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Canada - Judicial and prison whipping

Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on Capital and Corporal Punishment and Lotteries, 1953-55

Minutes of Evidence (extracts)

Witness: Colonel G. Headly Basher, Deputy Minister for Reform Institutions, Ontario

"Corporal punishment is grossly misunderstood ... I believe it would be more correct to refer to it as 'spanking' as actually that is what it means and no more ...

"Provincial officials may not award more than 10 slaps with the strap at any time ...

"In the past five years the number of persons receiving the strap for breaches of discipline is equal to 0.44% of the total persons in custody.

"I consider corporal punishment essential as a form of punishment in penal institutions. We cannot afford to remove the existing form of spanking.

"The regulations for the execution of corporal punishment awarded by the Court are the same as for breaches of discipline. When corporal punishment is executed, the superintendent or governor is present with the medical officer and one or two guards. The governor or superintendent identifies the prisoner and makes sure they have the right man by asking him his name and if he understands the sentence ...

"The governor then orders the punishment to be carried out, the prisoner having been medically examined. The prisoner's hands and ankles are then secured and his buttocks exposed. A kidney belt is worn as a protective measure.

"The medical officer then stands close to the prisoner, with his fingers on the prisoner's pulse. One guard executes the punishment and it is the governor's responsibility to ensure that only the number of strokes awarded by the court are inflicted.

"The maximum number of strokes administered at any one time does not exceed ten, but where a judge awards fifteen strokes, it is usually given in two lots of seven and eight, or it may be given in three lots of five.

"The strap used for the infliction of corporal punishment is a plain leather strap, without perforations, about fifteen inches long, three inches wide, and three-sixteenths of an inch in thickness. the strap is attached to a handle which measures about seven inches."

"An inmate is visually examined after the award of corporal punishment. I have not known of a case where medical attention or hospitalization was necessary.

"Once the punishment is over, the man is quite fit to carry on with his work.

"We are not possession of any statistics which would prove that corporal punishment prevents recidivism. However, experience teaches that corporal punishment has a definite deterrent effect.

"If I might, I would like to digress for a moment and refer to what I call Appendix A, entitled "Breaches of Institution Discipline", which I have here. This is a group totalling 106 prisoners who were given a spanking over a period, and ... of these, 99 required only one application to correct them or to make them behave themselves from there on. Seven required a second application for further misconduct, and of the 99, 53 committed no further breaches warranting punishment of any kind. 38 committed minor offences but not of sufficient importance to warrant use of the strap. 8 committed more serious breaches ... but not of sufficient importance to warrant strapping.

"... I think that in itself is sufficient to justify or to satisfy or to argue at least that it definitely has a deterrent effect.

"In provincial institutions ... the rules provide ... as follows:

Punishment by the strap shall only be inflicted in extreme cases and for the following offences:

(a) Assault with violence on officers.
(b) Assault with violence on other inmates.
(c) Continued course of bad conduct.
(d) Escape or attempted escape.
(e) Malicious destruction of or injury to machinery or property.
(f) Malingering.
(g) Mutinous conduct.
(h) Repeated fighting after warning.
(i) Refusal to work after warning.
(j) Repeated insolence to officers.
(k) Riotous conduct in dormitories, cells, working gangs or elsewhere.

The number of blows with the strap shall be in proportion to the offence committed, and in no case shall exceed ten at any one application.

"In Ontario the strap has no perforations and the prisoner is not blindfolded.

Q. Is it a table to which a man is tied?

A. "No, it is a frame."

Q. Does the prisoner stand when he is being strapped?

A. "Yes."

Q. What is your practice regarding spanking juvenile offenders?

A. "In our institution and juvenile institutions, spanking is not given under age 16."

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Copyright Colin Farrell 1999
Page created October 1999