Posts Tagged ‘utopia of classification’

“Since 1977, the Service has operated separate units for those inmates who are considered to seriously threaten the safety of others. Originally, Special Handling Units were established within Millhaven Institution and the Correctional Development Centre. These units were subsequently replaced by purpose-built facilities at Saskatchewan Penitentiary and Regional Reception Centre (Quebec).

A relatively small number of inmates, because of their violent behaviour in the institutions, have demonstrated that they require controls beyond those found within a maximum security institution. Since the inception of special handling/high maximum security units, 558 inmates (to 1989.10.05) have been
incarcerated in these units. In general, these inmates are more likely to have been sentenced for a violent crime (only 15 had no previous record of violence), more likely to commit indictable violent acts while incarcerated, and more likely to commit violent acts when released than is the rest of the offender population. Specifically, this small group of individuals have been involved in 974 staff and inmate assaults within the institutions, 155 murders, 44 attempted murders, and 208 hostage incidents.

Violence within the institutions cannot be tolerated. Those inmates who commit violent acts must be removed from the normal inmate population and subjected to increased controls until such time as they indicate that they can control their violent behaviour and return to normal association. During the period of removal from the normal inmate population, the inmate must be required to address his violent tendencies, and thus, the Service must provide him the means to do SQ.

It is important to note that the removal of the violent inmate from the normal inmate population serves two purposes. Firstly, it reinforces the Service’s stance that violent acts will not be tolerated, providina a denunciation of violence. Secondly, it reduces the risk of violence in the institutions, creating an
environment in which staff and inmates can interact with a reasonable assurance of safety and in which an active intervention approach is tenable. 

A number of methods of removing inmates from the population were examined. The approaches considered were: punitive dissociation; administrative segregation; transfer to another institution; transfer to a Regional Psychiatric or Treatment Centre; and transfer to the currently existing high maximum security units. As well, a more controlled maximum security institution and a small hiah maximum security unit in each region were considered. It was the consensus of the committee that these approaches met neither the needs of the violent inmates nor the responsibilities of the Service in relation to these inmates.

It is recommended that a regime be established for the violent inmates, which will provide both reasonable controls and programming designed to meet their specific needs, especially those related to their violent behaviour. Such a regime could be implemented in the existing high maximum security facilities. 

A Service-wide policy of “zero tolerance” is warranted for homicide, hostage-taking, and serious assault. All inmates who commit these acts of violence should be automatically transferred to the special unit for a set period of time during which a comprehensive assessment would,be undertaken. The assessment would be used to determine whether the inmate requires the intervention and controls afforded by the regime established in the unit or whether other options such as placement in a Regional Psychiatric Centre are viable. 

Other inmates who commit less serious acts of violence, who are strongly suspected of committing a violent act, who make serious threats, or who otherwise show a propensity for violence may be considered for transfer to a special unit, if such a transfer is determined to be the only viable option to ensure the safety of others. If transferred to the special unit, these inmates would remain in the unit for a set period to undergo a comprehensive assessment to determine whether the inmate should remain in the unit for treatment or whether other options should be pursued. 

Violent behaviour is symptomatic of a variety of underlying causes. Violent inmates can be considered as falling within one of the following broad categories:

i) those who are.psychiatrically disturbed;
ii) those who are behaviourally disordered; and
iii) those who resort to violence to achieve their own objectives.

These different underlying causes of violence have implications for any program regime for the affected inmates.

i) The psychiatrically disturbed inmates must have access to appropriate treatment. This treatment could be provided bv Regional Psychiatric Centres or by provincial psychiatric institutions. However, the transfer of these violent and unpredictable inmates to these facilities would likely prove disruptive and hinder or curtail treatment programs for others. – Therefore, it is recommended that a psychiatric wing be created within the unit designated for violent inmates.

ii) Behaviourally disordered inmates are those with fundamental control problems, whether they lack internal behavioural controls or whether they choose not to apply any control. Included in this group are inmates who react explosively to situations, those who act impulsively, and those who act violently under the influence of an intoxicant. An appropriate regime for these inmates must combine a decrement of external controls while fostering the development of internalized behaviour control. Specific programming approaches should include components such as conflict resolution, anger management, and alcohol and drug treatment.

iii) Functionally violent inmates are those who consciously and deliberately resort to violence as a means of achieving their own objectives. These inmates may use violence to effect an escape, to collect debts, or to intimidate others; Many of these individuals are capable of participating in prescribed activities but it is difficult to assess their commitment to altering their violent behaviour. These inmates should be constructively occupied and should be counselled to reject violence as a means of accomplishing goals. 

It is evident that any regime for the management of violent inmates must have an element of control. These inmates have demonstrated by their violent behaviour that they require control beyond that found in a normal maximum security institution.

However, the controls should be no more restrictive than that required to ensure a reasonable level of safety for staff and inmates. Although inmates may initially be subjected to severely restricted freedom of movement and association, these
restrictions should be gradually lifted as the inmates show that they can behave more responsibly.

Restraint equipment should be applied on an exceptional basis, only for those inmates whose performance indicated a need for such control. Face-to-face contact, free of barriers, is a vital element of any counselling’or treatment program. Staff safety in such situations can be assured through a team approach or interviews can be conducted across a table with the staff member’s back to the door if necessary. 

