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Posts Tagged ‘young convicts’

“Escaped from Burwash; Sent To Kingston,” Ottawa Standard. October 8, 1918.

Two Young Men Start Early on Downward Career.

Sentences of two years in Kingston penitentiary were meted out to two young men, Joseph Claro and Norman G. Williams, who pleaded guilty in Tuesday’s police court to escaping from Burwash Industrial Farm. The two seemed thoroughly repentant for their action, but the court thought that their chances for parole would be better at Kingston than at the institution they had just left.

Young in Crime
Norman Williams is but 20 years of age. He was sentenced at Toronto to serve a term for the theft of an automobile. On the 24th of September he escaped from custody and when caught was taken back with just a warning. On October 4th, he escaped again in company of Joseph Claro, alias Joseph Cleroux. This man has a bad record, with a previous term at the penitentiary, time in local jails and a reform school, and a lengthy sentence at Burwash ahead before his elopment. He and Williams escaped from the Industrial Farm, made their way along the rail line, evading the guards searching for them, and absconding with a motor car in Copper Cliff….
[damage in original]
….consecutively with the sentences they were serving.

‘Notwithstanding your youthfulness you are dangerous characters to be at large, and if I send you to Kingston Penitentiary I think they will be able to help you there,’ Magistrate Askwith declared.

Their recapture Tuesday afternoon was effected by Inspector Joliet and his squad after an exciting chase through New Edinburgh. Shots were fired by the detectives.

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“Truant Surrenders Having Seen Circus,” Toronto Globe. July 21, 1933. Page 10.

Wish Expressed to Return to Victoria Industrial School, Mimico

Kenneth Neely, 18-year-old inmate of Victoria Industrial School, Mimico, who has been missing for some days from that institution, yesterday walked into the Central Police Station at Detroit, and surrendered. To the officer in charge, young Neely, with some satisfaction, expressed his desire to return to the school, having explained how he had achieved an ambition of many years’ standing.

‘They let me out from the school to look for another lad who had escaped. While I was away I saw a poster advertising a big circus, the one thing I had longed to see for five years,’ he told the police. Saying he had gratified his ambition, he added: ‘And, say, it was just swell.’

Neely, who was serving a term for stealing a car at Niagara Falls, is being held pending the arrival of an officer from the school to bring him back.

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“What is the meaning of the amazing statistics which we gather
from reformatories? Out of 336 boys, for instance, in the Lyman
School, 110 were former peddlers on the street; 160 had been newsboys;
72 had been bootblacks, and 56 had been messengers. 

In the Parental School, another Massachusetts reformatory,
out of 336 boys, 89 had been newsboys, 52 peddlers, 22 bootblacks,
and 9 messengers; a number in total larger than the number of the
boys in the reformatory, because some of the boys had engaged in
more than one of the occupations. 

Is it the actual work? Does work lead to the reformatory?
It cannot be that. Every true advocate of child labor reform praises
good, honest, hard, tiring work as roundly as he denounces the toil
of those nine-year-old children who climb up on their dangerous
playthings in the cotton factories. 

No, it is not the hard, tiring work of the children that any child
labor reformer can contend against. It is the conditions under which
the work is done, which accompany the work, giving chance for
mischievous boyish tendencies to sprout into vicious tendencies. 

In the night messenger service the boys feel themselves above
the law. That is probably the service in which the most independence
has been cultivated. A little messenger boy walking along the

houses of ill fame, and kitchen bar-rooms. We asked him if he
was not afraid of the police. He pulled his cap off and showed
us his badge, saying: “De cops can’t touch us when we got dis
badge on.” And so it is the independence which gives them a chance
in the moments when they are not actively at work to cultivate the
vicious tendencies which lead to the reformatory. 

This independence is peculiar to the street trades. The mills
do not directly send people to the reformatories. They repress the
children, repress all the mischief, or tire it out so that there is not
much chance in the idle moments, while the child is working eleven
hours a day in the mill, for him to get on the path to the reformatory.
Indirectly, however, in Massachusetts at least, we find that the mills
do lead to the reformatory by ruining many boys at an early age,
making doffers of them when they have no education, no industrial
training. Without ability to progress to more skillful work in the
mill, boys are thrown upon the streets at sixteen or seventeen when
they become too old to doff. In the city of Lawrence, large numbers
of these boys are thrown upon the streets and become part of the
street gang. 

It is not the work of selling the newspaper or of carrying the
telegram that does the harm. Many boys-probably the larger
number-in the newspaper service at any rate, are benefited by the
actual work. A boy whom I met recently is one of the justices of
the Newsboys’ Court in Boston, just established. The judges are
the newsboys themselves. They act under the direction of the Juvenile
Court and sentence the boys themselves: self-government.
And this bright, fifteen-year-old boy, has been cared for in good
home surroundings and the hard work has benefited him. He is a
keen, intelligent lad. He is doing all he can to keep the younger
boys and his friends from going into the night messenger service,
and to get them work under good conditions. His one ambition
is to be a forester, and to get away from the city. 

