This is private property in Millbrook, ON... do not trespass!
In 1946 the Province of Ontario formed the Department of Reform Institutions (DRI) that was charged with overseeing approximately one dozen correctional institutions across Ontario.
During the early 1950's prison violence was increasing dramatically across Ontario. This was demonstrated during July of 1952 after a riot took place at the Guelph Reformatory and caused over $1 million dollars in damages. The riot caused shocked officials to begin seeking alternative policies that could be implemented. Three psychologists were sent into the prison to determine what was causing the prisoners to be so discontent.
The DRI took into consideration the psychologists recommendations, and developed the “Ontario Plan” which would accomplish the following: classify prisoners into groups, expand educational study programs, segregate homosexual inmates, provide vocational training and create smaller institutions.
To deal with the problem of isolating violent inmates, the Millbrook Reformatory was constructed beginning in 1957. The prison maximum-security prison would house inmates that other prisons could not handle.
Millbrook used what was called the Progressive Stage System (PSS). The PSS forced compliance from prisoners by removing sensory stimulation from the prisoners (solitary confinement). Positive behavior however would incrementally earn the prisoners positive things such as food, human contact and leisure activities.
New inmates to Millbrook began at the Stage 1 level. Stage 1 started out as a sixteen day ‘special diet' where inmates would not receive any letters, visitors or exercise opportunities. Instead they would receive only a Bible for reading purposes and were isolated from any human contact.
Once the inmate had earned his way to Stage 2 of the PSS system, he was permitted regular meals, a non-fiction book, one thirty-minute visitor per week, tobacco and forty-five minutes of daily recreation.
The best possible behavior was at Stage 3. At stage 3 an inmate received library privileges, was permitted one outgoing letter per week, one movie per week and the opportunity to take a correspondence course.
Conditions in jails operated by the DRI were already notoriously inhumane. Candy and toiletries were prohibited, inmates ate in silence and rules dictated much of the daily routine including how inmates slept in their beds. Millbrook was no exception and was very tough on how they treated inmates.
As suggested by the Ontario Plan, Inmates at Millbrook were categorized into the following groups:
Group I (discipline problem)
Group II (sexual offenders)
Group III (homosexual)
A report conducted by the Select Committee on Prison Reform in 1954 found that it would be beneficial for inmates to receive sex offender treatment. Beginning in 1955, anyone found guilty of a sex crime was sent to the Guelph Reformatory to receive the necessary treatment.
In 1957 the chief psychiatrist, Dr van Nostrand, diverted many of the prisoners to the Millbrook Reformatory. Millbrook had created a ‘sex pervert' wing to deal with inmates found guilty of incest or sexual activity with persons less than 14 years of age. Homosexual prisoners were also sent to Millbrook regardless of what offence they had committed.
One of Millbrook's criticisms was that it did not differentiate between homosexuals, predators or those charged with sex crimes. Those convicted of sexual crimes were housed in the same prison as violent offenders nor did they receive what they really required – treatment. Homosexual men were housed in the same prison as sexual offenders.
Dr van Nostrand would later admit that there was no plan to treat homosexual prisoners and that the policies were in place only to “remove them as a disturbance factor”.
Millbrook's first clinical psychiatrist, F.E. Webb prescribed narcotics to the inmates he was treating in an attempt to ‘jump start' the process. Just before retiring, Webb also began treating inmates with electro convulsive therapy. Records discovered after his retirement indicated that he also issued sodium-pentothol (truth serum) and shock therapy to his patients.
When van Nostrand retired in 1958 the prison hired a new reform activist. This new activist implemented a sexual deviant treatment program. The first step was to separate the homosexuals from the sexual offenders, as the sexual offenders were not being helped by the constant ‘sex talk' from the homosexual population. Staff who didn't approve of homosexuals often treated the homosexual inmates poorly. Under the new program, staff could refuse to work with homosexual inmates.
From 1958 until 1962 the Group II population doubled over the course of four years from 44 to 83 inmates. By 1962 the last remaining members of the treatment staff agreed that a treatment program could no longer be pursued at Millbrook and that alternatives should be looked into.
J.D. Atcheson was hired as the new director of research and treatment services but found that it was too difficult keeping the Ontario Plan directives alive. In 1958 he complained that inmates were being transferred to Millbrook to keep it “running at full capacity”.
