Barred from Prison

Culhane, Claire
Publisher:  Prisoners' Rights Groups, Burnaby, Canada
Year Published:  1979
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX1017

An account of what occured inside the B.C. Penitentiary during a prison uprising in September 1976.

In September 1976, a year after the death of Mary Steinhauser, the B.C. Penitentiary exploded once again --the 9th time in 3 years. This time, an entire wing of the 100 year-old prison was demolished, and more hostages were taken. Claire Culhane was there.

Barred from Prison contains an hour-by-hour, first hand account of the finagling, dealing and wheedling that comprised the eighty hours of life-and-death negotiation and confrontation--between the prisoners on the inside and the many levels of administration, as well as the media, on the outside. As Culhane explores the circustances leading up to the prisoners' action (and how she herself was called in to sit on the Citizen's Advisory Committee), she takes the reader into the offices of high-ranking prison officials and into the cells of men condemned indefinitely to isolation from any human contact. Her careful documentation and research yields up information buried in government files and private correspondence; the most revealing document in the book, and possibly in any book written on the subject, is the prisoners' log kept by the Inmates' Committee during the '76 hostage-taking.

Barred from Prison is also an account of one individual's fearless efforts to get inside prisons to see what is actually happening there. As her story makes clear, the penal system cannot tolerate such close scrutiny: she herself has been declared persona non grata and officially denied access to Canadian penitentiaries. Although she may never again be allowed behind the sealed doors that "protect" us from those within, her testimony shows plainly why a concerned citizenry, already misinformed and misled by bureaucracy, has been and still is being kept in the dark about the prison system in Canada.

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