And so it seems to me that the point of attack is not to stop
the work, but to regulate it, to put it under good conditions; and
where good conditions cannot be had, as in the late hours of the
night messenger service or the late work of street trading, then, as
the final resort, prohibit the work. 

There is another phase of the question of street trades and

reformatories – the question whether the reformatory is the proper
cure or remedy for the wayward street trader. Of course, in the
most depraved cases in the night messenger service, the boy must
land in the reformatory or in jail, thanks to the sad condition of
society which has allowed these evils to go on. But for the minor
offences, for violation of the license regulations, failing to wear the
badge displayed, and all those things, it would be foolish to send
the minor offender into the reformatory with the older and more
depraved offender. In this connection, the Newsboys’ Court that
has been established in Boston offers a most admirable suggestion.
One of the justices is a lawyer who has always taken a great interest
in children. The other two are newsboys. They manage their
court in a rather informal manner; but they judge each case fairly
after hearing the arguments. They take time to consider the
merits of the boy’s case, and understand better than do a great
many judges the difficulties with which the boy has had to contend,
and can suggest the proper punishment.”

– Richard K. Conant, “STREET TRADES AND REFORMATORIES.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 38, Issue 1, 1911.

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“Sent to Industrial School.” Kingston Daily Standard. July 17, 1912. Page 08.
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In juvenile court this morning a 16 year old lad was sent to the Industrial School. He was found guilty of having stolen a fare box from the Street Railway Company. Another boy who was implicated in the theft was remanded. There were five in the crowd, and warrants are out for the other three.

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“Police Pick Up Two Lads; Notify Industrial School,” Toronto Globe. July 12, 1933. Page 02.

(Special Despatch to The Globe.)
Welland, July 11. – Welland police today were in communication with the authorities of the Mimico Industrial School relative to two lads picked up here late Monday. Rushing to Cook’s Mills after receiving a call from Mrs. Hall at that place. Police Chief Davies and Sergeant Anderson of the Welland force picked up William JOnes, aged 17, who hails from Thorold, and William McClelland, 17, Peterboro’.

The lads had called at Mrs. Hall’s home on Douglas Street asking for food, and thinking one of them might be the missing boys, immediately informed Welland police. On questioning the lads, police learned that McClelland had escaped from Mimico Industrial School on Saturday, and that Jones, who was formerly at Mimico, had made a getaway from his place of parole.

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“Boy Convicts In Penitentiary,” Kingston Whig Standard. June 25, 1912. Page 02.

Department of Justice is Investigating.

If They Are Removed They Will Probably be Placed in Reformatory – Detention Legal.

Upon the suggestion of Rev. J. C. McConachie, Children’s Aid official, the Department of Justice is making an investigation into the case of Convicts Cooper and Preuss, aged 16 years, in the Portsmouth Penitentiary on the charge of burglary. They were sentenced at St. Thomas six months ago for five and eight years respectively.

Cooper, it is said, was only five days over sixteen years at the time of being sentenced. Neither of the two boys, it is further stated, was in a position to realize the serious nature of their offence. It is held that the 16-year-old boys are at too suspectible an age to be in the penitentiary. Mr. McConachie took up the matter with the result that the Minister has promised to investigate.

The boys, if removed, from the pen will probably be placed in a reformatory.

Speaking with The Standard in regard to the matter an official of the penitentiary stated that he thought the detention of the two boys was quite legal and in a certain sense justified. Although they had given no trouble since being brought to the penitentiary, and their conduct has been for the most part satisfactory, yet there was no doubt that they knew what they had done. There had been deliberate shooting in connection with the burglary, and there is strong reason to think that they are older than they look or are represented to be. At present they are being kept isolated from the other men as far as possible, a special guard is detailed to watch over them to see that they are given every possible advantage and opportunity to learn something useful.

According to the penitentiary book Preuss is seventeen years old.

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“By the mid 1850’s suggestions were being made about the actual
design of the proposed Reformatories which provide an interesting insight
into the penological philosophy of the era. The physical structure, it was
felt, must be of such construction so that it would not “give dignity to
crime, and deprive it of its hideousness”’ and the cells were to be of
such limited dimensions that “work would be eagerly sought after as a
relief from so uninviting and monotonous an abode.”  Of significance
though, was the recognition that the system of discipline applied at the
Provincial Penitentiary would not be suitable for a population of young
offenders. Accordingly, the aim of the proposed Reformatory was to "reform
by discipline approaching as near as possible that followed in a
Christian and well regulated family.” 