By 1963 there were only two part-time psychiatrists who could only provide adequate services for the inmates often limited only to counseling sessions.
In 1965 two inmates attempted to draw public attention to the conditions at Millbrook by keeping a stock of lighter fluid rations and lit a fire. Guards anonymously met with journalists to talk about the conditions in which inmates were forced to live. The opposition party even began calling Millbrook the “Alcatraz of Ontario” and demanded that it be closed. (The inmates would later receive two years addition to the time they were serving)
Changes / License Plate Snafu
With public awareness and growing support for more humane conditions in prisons, Millbrook's zealous get-tough approach was forced to change. Inmates were now learning new skills that included sewing, making inmate uniforms, auto repair and making license plates.
Under the License Plate Expansion Program, inmates worked in creating license plates for use on Ontario motor vehicles. When an equipment malfunction occurred in late 2000 with the Ministry of Transportations license plate press, it resulted in a 120,000 plate shortage. On September 12th, Corrections Minister Rob Sampson brought in three civilian workers from outside the prison. The civilian workers weren't working under any supervision and managers claimed that it was the only way to make up for the shortage.
OPSUE and Liberal Corrections critic David Levac claimed that this violated numerous health and safety issues. The workers who were being paid nine dollars per hour were pulled from the program less than 12 hours later.
The Beginning of the End
When the Conservative government came into power in 1995, many of the jails, detention centers and correctional centres were by now old and costly to maintain.
In 1996, Ontario launched the Infrastructure Renewal Program to transform the province's aging correctional system into one that is safe, secure, efficient, effective and accountable. Part of the program involved expanding and retrofitting older prisons while building new facilities. The investment in retrofits and new facilities was budgeted to
be $450 million.
The initiative called for the construction of two new institutions each capable of housing 1,184 inmates. It would also see the expansion and retrofit of Maplehurst to allow 1,550 inmates instead of the current 600.
These three institutions became known as “superjails”. The design for a superjail included the following: six octagonal pods that would interconnected, each pod housing 192 beds. A control centre would be situated in the middle of each pod while each pod would house a living unit, exercise area, visiting room and a program area. In addition they would include an infirmary, segregation unit, meal preparation area and administration office.
Corrections Minister Rob Sampson made the decision to close the Millbrook Correctional Centre and to transfer the operations to one of two new superjails being constructed. Construction on the new Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) located in nearby Lindsay began in 1999 and was completed in 2002.
News of the closure did not sit well with Millbrook's OPSEU employees who feared that this might lead to the privatization of their jobs. In August of 2000 employees held a demonstration to protest the possibility of the new superjail being privatized.
Millbrook's superintendent and the deputy superintendent were on hand to watch the festivities. In the end, the new superjail was not privatized and was kept under the Province of Ontario.
Another protest of sorts took place during the same month when forty-six inmates at Millbrook went on a six-day hunger strike. The inmates were protesting the death of Nguyen Cao Son, a 50-year old Vietnamese awaiting deportation. Son died on Friday, August 18, 2000 under suspicious circumstances after a beating from guards.
On March 31, 2003 at approximately 8:30 PM dozens of inmates began to riot at Millwood after they broke into a control room and opened the cell doors for other inmates. They broke many of the prisons windows in an attempt to escape. Reports were that between 25 and 29 inmates were involved in the rioting.
An OPSEU strike at the time was believed to be have contributed to the riot as only managers and non-essential staff were on duty at the time. Tactical offers as well as other emergency first responders were called to the scene.
The riot ended when inmates returned peacefully to their cells.
The prison had been broken into by local youths, which allowed access into the prison. The facility was secured on April 14, 2009 with reinforced metal. It is no longer possible to gain entry into this location. In addition, the property management has instructed the Ontario Provincial Police to lay trespassing charges to people who insist on entering this location.
The GPS co-ordinates are intentionally left out.
Strangers in Our Midst By Elise Chenier (University of Toronto Press, 2008)
The superjails in Ontario (John Howard society, June 10, 2006)
This is private property... do not trespass!
Note: As of 2009, the doors and windows have been sealed, covered with sheet metal and welded shut.