Monday, April 16, 2012

From the Top Shelf - Go Boy

Roger Caron, Canada's most notorious bank robber, died last week. He is most famous for the books he wrote about his experiences in Canadian prisons. After his release he had a successful career as a speaker until poor health forced him to give it up. He again turned to crime, was caught shoplifting and returned to prison.

Here is an excerpt from his first book, Go Boy (a prison code phrase that means someone is attempting an escape) in which he recounts the physical punishment he received for an accumulation of demerits for bad conduct.

It was shortly after one o'clock in the afternoon by the time the elevator descended into the catacombs with me still in handcuffs and a dozen witnesses escorting me to the Limbo Room, just like I was going to the electric chair. It was cold and damp as our solemn procession moved slowly along down that long stretch of spooky nothingness. I was shivering visibly because I was cold and scared, and only seventeen years old. I had heard so many gruesome stories about the paddle, how it castrated one guy and how it crippled another. In my heart was also the fear of displaying fear.

By the time we came to a halt before a metal door my teeth were rattling and my knees were weak but I was determined to be brave. A long key was inserted, followed by an audible click; next, two locking bars were withdrawn, sounding shockingly loud in the deathly silence. Finally the imposing door squeaked open and I was shoved into the centre of a large whitewashed room that had a naked light bulb dangling from the ceiling on a cord. A sudden breeze swayed the light causing our shadows to dance eerily about the room as ripples of terror ran up and down my spine. Anchored to the far wall I saw a mass of metal tubing contoured to embrace a human form and, affixed to it, shackles and restraining straps. Hanging from pegs on the left wall were three leather straps with wooden handles, so thick and coarse as to barely sag. Each one was perforated with hundreds of tiny holes designed to trap and rip the flesh from the buttocks.

The cuffs were removed and the gravelly voice of Marble Mouth ordered me to 'Step right into it, boy.'

Shivering, I did as I was told.

'Now drop your pants ... all the way down!'

My shirt was pulled over my head and so was a black hood. My ankles were firmly shackled as were my knees. A wide metal band encircled my waist and was locked into place to protect my kidneys. My arms were pulled straight out ahead of me and cuffed. Naked from head to foot -- securely anchored in an upright position -- I was totally at their mercy.

Everything was in readiness. The doctor stood on my right monitoring my pulse throughout the ordeal. A guard stood on my left gripping the wooden handle of the strap waiting for the signal to begin. I was cold and terrified and shivering and trying to brace myself for the blow.

The eerie ritual began when the dozen witnesses ominously scraped the soles of their shoes on the floor in unison, deliberately done to confuse my sense of direction.

'ONE!' I clenched my teeth and my body went rigid as the strap sliced through the air, 'CRACK!' Like a pistol shot, it made solid contact with my buttocks, my head snapped backwards, while violently driving my shackled body forward. White searing pain exploded throughout my being and blood gushed from my lips as I struggled to stifle a scream. It was brutal and it was horrible. My whole body vibrated like a band of tempered steel and my mind filled with nightmares as I awaited the next blow.

'Two!' swish, crack! 'Three!' swish, crack! 'Four!' swish, crack! 'Five!' swish-crack!

Over and over again I heard the scraping of the shoes, the sharp command, the long seconds, the strap cutting through the air, the explosion and then the crazy-out-of-this-world pain that struck terror into my very soul. Finally it was all over. Ten strokes of the paddle and I didn't scream or beg as so many did. That was very, very important to me.

Read the account of his second strapping, as well as the recollections of other recipients, here.

From Hermione's Heart


Anonymous said...


Scary story. Corporal punishment was also used in the US penal system.

Thank you for sharing.



Aimless Rambling said...

I didn't read because I am sure it is filled with terrible abuse. That kind of treatment to any living things makes me physically ill.

ronnie said...

I'm so glad CP was abolished. Out of interest, does he put a date to this punishment he received Hermione?


Hermione said...

Joey - Very scary. Our system was modelled on the British system,and was much more formal than the American method.

Sunnygirl - I'm sorry it upset you. Yes, it was a brutal method of correction.

Ronnie - This particular incident happened in 1955.


Dragon's Rose said...

I have wondered how effective CP would be against petty crimes. Shop lifting, underage drinking and other crimes. Would it keep our jails from being so over crowded.

What made me ask the question was the caning of a teenage US boy years ago.

Anonymous said...

scary... not for today's society in canada or the Us, and most parts of the world

kiwigirliegirl said...

that was pretty awful - how the systems have changed, thankfully

WS said...

This is the antithesis of discipline - just brutalises all involved and creates a more violent society, bleugh.

Hermione said...

Dragon's Rose - there have been numerous fiction stories written on that very topic. Somehow if it's fiction, it doesn't seem so bad.

Red = Very. How times have changed.

Kiwi - Yes, it ended in 1968 here.

WS - It didn't seem to be much of a deterrent to the author.


Dragon's Rose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dragon's Rose said...

It would be nice to think the story was fiction but it wasn't. Michael Fay was 18. Out of respect for our president, he received only 4 strokes instead of the 6 he was originally sentenced to receive.

Hermione said...

DR - Yes, I do recall reading about that in the papers. I hope he learned his lesson.