Each inmate transferred to the special unit would be required to undergo a comprehensive assessment in order to determine an appropriate intervention strategy and the required level of control. In view of the high incidence of mental disorders revealed bv the “Mental Health Survey of Federally Incarcerated
Offenders”, psychological and psychiatric components to the assessment are crucial. As a result of this assessment, a detailed correctional treatment plan to specifically address the inmate’s violent behaviour would be prepared for and with the inmate, clearly defining expectations of and potential outcomes for the inmate. The ultimate objective of the plan should be correcting the violent behaviour so that the inmate may return to a normal population at the earliest reasonable time. A critical element of the plan would be in which institution, treatment facility or special unit the intervention strategy would be most effective. Therefore, at this point, a decision would be made to transfer the inmate from or to retain him in the special unit. If the inmate is transferred, the receiving facility would be expected to use the correctional treatment plan developed following assessment as a base document. 

Programming within the special unit should be designed to assist the inmate in addressing his need to change his behaviour, to allow him to participate in constructive activities, and to allow him to demonstrate increasing capacity to interact with others with decreased controls. The following elements are considered as essential programming components:

• psychiatric and psychological intervention;
• treatment programs, such as anger management, conflict resolution, or substance abuse treatment;
• employment opportunities ranging from in-cell activities to a workshop setting;

personal development opportunities, such as living skills, self-help groups, or culturally-based activities;
• recreational opportunities designed to foster effective use of leisure time;
• pastoral counselling. 

1. The Service needs a special facility for the control and treatment of violent inmates. The current approach and operation of the high maximum security units does not adequately address the needs of those individuals.

2. All inmates who commit murder, hostage-taking, or serious assault will be transferred to such a facility for assessment.

3. Other inmates who demonstrate a propensity for violence may be considered for placement alternatives, including transfer to the facility.

4. An individualized correctional treatment plan will be developed to specifically address the causes of the violent behaviour, prescribe treatment options, and outline a plan for return to a normal population at the earliest possible time.

5. Psychiatrically disturbed violent inmates require separate and special intervention within the facility.

6. Participation in programming and-success in addressing identified needs will determine transfer to normal population.

7. The operation of the facility shall include:

a) comprehensive assessment capability to identify the causes of the inmate’s violence;
b) active intervention with inmates to encourage them to address their violent behaviour;
c) capacity to address the individual needs of inmates with psychiatric problems; d) the lowest level of control possible; restraint equipment to be used only as response to threatening or violent behaviour and based on individual assessment of risk; .
e) open contact among staff and inmates;
f) a team approach to programming involving case management, security, program staff and the inmate;
g) incentives to encourage and motivate constructive use of time;
h) ongoing staff training to increase awareness/understanding of violent behaviour and appropriate intervention techniques; and
I) the maintenance of clear and close links with case workers responsible for the follow-up with the violent inmates in the normal institutions.

8. Admission to and release from the facility will be determined by a committee with national authority.”

High Maximum Security: A Discussion Paper. Ottawa: Correctional Service of Canada, 1989. 

Photographs: Special Handling Unit and

Regional Reception Centre at Saint-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec, 1986-87.

Read Full Post »

“I have the honor to report to Your Excellency that I have visited twenty-two
Gaols in Canada West, where I have found little or no discipline or classification of
prisoners. In the construction of most of the Gaols in Canada West, the health of
the prisoners has rarely received a thought; it is true that the highest spot has often
been selected as a site for the Court House and Gaol, yet it is lamentable to see the
cells partly under ground and badly ventilated. In many Gaols, the effluvia from the
water closet, where there is no sewer, can be felt all over the Gaol; add to that, a
number of persons sleeping together in warm weather, or yet in cold weather, where
every crevice is carefully shut, and it will create no surprise to see prisoners affected
with disease that sends them to an early grave.

Hamilton Gaol is situated in one of the most wealthy Counties in the Province;
in the year 1851, it had four hundred and nineteen prisoners within its walls. The
cells are eight feet nine inches by nine feet nine inches, partly under ground, with
one small loop-hole for light and air; the door opens into a dark passage; Six human
beings are incarcerated in each of these cells night and day, with a tub in place of a
water-closet. The prisoners complain of vermin; it is impossible to be otherwise. 

The Sheriff attends at Court House daily, but does not visit prisoners, unless specially, called upon to do so, being in a state of disgust with the condition of the Gaol, and wholly ‘unable to ameliorate the condition of the prisoners, either morally or
“physically.” There is no yard to give the prisoners air or exercise, hence, a three
months’ confinement in such a Gaol, must shorten life more than a sentence of three
years in the Provincial Penitentiary, where they have every care, with pure air and exercise. In a moral point of view, such a prison is equally ruinous, as there is no classification,
except the females being kept in a cell by themselves, where they freely converse
with the male prisoners. … I found the male and
female, the sane and insane, the tried and untried, the young and the old, the black
and the white, all congregated together: throughout the day, having the range of the
Gaol, where any amount of criminality might be carried on.”

– Andrew Dickinson, Inspector, Provincial Penitentiary, “REPORT

16 Victoria. Appendix (H.H.), September 11 1852, from Appendix to the Eleventh Volume of the Journal of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, Session 1852-1853. 

Read Full Post »

“L’enfer du Centre de
développement correctionnel,” Le Devoir. August 29, 1980. Page 06.

par Edgar Roussel

Alors détenu dans un «Centre de développement correctionnel», M. Edgar
Roussel avait adressé au député fédéral Mark MacGuigan, devenu ministre
des Affaires extérieures, une lettre manuscrite sur les conditions de détention.
La Ligue des droits et libertés qui en avait obtenu copie en avait publié la
teneur voici peu de mois. Ce document, daté du 12 avril 1980, prend une actualité
particulière à la lumière des événements survenus cette semaine à
l’Institut Laval, événements auxquels M. Roussel a présumément été mêlé. En
voici le texte intégral.

