Cool Heads at Kingston Pen
by Ron Haggart
"Riveting, insightful, and human."
— Howard Sapers, Correctional Investigator of Canada
In April 1971, journalist Ron Haggart helped resolve one of Canada’s most serious prison riots. When maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary fell under the control of 500 rioting prisoners, the inmates summoned his help. As a crusading newspaper columnist and police watchdog with a reputation for fairness, he had won their trust.
Haggart and four lawyers went inside Kingston Pen and, along with one remarkable hero inmate, were instrumental in mediating an end to the crisis. His gripping account of the four-day drama, now available digitally for the first time, earned him a National Newspaper Award.
In September 1971, a prison rebellion in Attica, NY, ended far more tragically. "Five months later, when 39 guards and inmates were killed by police fire at a prison in upstate New York, those who had been at Kingston realized that cool heads on both sides had saved Kingston from the bloodshed of Attica," Haggart writes in an anniversary piece included in this ebook.
"The Kingston Pen uprising serves as a reminder that you cannot remove hope, dignity, and compassion from the system and expect good results," prisons ombudsman Howard Sapers writes in his Foreword. "As you read Ron’s thoughtful account of the riot, I urge you to reflect on the violence, the causes, and the resolution of that pivotal moment in Canadian prison history. And recognize that one man can (and did) make a difference."
After Haggart's death in 2011, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression cited his role at Kingston Pen, and lifelong focus on "civil liberties, labour, government, and the complexity of human beings," in giving him its prestigious Vox Libera Award.
- House of Haggart, November 2012
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