SOC229 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Barry Mackenzie, Kingston Penitentiary, The Inmates

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30 Jan 2015
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The April 1971 Kingston Penitentiary Riot
January 22, 2015
4:26 PM
Introduction to Prison Riots
Typically involve crime
Studied by interviewing people who were involved
Kingston Riot
oTwo inmates (Brian Ensor and Bertrand Henry Robert) were murdered
oThirteen inmates charged with the two counts of murder
oInterviewed all 550 inmates
o50 of them gave statements
Kingston Penitentiary as a Maximum Security Prison
During confederation in 1867, the Federal government took on the responsibility of
taking care of inmates who received lengthier sentences
Decided that anyone who received a sentence of two years or more would go to a
federal penitentiary, anyone else would go to a provincial institution
Classification system
oDecides whether they will be sent to a minimum, medium, or maximum security
institution
oSpend a few weeks at Millhaven, outside of Kingston Penitentiary
oSeen by a parole officer, and possibly a psychologist
oThey examine their files, nature of the offence, and try to determine how violent
they are
Sent to a maximum prison because of the length of sentence, security risk, risk of
violence, or risk of escape
As they get closer to release, they'll be moved down the system, to medium, then
minimum, and eventually released.
Inmates in maximum security are most dangerous and most violent
They have a lot fewer privileges; lives more restricted
Maximum penitentiaries have the most prison riots
oTend to occur in older, more restrictive, more secure types of prisons
Kingston Riot considered to be one of the most violent
It ended with the prisoners taking over control of the whole prison
Typically, prisons are segmented so that guards can prevent inmates from moving from
one section to another
oUsually, during a riot, the guards lock down that segment of the prison
In Kingston, the inmates were able to take over the whole central area, and open the
cellblocks for everyone, and release everybody out into the area.
Inmate Informants and Roger Caron's "Bingo"
Of the 550 inmates, only 50 cooperated with police
oHoped of getting favourable parole consideration
oMany of them received this request, after the trial was finished
In cooperating, they were putting their lives in danger
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Others say they cooperated as they felt as though the acts were disgusting; altruistic
reasoning
After giving testimonies, and being taken back to Collins Bay Penitentiary, some inmates
were being attacked
An inmate on day parole, was going to Kingston, getting the names of the informants,
and giving them to other inmates when he returned to the penitentiary
Defence attorneys for the inmates being charged gave the list of informants to the
inmates, resulting in the information being spread through prisons
To protect the informants, correctional services moved them back to Kingston, as the
penitentiary had been emptied after the riots, putting them in a form of protective services
The Riot Begins - Billie Knight's Role
Riot began on April 14th, 1971
Inmates had been making plans to seize guards as hostages, and hopefully get control
of the dome
Rumours about the riot had been circulating throughout the day
Surprisingly, no inmates informed prison authorities of the expected attack
Guards don't carry any form of weapons, as they are greatly outnumbered by inmates,
and if they were to attack, their weapons would be taken from them
That night, in the gymnasium, 20 inmates lined up after recreation period
o6 of these inmates had been replaced by six others
oThese six men, led by an inmate called Billie Knight, began to overpower the
guards
oThe other 14 inmates wanted nothing to do with the riots, and returned to their
cells, minus one, who took control of another guard guiding these inmates to their
quarters
No guards were seriously injured.
After all guards were captured, the inmates began releasing inmates from their cells
While some inmates did not want to participate, the 6 leaders threatened and forced
them into the dome, and soon the dome was filled with inmates
Billie Knight took leadership, and after gaining the inmates' attention, informed them of
his control
He ordered the inmates to wreck the place
Knight then went back to the gym, informed the warden of what was occurring, and
asked for the 50 inmates being held in the gym to be released
He agreed, even though some of those inmates were undesirables
The Inmates of 1-D - Inmate Undesirables
These inmates were locked up almost 24 hours a day, for their own safety
Once placed in 1-D (protective custody) you were largely stigmatized
Not all inmates in 1-D were undesirable, one was placed there after another inmate
threatened rape, others in there for gambling debts
Most of them were placed there because they were child molesters or informants
Bertrand Henry Roberts, one of the inmates killed, had tortured his children by sitting
them on a hot stove
oHis wife was also convicted, and was in the KP for Women, and had been
attacked by women who held her under scalding water
oIn general, assaulting children makes you an undesirable
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