What’s a zip gun? You’ll get a detailed explanation if you go to work in Canada’s penitentiary system where a working zip gun – a homemade handgun – is a dreaded weapon behind bars. Small, lethal, easily concealed and assembled from common materials, a zip gun transforms any convict into a killer capable of murdering a prison worker, a fellow inmate or leading a riot, hostage taking or escape attempt. For these reasons, Corrections Canada offers new recruits a detailed explanation how zip guns can be manufactured and assembled by prisoners (after the jump, see the zip gun assembly photo montage that appears in a CSC training manual) and what the disassembled components look like.
Through my late teens and early 20s – in late 70s and 80s – heavy-duty plastic milk crates had one notable use, as containers/carriers for long-play, 33 rpm records. Albums fit perfectly into the rugged, square containers that were designed to transport jugs and plastic bags of milk and other products from dairies to retailers and restaurants. It turns out the crates have an entirely unexpected use inside a federal penitentiary, as the raw material for fabrication of a sturdy and lethal prison shank. I dug out of my personal archive a photo I snapped of one of these marvels of convict engineering (inset, in full after jump), after seeing a recent decision of a Federal Court judge who tossed out the internal prison conviction of an Ontario inmate after a five-inch long Fibreglas knife was found inside the convict’s cell.
Say “prison weapon,” and most people think of handcrafted knives – known in convict parlance as ‘shanks’ and ‘shivs.’ They’re the most plentiful illegal weapons found inside jails and prisons because they are easily crafted and concealed. Often, they are crude – sharpened butter knives or spoons that have been flattened and honed to a point, for instance. But some convicts combine equal portions ingenuity, resourcefulness and desperation to produce truly remarkable prison weaponry. Frighteningly deadly and destructive arms turn up every so often and fortunately, most such weapons are ferreted out by prison staff before they’re put to use. Such was the case in 1972 at medium-security Collins Bay Institution in Kingston, Ontario, where staff discovered that a convict or convicts had crafted a deadly, working shotgun (pic after the jump) using common bits of hardware.
Muscling in prisons and jails is pernicious, prevalent, and for square johns – folks who live law-abiding, straight lives – a confusing concept. Muscling is akin, in many ways, to bullying, except that in prison, it is a means to secure drugs, weapons, sex, information or just about anything that one convict, or a group of convicts, wants. It’s rare to see a muscling incident examined publicly, with names attached. The heavies – gang bosses, drug lords and psychos who are most active behind bars as musclers – don’t want their corrupt schemes exposed because that threatens to disrupt supply chains. Muscling is the spigot through which contraband flows into prisons. A recent decision of the Federal Court offers rare, detailed insight into a fairly common muscling scam in which the family member of a prisoner is under pressure to smuggle goods into a penitentiary.
Corrections Canada will ask police to investigate whether a hate crime was committed when a federal inmate appeared online in a video (see it after jump) making a racial slur while taunting other prisoners who assaulted him. Joshua Erdodi, an inmate at Joyceville Institution in Kingston, Ontario, was nearly beaten to death in a riot at the medium-security prison on April 24. He was stabbed in the head and neck and he was beaten with weight-lifting equipment by a group of black inmates.
A correctional officer at a medium-security prison in Ontario suffered a suspected concussion and bruises after he was ambushed by a prisoner today in a violent attack on a cellblock. Corrections Canada isn’t providing much detail about the incident, perhaps in a bid to downplay the seriousness of the assault, but Cancrime learned that an inmate attacked the Collins Bay Institution officer from behind with a blunt weapon, smashing him first on the head and neck. As the officer tumbled to floor and desperately reached for his pepper spray, the inmate continued the attack, sources told me.
(UPDATED JULY 14) It’s not surprising that convicts at Joyceville Institution, a decaying medium-security federal prison in Ontario that is racked by gang violence and tension, want to get away from the place. It is a brutal, crowded and decrepit facility built on a ridge overlooking the scenic Rideau Canal waterway on the northeastern outskirts of Kingston. Staff there recently discovered an escape plot, sources tell me, just the latest in a series of problems at the 52-year-old penitentiary.
The prison riot squad was called in to maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary tonight after an incident Corrections Canada calls a “minor disturbance.” Two inmates were attacked in the outside recreation yard by a small group of prisoners. They were treated for minor injuries at the prison’s healthcare centre, CSC says. The riot squad cleared the yard of prisoners. All convicts are now locked in their cells and the prison is under lockdown.
Police laid charges against six inmates at maximum-security Millhaven Institution related to an incident March 20 in which prison guards shot two convicts, killing one of them, Jordan Trudeau, 29 (inset). The latest dirty half dozen swept up in the investigation is a motley crew of gangsters and killers, including Demar Duntin, 25, who shot a 23-year-old man in the head in 2007 in Mississauga, Ontario, because he thought he was a rat who planned to give evidence to prosecutors. In Millhaven, Duntin would be a “standup guy” because he demonstrated his commitment to the supposed gangster code of never turning on your bros.
Penitentiary inmates, particularly those serving lengthy sentences, often find inventive inspiration in those passing hours and days. One convict at medium-security Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba, near Winnipeg, turned his time and creativity to the fabrication of a remarkable weapon. It might rank among the most ingenious ever found inside a Canadian prison, not solely for its remarkable design, but also because of its lethal potential.