DEPUIS le 29 mars 1978, je suis détenu
au Centre de développement
correctionnel (CDC) où je sers une
peine d’emprisonnement à vie avec éligibilité
à 20 ans.

Sur les pénitenciers fédéraux, tout a été
dit, il ne me reste plus qu’à le redire, sauf
quand il s’agit d’unités spéciales de détention,
telles le CDC dont il sera question
dans cette lettre. La raison d’être de
ce genre d’institutions selon la directive
no 174 du Commissaire national est de
préparer la réinsertion pénitentiaire de
détenus considérés comme dangereux.

Pour ce faire l’administration offre un
programme que je vous propose d’examiner
soigneusement afin de découvrir de
quelle façon originale le système oeuvre
afin que se réalise la métamorphose tant
souhaitée, pour que le chrysalide devienne
papillon, comment en nous déconnectant
de la vie on prétend nous faire renaître
à la vie. On dénombré quatre paramètres
fixes comme des miradors à l’intérieur
desquels ce programme est élaboré:
une cellule, une salle commune, une
cour extérieure, et pour chapeauter le
tout, un département de socialisation.

C’est au CDC que le temps passé en cellule
se situe parmi le plus élevé dans les
pénitenciers fédéraux du Canada. Afin
d’éviter que le détenu ne sombre dans
l’ennui ou pis encore dans la folie, l’administration
accorde ce que d’autres institutions
refusent catégoriquement à leur population,
soit un appareil de télévision.
Ce cadeau dont le detenu est bénéficiaire
est on ne peut plus significatif quant au
désarroi dans lequel se trouve celui-ci
lorsque laissé à seul. Mais, c’est davantage
un aveu d’échec et aussi un manque
flagrant d’imagination, ce qui est plus
grave encore.

Les premiers jours, on s’en sert de
façon démesurée, pour diminuer graduellement
sa consommation et finalement
l’utiliser de nouveau mais cette fois, pour
couvrir les bruits qu’auparavant on ne
percevait pas.

La télévision agit tantôt comme une aspirine
pour calmer la souffrance tantôt
comme un prisme par lequel le monde
extérieur nous parvient. Après des mois
de ce régime c’est la nausée, la répulsion;
on ferme l’appareil pour faire connaissance
avec un phénomène nouveau: le bruit! Fouilles, rondes de gardiens, tout
est subordonné au bruit, qui en cellule est
omniprésent plus que partout ailleurs, jamais
d’accalmie. Quand très tard le soir on
parvient enfin à s’endormir, lorsque le
sommeil vient rétablir l’équilibre dangereusement
rompu durant la journée, c’est
la ronde de nuit qui commence. À chaque
heure, interminablement, le bruit des pas
du gardien effectuant sa ronde résonne
sur le plafond de la cellule. Au CDC on a
trouvé un moyen original de compter les
détenus, ça se fait par le haut; il est possible
au gardien d’avoir une pleine vue
sur le captif par un châssis à meme le plafond.
Cependant, il est toujours possible
de rattraper le sommeil perdu en sacrifiant
la marche quotidienne. Or, c’est justement
le temps que choisissent les gardiens
pour fouiller les cellules des detenus
qui sont à l’extérieur. Ils arrivent
dans la rangée telle une meute, le museau
en l’air, et bang! dans les murs afin de
voir s’il n’y a pas de trous, bang! au plafond
pour vérifier si le châssis nya pas été
coupe et bang! sur la trappe à air. Une
fois leur travail terminé, ils s’en vont en
n’oubliant surtout pas de faire refermer
les portes de cellules simultanément dans
un fracas infernal ; adieu sommeil et tranquillité
tant convoités!

 Pour ce qui est de l’aération il serait
difficile d’en parler parce qu’elle est inexistante:
pas de fenetre, des portes pleines
et cet air lourd qui pèse tel un voile

L’été, c’est un four crématoire que l’inactivité
la plus totale rend intolérable;
nous suons à ne rien faire. Le matin,
symphonie de raclages de gorges, de
mouchages de nez, de toux rauques afin
de dégager les voies respiratoires.

Je couche à même le sol de ma cellule
depuis près de deux ans, la tête appuyée
sur le bas de la porte pour bénéficier de la
plus petite brise, richesse incomparable.

Pour les moments hors de la cellule,
une salle commune est mise à notre disposition
tous les soirs de 18 h 30 à 22 h 30
mais jamais plus de dix détenus à la fois.
Cette pratique fait partie de la socialisation;
on veut nous apprendre à être sociable
par petits groupes pour ensuite
nous plonger dans une population de trois
à quatre cents détenus avec les problèmes
d’adaptation que cela implique.

Quelques jeux de société, une autre télévision
et de la surveillance, beaucoup
de surveillance. Cette salle commune est
à toute fin pratique une cellule un peu
plus spacieuse que celle dans laquelle
nous sommes confinés la plupart du
temps faut bien le dire.

Nous disposons pour les activités extérieures
d’une cour de 75 pieds par 75
pieds où encore une fois jamais plus de
dix détenus ne sont admis, ni plus ni
moins; c’est une fixation administrative.
L’été, le vent est coupé par les hauts
murs tandis que, de l’asphalte dont le sol
est recouvert, monte cette chaleur accablante;
pas de verdure ni bancs, rien
sauf de l’asphalte, du ciment et du fer.

