The Millbrook Correctional Centre was commonly referred to by inmates and criminals as The Brook. It opened in 1957, at which time it was known as the Millbrook Reformatory. It opened with a capacity of 268 inmates, but after double bunking and renovations over the years, capacity grew to 490 inmates. For decades it was Ontario's only maximum security incarceration facility. It housed provincially sentenced male inmates serving a deuce less (two years less a day) that were deemed unmanageable in other jails.
In 1957-58, homosexual inmates, regardless of their offences, were shipped to Millbrook and housed with sexual deviants and predators. At this time, this segment of the inmate population was 'treated' with electro-convulsive therapy (electro-shock) and narcotics including sodium-pentothol (truth serum).
Three interesting events top the list in the modern history of this facility. The Millbrook Nine murder, the suspicious death of an immigrant, and the riot.
On March 16th, 2000, at 6:25pm, in the day room of Range Area 6, where inmates gather, inmate Scott Dufty was severely beaten. He died in a Toronto hospital eight days later. The convicts charged in the jailhouse homicide came to be known as The Millbrook Nine. Eight of those inmates were eventually convicted of manslaughter. The primary aggressor that reportedly landed the death blows by stomping on the head of Mr. Dufty, was Emmanuel Bedard. Manny, as I knew him in the mid 1990s, was declared a dangerous offender in 2005, meaning he will most likely never be released back into society.
During my teenage years I was no stranger to the world behind bars, albeit in young offender facilities. While serving time in Brookside Youth Centre in Cobourg in the mid-nineties, Emmanuel 'Manny' Bedard was my next door neighbour, one cell over to the left. He was rarely allowed out of his cell, under lock and key for bad behaviour. He was prone to self harm and attacking hacks (guards). Stories flurried about the jail regarding his past in orphanages and wearing helmets in white-padded rooms.
I have since researched his past, which is beyond sad. I don't even want to get into it. But it is arguable that he may never have even had a chance in this world.
There were two interactions between Manny and I that I have never forgotten. One was something he said. The other was something he did. I'm not going to tell you what he said. But what he did, well that may have saved my life. I was a little guy, but I never backed down, always stood my ground. I may have been biting off more than I could chew standing my ground against a certain individual on this day, and a physical altercation was inevitable and approaching the immediate. It was just before this fight was about to pop off when Manny did what he did. As this hostile inmate leaned in to drink from a water fountain, Manny stepped up behind him, and kicked his face into the fountain, knocking out his teeth. The inmate was brought to hospital and then transferred to another facility. Manny was put back on lock down.
With the same feet he used to murder a man in Millbrook four years later, he stood up for the little guy on that day.
As the story goes regarding the Millbrook Nine murder, Mr. Dufty was released from the hole (administrative segregation) just hours before the murder and placed in Range Area 6, a special needs unit. He was warned by guards not to return to this unit, but he ignored those warnings. He had reportedly been doing taxes for other inmates and skimming off the top, as well as muscling other inmates. Seeking revenge, those inmates concocted a murder plot while Dufty was in the hole, utilizing Manny and his fragile psyche and psychopathic nature. They told Manny that Dufty had been calling his sister and threatening to rape her, which of course was untrue. Dufty spent less than a half hour on the range before Manny draped a pillow case over his head and began to strangle him with it. Inmates then attacked him with a melamine mug stuffed with wet tissue and and pillow cases packed with detergent. At this time, with the victim down and vulnerable, the other inmates got their kicks in. As the other inmates stepped away from the altercation, Manny continued to stomp repeatedly on the head of the unconscious man.
It was rumoured that Manny saw this murder as his ticket to the Kingston Penitentiary, where he hoped to be transferred.
Every once in a while, I think about Manny, and I feel grateful for the things I have and the loving family that I took for granted as a teenager.
The second most noteworthy event in the recent history of this facility was the suspicious death of a fifty year old Vietnamese immigration prisoner named Nguyen Cao Son. On April 18, 2001, Son died in custody under suspicious circumstances, after reportedly being beaten by guards.
