Disruptive Prisoners: Resistance, Reform, and the New Deal

By Chris Clarkson and Melissa Munn

© 2021

Disruptive Prisoners reconstitutes the history of Canada’s federal prison system in the mid-twentieth century through a process of collective biography – one involving prisoners, administrators, prison reformers, and politicians. This social history relies on extensive archival research and access to government documents, but more importantly, uses the penal press materials created by prisoners themselves and an interview with one of the founding penal press editors to provide a unique and unprecedented analysis.

Disruptive Prisoners is grounded in the lived experiences of men who were incarcerated in federal penitentiaries in Canada and argues that they were not merely passive recipients of intervention. Evidence indicates that prisoners were active agents of change who advocated for and resisted the initiatives that were part of Canada’s "New Deal in Corrections." While prisoners are silent in other criminological and historical texts, here they are central figures: the juxtaposition of their voices with the official administrative, parliamentary, and government records challenges the dominant tropes of progress and provides a more nuanced and complicated reframing of the post-Archambault Commission era.

The use of an alternative evidential base, the commitment of the authors to integrating subaltern perspectives, and the first-hand accounts by prisoners of their experiences of incarceration makes this book a highly readable and engaging glimpse behind the bars of Canada’s federal prisons.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 320 pages
  • Illustrations: 51
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

In this history of prison reform in mid-twentieth-century Canada, the voices of prisoners help to provide a nuanced understanding of prisoners as active agents of change.

Disruptive Prisoners: Resistance, Reform, and the New Deal

By Chris Clarkson and Melissa Munn

© 2021

Disruptive Prisoners reconstitutes the history of Canada’s federal prison system in the mid-twentieth century through a process of collective biography – one involving prisoners, administrators, prison reformers, and politicians. This social history relies on extensive archival research and access to government documents, but more importantly, uses the penal press materials created by prisoners themselves and an interview with one of the founding penal press editors to provide a unique and unprecedented analysis.

Disruptive Prisoners is grounded in the lived experiences of men who were incarcerated in federal penitentiaries in Canada and argues that they were not merely passive recipients of intervention. Evidence indicates that prisoners were active agents of change who advocated for and resisted the initiatives that were part of Canada’s "New Deal in Corrections." While prisoners are silent in other criminological and historical texts, here they are central figures: the juxtaposition of their voices with the official administrative, parliamentary, and government records challenges the dominant tropes of progress and provides a more nuanced and complicated reframing of the post-Archambault Commission era.

The use of an alternative evidential base, the commitment of the authors to integrating subaltern perspectives, and the first-hand accounts by prisoners of their experiences of incarceration makes this book a highly readable and engaging glimpse behind the bars of Canada’s federal prisons.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 320 pages
  • Illustrations: 51
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Author Information

    Chris Clarkson is a professor in the Department of History at Okanagan College.


    Melissa Munn is a professor in the Department of Sociology at Okanagan College.
  • Table of contents

    Acknowledgments
    Preface

    Introduction

    Serendipity: Finding Voices
    Writing a Social History of Prisons
    Study Parameters and Limitations
    Organization of this Book

    Section One: Disrupting the Old Order

    1. Riots and Reform: Political Action and the Making of the Archambault Report

    The Protest
    Causes of the Riot
    Context of Resistance
    The Illusion of Reform
    Riots and Revelations: Deconstructing the Narrative

    2. The Blueprint for the New Deal: The Archambault Commission Re-envisions Reform

    Royal Commission Mandate and Findings
    Prison Conditions
    Recommendations of the Archambault Report
    Classification, Segregation, and the Protection of Young Prisoners
    The Borstal Ascendency in Canadian Penitentiaries
    Consolidation of Governance
    Reception of the Report
    Post-War Pressure for Implementation
    The Gibson Report
    Sauvant’s Progress
    Gibson’s Plan

    Section Two: Disruptive Influences

    3. “Men Who Beefed”: Writing the New Deal

    The Creation of the Penal Press in Canada
    The Penal Press Expands
    Taking Shape: The Technical Aspects of the Penal Press
    The Penal Press Finds Purpose
    “Prisoners are People” and the “New Deal” Materialize
    Strength in Numbers: The Penal Press Goes International
    “Keeping It Real” or “What to Write about in the Penal Press”
    The Difficulties of Being THE Voice of Prisoners

    4. The New Deal: Same as the Old Deal?

    Classification and Segregation
    Using Classification to Achieve a Rehabilitated Subject
    Achieving Security and Efficiency through Classification and Segregation
    Reducing Idleness through Classification
    Staying Connected: Visitation and Correspondence in Prison
    Education and Vocational Training
    Work and Industry
    Mollycoddling and the Defense of the New Deal
    The New Deal… Same as the Old Deal?

    5. Time Off: Clemency, Remission, and Parole

    Good Time
    The First-Year Problem
    The Earned/Lost Problem
    Acts of Grace
    Amnesty
    Remission Branch – Royal Prerogative of Mercy
    Remission Branch – Ticket-Of-Leave
    Parole
    Autonomy
    Board Composition
    Interim Progress: Automatic Review
    Disappointment: Prisoners Are People but We Don’t Need to Meet Them
    Disappointment: Denial of Parole
    Disappointment: Drug Addicts and Alcoholics
    Getting the Public On-Side
    Early Progress Reports
    Reason for Optimism?

    6. New Deal/Old Deal Discontent and Censorship

    The Official Face of Reform
    The Contested View of Reform
    Situation Critical: The New Deal Riot
    Antecedents to the Riot: Daily Life and Overcrowding
    Censorship: Controlling the New Deal’s Narrative

    Conclusion

    Talk of Violence, Mismanagement, and Progressive Reform
    A Story of Uneven Progress
    Disrupting Methodology: On the Importance of Muti-vocality/History from Below
    Disrupting the Idea that Change Comes from the Top
    Disrupting the Idea that “We Blew It”
    Disrupting the “Con”
    Disrupting Singular Narratives

    Appendix A: Excerpts from Commissioner’s Annual Reports detailing Psychiatric Services 1947–1957
    Appendix B: Article Refused for Publication in Pathfinder 1953

    Bibliography
    Endnotes

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