Comme activités physiques, nous pratiquons
la boxe sur un sac de guenilles payé
a même notre argent au prix de $172.
L’administration a raté une excellente
occasion de faire preuve de justice car
dans toutes les autres institutions cet article
est défrayé à même un budget (loisir)
réservé à cette fin. Toutes les activités
physiques sont pratiqués à nos risques
à cause de la surface asphaltée. La quasi
totalité de la population souffre d’un
problème musculaire quelconque; à cet
effet, il serait intéressant de jeter un coup
d’oeil sur les requêtes médicales et de
compter les détenus qui ont demandé des
espadrilles spéciales.

Notre plus grand réconfort et seul contact
avec le monde extérieur nous le devons
à nos visites; celles-ci sont fixées par
l’administration au jour et à l’heure qu’il
lui convient. Ce privilège est dispensé
parcimonieusement le mercredi et jeudi
de chague mois. Au CDC l’affectation est
considérée comme une faveur, prodiguée
au compte-gouttes et régie comme telle.

Pas de contact avec nos parents, femmes
et enfants, c’est de cette manière
que l’administration prône l’épanouissement
de l’individu.

Voici quelques années, les responsables
d’un «zoo» sont allés chercher un
éléphant-femelle à l’autre bout du monde
our que le mâle captif ne s’ennuie pas.
L’espace réservé aux animaux est réaménagé
sans cesse afin qu’il s’apparente le
plus possible à leur habitat naturel: toutes
proportions gardées, ils disposent
dans leurs parcs de plus d’espaces que

Pour compléter le programme, un département
de socialisation, composé d’un
agent de classement ainsi que d’un
psychologue, c’est sans contredit le secteur
qui présente le plus de carences. Ces
spécialistes en sciences humaines, nous
les rencontrons quand nous sommes au
bout du rouleau et que tout risque de basculer,
alors nous bénéficions de leurs «lumières».

Leur préoccupation première est de savoir
si, dans l’état où nous sommes, nous
envisageons d’attaquer un membre du
personnel ou, ce qui est beaucoup moins
grave, l’objet de notre agression sera
intra-spécifique. Une fois cette tâche accomplie,
ces suppôts de l’administration
vont rendre compte de leurs conclusions
et c’est sur ja foi de leurs témoignages
itérera un déque
le comité national transférera un détenu.
Donc, plus souvent qu’autrement,
le jugement des membres du comité,
quoique bien intentionné, sera fondé sur
des rapports faussés au départ parce que
puisés à même une situation faussée alors
que le détenu est en proie au désarroi le
plus total.

Tous les spécialistes sont unanimes
quand ils affirment qu’une détention de
plus de cinq ans cause des troubles irréversibles
et ils ne parlaient pas d’unités
spéciales. Ce que nous subissons ne vise
qu’à nous rendre bestiaux, à développer
des instincts de tueurs. Il existe plusieurs
exemples de criminels ayant séjourné
plus pu moins longtemps en ségrégation
et qui sont autant d’exemples de ce que

Je me contenterai d’en citer quatre,
que j’ai personnellement connus, et dont
il m’a été possible de suivre le cheminement,
il s’agit de Jacques Mesrine,
Richard Blass, Jean-Paul Mercier et Jean

Tous ont certains points en commun:
ils ont passé plusieurs années en ségrégation
et tous sont morts aujourd’hui pour
avoir refusé de revivre, ne serait-ce
qu’une journée, ce qu’ils avaient connu
dans le passé.

Il serait peut-être utile ou enrichissant
de connaître leurs agissements après
avoir connu la ségrégation.

Jean Lachapelle, enfermé environ six
ans dans une cellule, a plaidé coupable à
neuf accusations de meurtres à son retour
derrière les barreaux; sans compter
qu’au cours de son évasion, l’ultime il va
sans dire, il fut lui-même troué de balles.

Quant à Richard Blass sa mort lui a
évité d’être accusé d’une quinzaine de
meurtres. Pour ce qui est de Jean-Paul
Mercier (trois ans, comme Blass, de
ségrégation) il avoue être l’auteur du
meurtre de deux garde-chasse, alors qu’il
était évadé, pour éviter d’être reconnu,
ce qui lui aurait valu quelques années de
ségrégation (isolation). En ce qui concerne
Jacques Mesrine, une lecture attentive
des deux volumes qu’il a rédigés est
plus que révélatrice quant à l’état mental
où l’ont conduit les années d’isolement
en cellule.

Aucun de ces quatre individus n’avait
été condamné pour meurtre avant de
faire de la ségrégation; est-ce que cela est
dû au hasard? Libre a vous de conclure
comme vous l’entendez. Le système vise
à rapetisser le criminel, comprimer la
moindre initiative, en un mot assassiner
sa personnalité pour la rendre conforme
au microcosme dans lequel on le force à
évoluer. Quand le détenu est devenu suffisamment
fourbe, hypocrite et menteur,
qu’il peut feindre de la reconnaissance
pour ses bourreaux, alors là, il est éligible
a un transfert.

Les individus considérés comme cas
«dangereux» sont le fruit d’un folklore
perpétué par les rites dont la fonction est
de garder intact le souvenir de nos actions.

Rien ne peut effacer une action, et
croire que le châtiment pourrait provoquer
une rédemption est un leurre.
Quand on tient à changer l’individu, ce
n’est ni plus ni moins qu’un effort par un
acte arbitraire pour le rendre semblable à
nous, alors que moi, je réclame le droit à
la différence.