And thirdly, the riot. In the last days of March 2002, during an OPSEU strike, thirty-nine inmates took control of an entire unit, including the control room. They smashed windows, destroyed property and unsuccessfully attempted to access the yard.
As part of the Ontario government's Infrastructure Renewal Program, Millbrook was closed in 2003 and the inmate population was transferred to the new super jail in Lindsay, known as the Central East Correctional Centre, or CECC. Several other provincial jails were also closed as part of this program, including the Rideau Correctional & Treatment Centre.
The old prison on the hill sat vacant for years before being accessed and documented by countless urban explorers and vandalized by local youth until 2009, at which time it was resealed. Welded so tight, and with so many layers, that it seemed impossible that I would ever get to see it for myself.
Every couple of weeks though, we would return for a nice Sunday morning walk around the prison. We wanted it so bad. We checked everything, but nothing ever changed, it was all welded shut. The irony was never lost on us here either, continually returning to this old prison; just dying to get inside of the prison that so many inmates have just wanted to get out of over the years.
Just as we had done at the Insane Asylum, we continued to return every few weeks, hoping for a better result, expecting more of the same, and getting it.
In early 2011, a gentleman that accessed the prison with his proficient mountain climbing skills shared images that told a tale of Police Emergency Response Training with military grade equipment and explosives within the prison walls, which only excited me more.
We continued to circle like vultures. But still, nothing ever changed.
And then it happened. In September 2011, a newspaper article caught my eye on my iphone, as I lay in a hospital bed dealing with an ear infection from a mould allergy brought on by exploring hazardous buildings. The article spoke of a man and woman from Whitby in their late thirties arrested by Police ERT and K9 Units breaking in to the old prison. I sat up so quickly that I got dizzy from the morphine.
As soon as I was released from hospital I poured a splash of ear drops into my ear, threw back a couple of prescribed oxy pills, and in the company of a good friend, finally explored the long awaited Millbrook Correctional Centre.
And then only two days later, when we returned, it was sealed again.
The N & S blocks of the segregation unit bring back memories of feeling the utter loneliness of isolation. I shutter when reminiscing on my brief stints in the hole.
The black mould growing and residing on the walls of these cells is as dangerous to ones health as the inmates that once called them home.
The segregation yard. This was the whole world as far as Seg inmates would see it.
A cell becomes a home quite quickly when you spend most of your day, every day, within it's walls.
The ranges go on and on, repeating themselves. The varying levels of decay and damage often the only differentiating features.
A prison chapel is often much more than a house of God. It is usually the prison marketplace. It is where inmates from different units intermingle for church services, AA meetings and movie nights, and move contraband between units.
This range had it's own double doored segregation cells at its rear.
The inmates received medical and dental care here.
Under the ever watchful eyes of guards, inmates at the facility worked on-site.
They cooked and cleaned in the cafeteria.
They sewed prison uniforms in a large tailor shop.
They laundered prison clothing and bedding in industrial washers and dryers.
And they produced license plates for the province of Ontario's Ministry of Transportation with this license plate stamping machine.
These demo copies of silent beta videos from the 1980s depict inmates at work on this process.
They spent most of their time either working or behind bars.
For recreation, they exercised on the yard, walking, working out, or playing basketball, baseball or hockey.
The guards were everywhere, including up in the towers. This is a view that the inmates never got.
And then the inmates were eventually released. Set free into society, much like we felt as we exited.
We will continue to walk the perimeter, hoping for another opportunity to get back inside.
January 27 & February 2, 2013
The Southeast Guard Tower
We continue to enjoy perimeter walks and hope for new opportunities. This is not an echo.
Rumour has it that the end is near and a demolition notice is not far off, after environmental assessments are made public in the near future. That rumour swirls around but is not substantial in any way.
And now your sentence is served. You are free to go.
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