Prisons in Canada


212 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-919619-12-1






Reviewed by P.J. Kemp

P.J. Kemp was a journalist living in Brigham, Quebec.


“Why imprison people at all?,” Raymond Boyer and Claude Larivière ask in the Preface. “Why follow a path that is so negative, so purely repressive, when it is possible to offer positive compensation instead?” Luc Gosselin outlines just how negative and repressive the prison system is. He discusses the snowstorm of reports and studies that have been generated over the years regarding prison problems and reforms that have been mostly whitewash; the effects of incarceration on prisoners; the drug and mind-altering psychiatric experimentation practiced on them; and a brief history of prisons not only in Canada but in the rest of the world.

The crux of Gosselin’s argument is that imprisonment of criminals is political repression, since most of those who end up inside prisons tend to be poor, ill-educated, of minority race, anti-establishment, or all four — people most likely to upset the power games of the “bourgeoisie” if left free to stir up insurrection. To abolish prisons, Gosselin argues, the State must also be overthrown, since the State prospers on the blood of the poor and powerless.

That the State is self-perpetuating no matter what sort of people rise to power seems to escape Gosselin. Since the State is an abstraction and therefore impervious to overthrow, another solution to prison brutality and inhuman treatment must be sought for, which Gosselin fails to do since he’s wrapped up in political rhetoric, blaming the “bourgeoisie” as if that were a mythological beast rather than individual humans. Gosselin does recognize that publicizing the reality of prison life and educating the average citizen as to penitentiary brutality is one tool that could help implement change. That’s what he tries to do with Prisons in Canada; but at $10/paperback and $20/hardcover, one wonders just who’s going to shell out for it.


Gosselin, Luc, “Prisons in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,