Tous les détenus amenés ici en même
temps que moi ont été transférés depuis.
Alors, seule une soif inaltérable de vengeance
peut expliquer ma présence au
CDC. Le dernier détenu du groupe est
parti le 10 avril 1980 et son palmarès parle
par lui-même; dernièrement ce type écopait
d’une sentence d’un an pour agression
avec couteau.sur deux officiers du
CDC. Il avait été préalablement accusé de
tentative de meurtre mais les jurés ont
accepté de réduire l’accusation; selon
eux, le détenu était incapable de juger du
caractère de son geste à cause des conditions
inhérentes a sa détention qui avait
altéré sa raison.

II y a quelque temps on libérait un détenu
du CDC pour le remettre directement dans la société. Quelques mois auparavant,
cet individu était considéré
trop dangereux pour être transféré dans
un pénitencier à sécurité maximum.

Par cette longue lettre, j’ai tenté de
vous fournir le plus d’éléments possible
qui pourraient vous permettre de percevoir
de l’intérieur la situation qui est
mienne depuis trop longtemps. Aujourd’hui,
il m’arrive de parler seul, de
rire sans raison ou encore d’être secoué
par des spasmes nerveux. Je sens que
quelque enose détraque dans le mécanisme
et si personne n’intervient en ma
faveur, le pire est à prévoir. Le degré de
saturation est atteint, un incident si minime
soit-il pourrait être le déclencheur
pouvant conduire à une action désespérée.

Depuis deux longues et interminables
années, je n’ai pas serré ma femme, ma
mère ni ma fille et deux longues années
aussi j’ai été sans voir le clair de lune, les
étoiles; au plus vil des animaux, ce droit
n’est pas nié. Konrad Lorenz affirme
qu’il est dangereux de cerner un animal
dans un coin sans aucune chance de fuite.
Frederic Nietzche postule quant à lui
dans son oeuvre intitulé «Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra»
que l’homme a fait du loup
un chien et de l’homme lui-même le meilleur
animal domestique de l’homme. Il
dénonce aussi la cruauté vêtue des oripaux
de la justice, en introduction de ce
même volume: «C’est lors des tragédies,
des combats de taureaux et des crucifixions
que l’homme s’est jusqu’ici senti le
mieux sur la terre; lorsqu’il s’inventa
l’enfer, ce fut son paradis sur terre» (P.

C’est au nom et en vénérant la pensée
de ces grands hommes que je vous demande
aujourd’hui d’intercéder en ma
faveur. Déjà en 1976 alors que vous agissiez
à titre de président d’un sous-comité
enquêtant sur la violence dans les pénitenciers,
vous dénonciez l’ineptie des administrateurs.
Votre nouvelle fonction
vous donne le rayonnement, le pouvoir
suffisant pour améliorer ma condition,
c’est le but de ma requête. 

C’est le but de ma requête.
Si ce document devait servir pour une
défense ultérieure devant les tribunaux,
c’est que la mutation de chrysalide au papillon
aura été un échec. 

J’ose espérer, M. le ministre, que mon
appel ne sera pas vain malgré toute la responsabilité
et le travail que représente
votre nouvelle fonction.

Read Full Post »

“By its very success, the liberal conception of crime paved the way for its own obsolescence. In the mid-nineteenth century, the prison had become the most widespread form of punishment, and solitary confinement the standard method for managing the penitentiary population, at least at night. But this situation soon met with a critique of the some of the most basic assumptions of liberal penality.

The critique began as an implicit question: Prison is an instrument of punishment, no doubt – but is it no more than that? Is it merely a method of forcibly inculcating honest ‘habits’ – that varnish of conformity with which Toqueville was perfectly satisfied? Even if it is agreed that crime is first and foremost an act, does it necessarily follow that such an act constitutes a one-way crossing of the border between honesty and crime? Are the mind and the soul of the criminal completely impervious to influence? The science of motivation, emerging from the practice of routine prison management, would soon be making a contrary claim.  

The idea was to act upon the criminal’s free will, the capacity for reason abiding deep within him; to pluck the subtle strings of desire and hopefulness that kept this capacity alive. The prison, the locus of punishment, would now turn to the business of motivating prisoners to do better in life. The horror it inspired in potential criminals, its fearsome reputation as a place to be avoided, would catalyze a rebirth of the will and a renewal of self-esteem. Yes, the habits prescribed by Tocqueville and his followers would have to be acquired. The key difference was that they would now be acquired willingly, progressively, and with the prisoner in control of the pace of change.

This reconciliation with the prisoner’s agency, this faith in his capacity to regain the self-esteem denied him by Tocqueville, was expressed by the Quebec prison inspectors in the following terms, in 1869: 

The cultivation of pride and self-esteem in the prisoners is a great moral strength to them. Pride is the most powerful sentiment of humanity, for it is the most purely personal. From this is drawn the principle that we should not degrade those coming to prison and already blighted by crime.

Investing in motivation as opposed to coerced submission because the cure-all applied by the liberal prison. This approach accorded with the primary values of liberalism in that it recognized the operation of the will as primary even in criminals, yet remained compatible with the imperatives of prison management, and especially cell-based management. The Irish model of Walter Crofton and early parole were the very quintessence of this development. Other examples were indeterminate sentencing and the use of merit systems in reformatories. In its new incarnation, prison was at worst a purgatory, one whose duration could be shortened by good behaviour.

