Post image source: Wayne Glowacki, The Canadian Press

Ten Days of Prisoner Justice History: Day 4

On December 18, 1954, prisoners in the Headingley men’s jail rioted against awful food, lack of access to medical care, an under-supplied library, and no access to meaningful work. Prisoners trashed the dining room, set fires, broke dishes, and destroyed tables and chairs, all while making sure nobody was injured.

Newspaper article: Inquiry Make-Up Blasted Stinson Calls For Independent Probe Of Jail Make-up of the committee which will probe the Headingley jail riot came under fire Wednesday from Lloyd Stinson, CCF leader, who claimed the members were “too close to the government to be considered independent.” He singled out the appointment of D. C. M. Kyle, high sheriff of Manitoba, for particular criticism, nothing that Mr. Kyle also served the government as inspector of jails. “This is like a business firm appointing its own chief accountant” to carry out an investigation of its books, the CCF leader charged. He said there was no doubt Sheriff Kyle was “an admirable official.” He was not, however, “the right person to head an investigation of this kind.”
Winnipeg Free Press, December 22, 1954

In addition to drawing outside scrutiny into jail conditions in the form of a government inquiry into the causes of the riot (Stansfield 2001 pg. 43), prisoners won increased family visitation and increased social programming (WFP, Dec 21, 1954). The inquiry was later criticized for its lack of independence (WFP, Dec 22 1954). Disappointingly, recommendations from the report centred on the need to professionalize the role of jail guards (as corrections officers) rather than improve the conditions of the jail.

Michelle Gawronsky standing in front of a plaque for the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, hands clasped
Michelle Gawronsky © Chris Procaylo Winnipeg Sun

In 1996, prisoners at the same jail rioted and took control of the jail causing $3.5 million in damage. Many people were hurt in the 1996 riot, and many were quick to blame the rioters.The correctional officers union blamed “urban street gangs” for “increased violence, defiance, and drug use” in Manitoba jails, and lack of adequate training for COs (Gawronsky, 2016). Despite CO assertions that it was prisoners who were the problem, the inquiry into the riot found that the attitudes of COs were plagued with “hatred, negativity, apathy” and a “couldn’t-care-less” attitude. It found that “Headingley was a place where corrections officers often hated their jobs, each other and the inmates” (McInnes, 2017).

Two similar recruitment images with corrections officers and the headlines “Do you have what it takes?” One has subtitles of “To provide supervision and control”, “To be supportive”, “To be compassionate”. The other replaces supervision and control with “To be caring”.
So what is the truth: caring or supervision and control? © Manitoba Justice