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Prison CP - October 1952

Corpun file 21005 at

Daily Chronicle, Centralia, Washington State, USA, 3 October 1952

Soggy Finish Marks Riot By Prisoners

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VANCOUVER, B.C. (AP) -- Symbols of defeat Friday mocked rioters subdued by water and tear gas Thursday after three hours of mob rule in the south wing of crowded Oakalla prison.

The biggest jail riot in British Columbia's history came to a soggy finish when armed prison officers sliced through a barricaded door with an acetylene torch to free two guards seized as hostages.

A few hours later Warden Hugh Christie announced "immediate and decisive" disciplinary action -- including use of the paddle -- had been taken against prisoners actively involved in the pillage.

Some of the prisoners, their backsides smarting, spent the night tossing on the damp floors of cells where they had smashed beds and windows and uprooted plumbing fixtures.

That was what Warden Christie meant when he said some of the punishment was meted out by the prisoners themselves. They'll have to live in the disorder until repairs can be carried out.

No Injuries Reported

Neither guards nor prisoners were injured. But damage ranged into the thousands of dollars. Jail spokesman said it will take considerable time to compile an official estimate.

Eighty-five of the some 800 prisoners held in the provincial jail were brought before a "warden's court" after order was restored.

Of this number, about 45 were found to he actively involved in the destruction.

An undisclosed number got the paddle -- whippings across the bare backside with a long leather strap -- while others lost good behavior time or were reprimanded.

The prisoners rioted to protest overcrowding in the cellblock -- a second bunk was placed in all cells this week -- and demanded a one-man-to-a-cell program.

But Warden Christie said the riot couldn't have been more futile with the disorder put down by force and the rioters winning no concessions of any kind.

Warden Refuses To Bargain

The 35-year-old warden said he spoke to the rioters twice during the three-hour holdout -- once on the telephone and once through a window -- but refused to bargain with them.

"The minute I started to make any concessions I would no longer be in charge of the prison," he said, adding:

"Actually I have some sympathy with the prisoners, but certainly not with their method of attempting to gain their ends."

One of the two guards held by the prisoners, Bob Burns of Burnaby, said they were not harmed although several "punks" hurled threats at them.

Burns, chief guard in the south wing, said being rescued was a lot tougher than being captured.

"The tear gas was sure grim," he said. "I was soaked from head to foot with water and tears were pouring out of my eyes when the rest of the guards got to me."

Corpun file 24673 at

The Gazette, Montreal, 23 October 1952, p.2

Discipline Defers Riot At Don Jail

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Toronto, Oct. 22. (CP) -- Col. G.H. Basher said today that prisoners at Don Jail would have rioted a day or two after the Boyd gang escaped last September if six of the ringleaders had not been strapped.

The Deputy Minister of Reform Institutions for Ontario told a Royal Commission investigating Don Jail conditions that the men refused food, plugged cell locks with wads of paper and called guards "filthy names."

"They were bent on taking charge of the jail," he said. "There is no question in my mind about that."

He said six of "the most insolent" were removed from the others, placed in separate cells, and strapped.

Col. Basher told the commission that guards at the Don "must have been either negligent or co-operative" while members of the gang were sawing window-bars prior to the jail-break.

He said that at first he was not convinced that the four who escaped -- Edwin Alonzo Boyd, Steve Suchan, Leonard Jackson and William Russell Jackson -- had fled through a window.

But the men would have needed six different keys to get down the back staircase. Col. Basher estimated that this way it would take only 50 seconds to get out of the cell and down to the street. However, the men would have needed help from the guards, "lots of help."

Asked whether the Don Jail was obsolete, Col. Basher replied that compared with modern jails it was.

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