But how then was it to play its punitive role, now that it was also saddled with the job of instilling motivation in inmates? Here, ironically, in the marrow of the criminal personality, was the substance of the liberal ethic of will and responsibility. The hope of improvement and personal progress at the heart of liberalism collided frontally with the need to punish deviations from legality by stigmatizing their perpetrators.”

– Jean-Marie Fecteau, The Pauper’s Freedom. Translated by Peter Feldstein. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2017. French edition 2004. pp.128-129.

Read Full Post »

“Prison Segregation Urgent Need,” Globe and Mail Editorial, July 13, 1938. Page 06.

It is intimated from Kingston that 130 convicts, in charge of officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, have been taken from the penitentiary to Western prisons. This has been the custom and generally it is long-termers who are sent went to finish their sentences. This group is said to include the more violent type of inmates. The chief reason is that Kingston Penitentiary is crowded beyond its capacity. According to the report of the Royal Commission which investigated the penal system of Canada, the institution is overcrowded, with cell accommodation for 805 inmates, while the average population for the past six years has been 857. This congestion has added to the generally confused condition observed by the Commission.

Western penitentiaries have not been overcrowded. For example, the Manitoba prison has 464 ordinary cells, with an average of 377 inmates during a six-year period. The Saskatchewan prison has 618 cells, with an average population for the same years of 466. British Columbia penitentiary, 466 ordinary cells, average of inmates 390. Thus there is room in the West for Kingston’s overflow.

The explanation of overcrowding at Kingston is it location in a densely populated area. Also, there is, inevitably, in older-settled districts, a greater percentage of criminally inclined individuals. In the later-settled West there is not the population to provide prison inmates, and, under the roomier conditions, not the same incentive to crime. This seems a reasonable conclusion.

If the removals are a step toward more effective segregation and an extension of educational work, in accordance with the Commission’s recommendations, they will be of double value. In the report it is said in reference to Kingston Penitentiary that it ‘does not lend itself to a proper system of classification,’ and ‘if proper classification existed, and the trouble-makers were segregated, there would be no necessity for the present large number of officers.’

Improvements and additions were constantly being made, it was added, ‘but without the necessary long-range planning calculated to make them effective.’ It is claimed that Kingston Penitentiary can be, at best, but a remodeled institution. Many of the constructional faults persist and ‘cannot be entirely overcome except by entire rebuilding.’ The need for segregation facilities is put vividly in the following extract from the report:

According to the present Warden, about 40 per cent of the prisoners are of subnormal mentality. It is very difficult to maintain a proper discipline when subnormal and sometimes psychopathic inmates are mixed with ‘trouble-makers’ who will incite them to breach of discipline. Apart from the laxity of discipline among officers and the psychological and educational unfitness of many of them for their positions, which inevitably result in laxity of discipline among the inmates, and apart from the lack of classification which permits a few ‘trouble-makers’ to incite unrest, idleness, is the great enemy of discipline at Kingston Penitentiary. Men who have no emotional or mental outlet, and who are shut up long hours in their cells, became hag-ridden by monotony, until constantly repeated irritating trifles provoke them into flaring revolt or drive them into a state of mental instability.

This is a grim picture of penitentiary life, and it is applied particularly to the Kingston institution. The confusion of overcrowding and the lack of proper segregation go far toward explaining revolts, with death and property destruction, that have alarmed the Canadian public.

Read Full Post »

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

Cartier, July 9 (Staff). – Reporting on sick parade, an inmate at Burwash Industrial Farm complained to his staff physician that he pains around the heart. ‘You are quite all right and fit for work,’ the doctor assured him, instructing the guard to escort him to his gang.

Less than half an hour later the man dropped dead, his body was taken to the CNR station in a coal dump-truck.

The Industrial Farm is supposed to be reserved for old offenders, yet around 7 per cent of those doing time there are 18-year-old punks on their first stretch. They are forced to associate with the hardest criminals in the province.

Every man who tries to escape is sentenced to 15 strokes of the strap, regardless of the circumstances or the temptation afforded to him, and the punishment is inflicted in two stages so that the mental torture is often as serve as the physical.

This and other charges were advanced today by Toronto-born James Alexander Smail, 27, a naval vet who went north because of the ‘attractive offers’ advertised by Burwash administration authorities.

He arrived at the tail end of a major riot last October, when 15 carloads of special police had to fire tear gas. He left April 19, and freely predicted to authorities that another riot was in the making. This broke more than a week ago and again tear gas was used.

Smail said that he was suspended without either an explanation or redress and that his appeals have been ignored both by the Department of Reform Institutions and the attorney-general.

Now employed in a railway roundhouse here, Smail said: ‘I am at least $1,500 out of pocket because I fell for that Burwash advertisement. I have done my best to place some vital grievance before the proper authorities, but I have been ignored all down the line.

‘I am still anxious to serve, but that is impossible under the present circumstances. And I do not speak for myself entirely. At least 1,000 other men have passed through the staff within the past year. The turnover is out of all proportion or reason.’

At present there are between 600 and 700 prisoners. In the old days there was one guard for every four inmates. Now the ratio has been almost doubled.

Smail said that he was offered an income of $120 a month and staff housing accommodation which he never received after eight months of service. With deductions for board of $19.50 a month, $5 for room, medical, laundry, dental fees and unemployed insurance his take-home pay dwindled to $87.14 a month. Out of that he had to support his wife, and two children, after renting a house for them in Burwash village, seven miles from the main camp.

