Sir ALLEN AYLESWORTH (Minister of Justice).
Mr. Speaker, in what I said on this subject yesterday and the day before I was principally concerned to satisfy the House by repeating publicly the statement which had been made to me by the warden of the penitentiary that so far as he and the officials of the institution were concerned they had not been guilty of any conduct which properly could be characterized as inhuman, and had not permitted any departure from the rules which are established in reference to the matters concerned. The question of what these rules Mr. EDWARDS.
ought to be is, of course, a larger matter and one in respect to which the officials of the penitentiary are perhaps not so immediately concerned as we ourselves in this House, because these things are matters of regulation by law, and the law, as laid down in the Penitentiaries Act, is, I need not say, binding on the wardens and the officials of the penitentiary equally as it is binding on the minister in charge of the department. Our Penitentiaries Act evidently was passed with consideration of the circumstance that the winter season in this country is one when low temperature can be expected and for that reason, instead of giving an overcoat at public expense to each prisoner discharged, the statute provides that any prisoner whose sentence, either by effiuxion of time or otherwise, expires during the months of December, January or February in any year, may at his option remain in the penitentiary at public expense where he will, at any rate, be sheltered from the severities of the Canadian winter climate, if he chooses to do so. It is only at a prisoner's own desire that he is discharged from the penitentiary at any time during any of these three months. If he prefers to remain where he is until the bitterness of the winter cold has to that extent abated, he has the right, or privilege, whichever you please to call it, to do so and in the particular instance which has led to this discussion, as I pointed out yesterday, the option was given +o the man to remain for a few days, if he chose, if not until the first of March; at any rate, to remain long enough to communicate with friends or relatives if there was any source from which he could hope to receive assistance.
With regard to clothing, of course, a prisoner has the clothing which he is wearing when he comes to the penitentiary gates kept for him until his sentence expires. That clothing is returned to him whether it is expensive or whether it is cheap. Whatever it is, subject to such deterioration as time may have caused in it while the sentence has been current, that clothing is returned to the man. But, our law is not quite so merciless as to send a prisoner out of the penitentiary clothed only as he was when he came to its doors. Each prisoner, upon his discharge, is given the regulation suit of clothing, both underwear and outerwear, and not only a complete suit of serviceable new clothing, but also a sum of money, not a large sum, it is true, but something which is, at any rate, sufficient to keep him from absolute want for the few days that, in this country, ought ordinarily to be the limit which would intervene before he would be able to earn at least his own maintenance and support.
Now, whether or not our law in that
respect ought to be changed is for the consideration of this House. Until now I had certainly not heard any complaint about it, and until now I had thought that we were not dealing inhumanly with our prisoners when we gave to them what I have, described-the option of shelter and maintenance until the winter is over. If it is thought that there ought to be something different done, or something more Hone, that is a matter in regard to which, while I perfectly concede that the principal responsibility rests upon myself, still I do submit that a responsibility rests also to some extent upon each and every individual member of this House.
Just one word with regard to the allusion which was made to the cost of the overcoats which the guards wear. I do not know whether or not it was intended to suggest that because these coats cost $2.50 apiece they were insufficient for the purpose, or that the guards were compelled to be upon duty in bitter winter weather insufficiently clothed. No complaint has come to my knowledge from any guard in any of our institutions upon that subject, and I cannot think that there is any complaint. The price of the garment which has been stated seems, of course, the merest bagatelle, but hon. gentlemen should remember that with regard to all of our penitentiary supplies which we are able to manufacture within the walls of the institution, the cost to the public is simply that of the material used. I heard the figure $2.50 with a little mild astonishment, I must admit. I should not have supposed that the mere cloth contained in the ou+er garment could be produced for that figure, and I think there is probably some mistake in supposing that overcoats can be supplied for that cost, although I have no doubt, as such clothing is certainly made m the penitentiary by convict labour, that the cost to the country of each overcoat ior the guards is a comparatively small sum. But, with regard to the question of prisoners clothing I have only to repeat what I have said already that the warden is governed by the Penitentiaries Act and that in so far as I am able to see he has not, in the matters referred to in this case at any rate, been in any degree to blame
Subtopic: JAMES ELLIOTT.