed
men convicted of heterosexual crimes involving victims over the age of fourteen
from its list of treatment candidates, thus emphasizing how ‘normal’
heterosexual assaults were seen as crimes of male aggression, not of sexual
violence. As a result the rise of forensic sexology contributed to the
decreased visibility of rape and other forms of assault against women as a
social-sexual problem. Changes to the sex-deviant policy, particularly with
respect to same-sex sex, also brought the program more squarely in line with
the department’s disciplinary objectives.

The narrowing of the treatment
mandate was of no concern to Dr. G. S. Burton, Buckner’s replacement. Likely
hand-picked by van Nostrand. Burton did not favour of any sort of treatment at
all. ‘Too much therapy would not be wise for the kind of inmate we are largely
dealing with,’ he argued. Inmates would simply learn the language and methods
of modern psychotherapy and ‘bandy these about, but would not really be changed
in their personality.’ By 1960, staff agreed that the clinic did little more
than provide a diagnosis, and no further attempts were made to build up a
treatment program.

– Elise Chenier. Strangers in our Midst: Sexual Deviancy in Postwar Ontario. Toronto. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008. pp. 141-149

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