‘They even nicked me 25 cents a day to ride to work in a government truck which was also used for transporting prisoners,’ Smail stated. ‘I understand the the inmates, however, rode free of charge.’

The room in which he slept at the farm was big, about 20 feet by 40, but it was also shared by from 10 to 15 other guards.

‘There was about a foot of space between each guard,’ he said. ‘Why even at sea in the navy we had more room.’

Last February Smail and 15 other guards enrolled at a special school of instruction authorized by George Dunbar, Minister of Reform Institutions. Smail topped the class in the final examination with 91 per cent. Few other guard ever broke the 90 mark. ‘And not many of those who did are still on the staff because they received no support in carrying out their instructions,’ he commented.

It was on the day of his dismissal that Smail, acting on instructions, participated in a ‘frisk’ of the 150 prisoners. This resulted in the discovery of live ammunition, knives, shivs or daggers and a considerable quantity of smuggled food, he says.

‘We had been instructed to be on the lookout for stuff like that,’ the former guard stated. ‘Yet when it was over I got the axe. The prisoners put up quite a beef, you see.’

‘An hour later I was told to report to the superintendent’s private office. He simply said: ‘Go home and we will call you in a day or so when this blows over. The prisoners are a little peeved.’ I went home free of charge that day in a staff truck, driven by an inmate with no guard accompanying.

‘Later, the superintendent sent work that I should see him at 8 p.m. at his home. When I got there I was told to sit down in a big leather chair and three senior officers started to quick me. I didn’t want to take abuse from them for doing my duty and I let them know that.

‘Acting Superintendent Brown said ‘I have been in touch with Toronto and on verbal instructions by telephone both you and a sergeant are to be dismissed.’ With that I left.’

Smail recalled two or three incidents where prisoners had been strapped for bolting from the farm under heartbreaking circumstances.

‘I know why one man tried to get away,’ he stated. ‘He received word of trouble at home. This prisoner was married and was a father. As soon as he was caught he was given the usual sentence – 15 strokes of the strap, and that is mandatory in such cases.

‘It was obvious even to his guards that he was in a frantic state of mind while at work and he should have been under strict supervision. Instead of that he was given opportunity to attempt to gain his freedom. And the temptation was too strong.

‘Now a strapping is not a pretty spectacle, I may assure you. The prisoner is hitched firmly to a post and there are steel bonds around his arms, his stomach and his feet. He is blindfolded and his shirt is pulled up to his blindfold.

‘The guard assigned to inflict the punishment has a strap about three feet long. He flails the man with it eight times and none of the strokes are gentle. It leaves the man black and blue.

‘After those eight strokes the man is bustled off to solitary confinement. He is stripped of his clothing, handed a nightgown and tossed into a cell. For the next seven days and nights he must lie on the cement floor – for there is no cot in solitary, you see.’

But another pathetic incident lingers in Smail’s mind. There was the day when a fresh load of ‘fish’ or new inmates arrived. Among them was a blond-haired lad of about 18. It was plain to all that he had never been in jail before. When he lined up for dinner, the kid picked up a tray, as he would in a city cafeteria, to collect his food. The old-timers just hold their plates out. Burwash is supposed to be the place for the old-timers, the guard pointed out.

Read Full Post »

Correctional Development Centre

110. The Correctional Development Centre in Laval, Quebec, has had several
names since it opened in 1968, beginning with Special Correction Unit (which meant
“supermaximum” to planners and inmates) to its present name, Temporary Detention
Unit. In reality it is a microcosm of the entire penitentiary system in Canada,
containing all the ills of maximum security in tight concentration, within a structure
that was originally intended to have been a small specialized prison. All three of the
Directors who tried to administer it had the common objective of creating a busy,
involved therapeutic community for the 3 to 4 per cent of the inmate population who
are the most difficult and intransigent prisoners in Canada. Full programs of job
training, work, education and recreation were to be maintained in this special
institution to prepare the inmates for lesser security. It was never instituted because
of lack of support from Regional headquarters in Quebec. 

111. Despite the fact that this institution is treated as though it is the
unwanted foster child of the system, the present Director, Pierre Goulem, is still
striving to establish the original aim and design of the institution. 

112. Within 18 months after the CDC was opened in 1968, under Director
Roger Jourdain, the carefully designed program was abandoned because Region
claimed the population was too low. The Director protested. He was moved to Cowansville and replaced by Jean Page, deputy warden of Leclerc Institution.
Protective custody cases were moved in despite the fact that there were no programs. 

113. Mr. Page’s attempts to carry on his duties between 1969 and 1971 met
with as many frustrations as do Mr. Goulem’s today. Despite two reports made on
the institution by investigators, the situation did not improve. The investigators

“The Board feels that the Superintendent of the institution is a capable officer
who is well motivated, who has clear-cut and up-to-date ideas on theories about
corrections in general, and the function and operation of the SCU in particular..
. The Board feels that the Superintendent of the SCU has not been getting
support or cooperation, or even advice, from the Regional Headquarters…”

And again: 

"The Regional Director has been very tardy in answering direct enquiries put to
him by the Superintendent and in some instances has not replied at all. He has
at least on one occasion declined to give advice when it was specifically asked

114. With the return of Mr. Page to Leclerc, Pierre Goulem, the present
Director, was brought in from the Federal Training Centre. Another study was
ordered at this time and it was turned over to the Regional Director in June, 1972. It
agreed with previous recommendations—that the institution remain maximum security
for difficult cases, but said that the treatment method should be changed totally.
It should be centred around the Therapeutic Community concept. A total of 27
recommendations were given in order to allow the program to start; these included
staff hiring as well as general physical restructuring of the institution. 