It was not until 1857, however, that the Legislative Assembly authorized
the erection of two Reformatories for the Province of Canada.
Within a year one was established at Isle aux Noix, in Lower Canada and
in August 1859, a full decade after the completion of the Report of The
Royal Commission on the Provincial Penitentiary, the Upper Canada

Reformatory was opened. It was situated three miles from the small village
of Penetanguishene, thirty-six miles from Barrie, the closest railway point.
The institution stood on a point of land bounded by Penetanguishene Bay
and had attached to it two hundred acres of "light, poor soil.” The
buildings and grounds had been formerly a military barracks and were in
need of rennovation and cleanup. The first inmates were required, therefore,
to clear away boulders, build roads, and to repair the old buildings.
Upon the arrival of the first Warden, Mr. William M. Kelly, the barracks
were "fitted up like the staterooms in a ship with one tier above the
other"  and were used to quarter the boys. 

It became apparent almost from the outset that overcrowding would
become a problem. Within four months of its opening the inmate population
consisted of forty "juvenile” offenders, ranging in age from nine to
twenty-one years. Within a year the count had increased to eighty. As a
result a new wing was commenced in 1861. This new building, which contained
one hundred and twenty individual cells, was not completed until
1865 by which time 154 boys were imprisoned within the institution. The
degree of overcrowding was such that

as soon as the walls of the first erected cells were considered sufficiently
dry, the older boys were removed from the overcrowded
rooms in the old barracks to the new building to sleep.

 A school was started at the institution in November 1859 but within
a year the Protestant Chaplain, who was also the teacher, was forced to
confess that, 

We are already so overcrowded that I do not see how I shall be
able to manage if any more boys are added to our number.

Some appreciation of the problems which the Chaplain must have experienced
in attempting to impart academic instruction to his youthful
charges becomes evident from his description of the classroom as it
existed in 1860; 

The room used at present is … both as regards space and light very
unsuitable for the purpose. It is 34 feet 10 inches long, and 20 feet
5 inches wide; there are two windows at each end, but none at the
sides. I have maps and everything I require for the purpose of illustration,
but I cannot use them with effect. If they are hung between
the two windows, the glare of light coming full into the eyes of the
scholars prevents their having a clear view, and if they are hung on
the side walls there is no place for standing on account of the desks
and benches.

Daily life within the Reformatory followed a regimented routine. The
lads were awakened at six a.m. by the ringing of a bell and lockup occurred
after supper. During the winter months they were permitted to have
lights on in the dormitories until 7:30 p.m. On Sundays they attended
their respective chapels and religious instruction from the Chaplains was

received each Thursday. The lads were permitted to play outside after
dinner until one o’clock each afternoon. Breakfast consisted of one quarter
pound of meat, one pound of bread and pea coffee sweetened with molasses;
dinner was one half pound of meat, one half pound of bread, potatoes,
and soup with vegetables. A supper of Indian meal or oatmeal porridge
sweetened with molasses completed the daily menu. The cost of feeding
each young inmate in 1861 amounted to 81/2 cents per day.

The youthful prisoners were required to attend school and to learn
one of the trades practiced at the Reformatory which included tailoring,
shoemaking and carpentry. After 1862 a system of military drill was introduced
which, according to the Warden, “appears to be a source to them
of pleasure and great emulation.” He attempted also to secure instruments
for a small brass band which he maintained "would have a very
inspiring effect on the boys.” A sincere attempt seems to have been
made to keep the young charges occupied with training and work activities
as the following observation of life in the institution in 1861 notes: 

Some were engaged in digging up and blasting boulders for the new
building …. Some were engaged in making brick; some formed a
boat’s crew and were several miles off floating timber from the
opposite shore to the works; some were learning to be tailors, others
shoemakers and carpenters. All were busy and apparently happy. 

The administration of the Reformatory appears to have been popular
with the inmates. The Warden, for example, reported that "the general
feelings of the boys towards the Institution is attachment rather than fear
or distrust”.. One lad, for instance, came across a pocketbook on the
road outside the institution containing twenty-five dollars in currency and
five hundred dollars in papers. “Without the least hesitation or delay, he
carried the whole to the Institution and placed it in the hands of the Warden
to be restored to the owner."  On another occasion one of the inmates
joined the army following his release and soon earned his corporal’s
stripes. "He spent his leave at Penetanguishene, revisiting the Institution
which had been the means of snatching him from a life of shame and
misfortune."  The Annual Reports of the Warden reveal that efforts were
made to provide responsibility to the young offenders in their daily work,
and they were often allowed to work anywhere on the Reformatory
grounds "under a leader chosen from themselves."  In fact it was not
until 1863 that the first escapes were attempted and then "at the instigation
of a very depraved character who .. .has been a member of the
notorious Toronto Bush gang.”

–  Sydney Shoom, “The Upper Canada Reformatory, Penetanguishene: The Dawn of Prison Reform in Canada.” Canadian Journal of Criminology & Corrections, #14/260 1972. pp. 263-265. 

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