115. The Solicitor General accepted the recommendations on September 27,
1972, and the program was publicly announced in October. Director Goulem was
ready to move on the program, with specialists hired and the construction of two
common rooms and five offices started in April 1973. By June 1973 everything came
to a halt following the escape of five inmates. All who remained in the unit were the
Director, his secretary, Assistant Director Paul Williams in charge of socialization,
and Andre Thiffault, clinical consultant. The inmates were moved out. Mr. Goulem
was demoted but on appeal was re-instated March 1974. 

116. On April 8, 1974, the then Commissioner Paul Faguy ordered the
institution re-opened. Once more staffing started, in the fall of 1974. When the
September, 1976, riot occurred in Laval, the CDC was being used as the Regional
Psychiatric Centre. When the Laval rioters were moved in, the psychiatric patients
were transferred to Pinel. 

117. The history of the construction to meet the announced plan in 1971 of a
Therapeutic Community also seems to have been frustrated at the regional level: 

(i) In October 1973, two common rooms and five offices begun in February at a
cost of $165,000 were halted. 

(ii) April 1975—Phase I of the new program, five common rooms and two
towers (the common rooms identical to the ones built in 1973)—now the cost
was $700,000. 

(iii) April 1976—Phase II, administration, kitchen, visiting area, recreation
facilities, cost $919,132.

(iv) December 1976—Phase IIIA, gymnasium, outside recreation yard, one
tower, cost $674,000.

(v) Phase IIIB (the plan was still under review when the Sub-Committee was
there)—industrial shops and maintenance shops, cost $230,000. 

118. Always there were delays. The cost of this waste was never calculated for
the public. It took 18 months between Phases I and II because Region refused to
proceed with the project despite requests from Ottawa to proceed. The delays in each
instance were due to differences between Region and Ottawa, and delay in presenting
projects to the Treasury Board. 

119. The delay meant non-use of the institution for three years, excessive costs
that increased because of inflation, an explosive situation today, a sudden need to use
the facilities without gymnasium, outside yard, work shops, or school or library

120. The Sub-Committee was told of an almost perpetual lock-up of inmates
in small cells and saw themselves that the cell doors were opened only a few inches
even for dialogue with the Members of Parliament. The Members knew most were
not dangerous and in fact later talked with them in their cells. Inmates’ representatives,
however, were brought before the Sub-Committee shackled and heavily
guarded, a reflection of the guards’ dramatization of danger that the Sub-Committee
did not accept. 

121. Evidence was given of gassings without the follow-up health and safety
requirement of a shower to remove the corrosive residue. Witnesses, including
inmates involved in these incidents, said they were left eight and nine days without a
shower after gassings; one developed a serious scalp infection that required shaving
off all his hair. 

122. Another inmate came before the Sub-Committee with bruises from a
recent beating he claimed was administered by guards, whose names kept recurring
as problems in the institution. 

123. Several young guards who were concerned about the situation talked
privately to teams of the Sub-Committee saying they want to do the job but there
are a few "thugs in the system” who live by brutality, harrassment and even invited
hostage-taking “so we can negotiate better pay”. They were fearful of appearing
before the Sub-Committee because like the inmates, they could be beaten up. 

124. Mr. Goulem testified that he knew that there were on his staff several
people who were more dangerous than inmates:

“Sometimes when I am in my office and there are two officers outside I
wonder, if I yell for help would it not take some time before they come. I do not
know; it depends on which one it is.” (13:89) 

125. Paul J. Williams, Assistant Director of Socialization, referring to what he
described as “many conflicts between inmates and staff, between security and the
director, or the director and the Alliance, and in reality …of normal conflicts
because the situation is so abnormal,” stated: 

“What we are trying to do is rectify problems here and there and, as far as
I am concerned, based on my experience, it is a situation that cannot be
corrected, but must be done away with. I assess the present situation as being
inhuman, unrealistic and arbitrary and potentially very dangerous. I think some
of the comments brought up by some of my staff, for example, the psychologist’s, the classification officer’s, the social workers’s questioning their roles
here, I just say honestly I do not see any role for a professional psychologist, a
professionally trained classification officer nor a professionally trained social
worker under the present circumstances. I think the same might be said for
many other people who are professionally trained or even not professionally
trained. One of the members of Parliament—I forget which one—made reference
to the fact that we only have two psychologists or only two classification
officers. I think we probably have too many, simply because really what can
they do? I suspect God himself could not do much under the circumstances.”

126. The C.D.C. gave the Sub-Committee graphic insights into why prisons
explode, why there are hostage incidents, why there are slashings and suicides. But it
also shows that tax money was wasted on an expensive human warehouse. The CDC
not only shows the deterioration of the system but the poor leadership which cannot
build a program, or allow others to build a program, despite the availability of
money for construction. 

127. The Sub-Committee was so appalled by what it saw at this institution
that on its return to Ottawa it made private recommendations on the immediate
problem. As a result, the institution has been opened up to some extent and the
inmates have been given increased privileges for recreation and visits.


Mark MacGuigan, Chairman, Report to Parliament of The Sub-Committee on the
Penitentiary System in Canada & Standing Committee on
Justice and Legal Affairs
. Second Session of the
Thirtieth Parliament, 1976-77. pp. 22-25.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »