August 19, 2022
Canadian prisons are dangerously overcrowded and incarceration rates in Canada remain among the highest among Western industrialized countries (Correctional Service Canada 2015a; Latimer 2015; Marron 1996). Concomitant with this problematic carceral congestion has been the disproportionate admission of black, Indigenous, and other racialized Canadians (Mosher 1998, Roberts & Doob 1997). The Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Justice System (Ontario 1995) has touted this as a “relatively recent phenomenon” (104). However, the overrepresentation of racialized populations in the Canadian Justice system is far from a new phenomenon. The present work reveals that during the beginning decades of the 20th century Canada exercised race- and class-based disciplinary carceral power upon an underclass of structurally disadvantaged racialized and immigrant laborers (Foucault 1977; Wilson 1991). As this article clearly conveys, since its inception the Canadian carceral system has served as a social-sorting apparatus that regulates racialized bodies through increasingly sophisticated classification processes (Foucault 1977; Macgregor 2015; Mosher 1998; Wacquant 2002, 2005). I collected one-thousand Kingston penitentiary prisoner profiles recorded between 1900-1920 from the Kingston Penitentiary inmate history ledger at Library and Archives Canada1. Compared against 1901, 1911, and 1921 Canadian censes, it is evident that racialized persons were incarcerated at rates between three and fifteen times that of their White counterparts. Through quantitative analyses of these data, this article illustrates how racialized immigrant underclasses were disproportionately convicted of more serious crimes and received longer sentences; and, consequently, how the Canadian carceral system produces structural disadvantage to regulate minority groups.
First, I briefly examine the current crisis of overrepresentation of racial minorities in Canadian prisons. Arguing that this is not a new phenomenon, the second section turns to the problematic history of the first Canadian prison, Kingston penitentiary. Dovetailing this is a review of literatures on racialized prison practices, disciplinary power, and governmentality, which facilitates interrogations of the state regulation of a racialized underclass (Foucault 1977, 1980, 1991a; Garland 2001a; Gordon 1991). The third section discusses data collection and methods, followed by a presentation of the results of my analyses. These results are discussed critically in the fifth section of this article, which transitions to suggestions for directions for future research. I conclude with remarks on the implications for these data as an illustration of the seed-bed for the over-representation of racialized populations in the Canadian carceral system and the consequent production of structural disadvantage as a mechanism to regulate difference.
THE OVERREPRESENTATION OF RACIAL MINORITIES IN CANADIAN PRISONS
The term overrepresentation is used here to indicate that the percentage of a certain minority group being housed in correctional institutions disproportionately outweighs that group’s percentage in the general population. For example, in 1990, indigenous people comprised roughly 8-10% of the population of the Canadian correctional system, yet only 1.5-2% of the general Canadian population (LaPrarie 1990). As of 1996, these numbers jumped to 14% and 4%, respectively, while blacks constituted 6% of the population of Canadian correctional institutions and only 2% of the general population (Wortley 1999). These statistics seem valuable insofar as they trace the surface of some underlying factor. Among some of the major problems confounding their validity are the potential for over-surveillance by police and under-reporting by victims (MacDonald 2002).
Official crime statistics are routinely critiqued as problematic (Biderman & Reiss 1967; Hacking 1991; Hall, Critcher, Jefferson, Clarke, & Roberts 2013; Mosher 1998; Wortley 1999). Many scholars suggest that crime statistics cannot capture the dynamic interplay between the socioeconomic status and racial compositions of neighborhoods and how these characteristics interface with community surveillance or policing models (Sampson, Morenoff, & Gannon-Rowley 2002; Mosher 1998; Wortley 2003). Consequently, policy-makers and agents of social control cannot adequately determine whether certain populations are more likely to commit crimes because of structural factors (Wortley 1999), if the police and criminal justice system suffer from selection bias (Tonry 1997), or if fluctuations in rates of crime and imprisonment are affected by something else altogether (Tonry & Petersilia 1999). Whereas there is a substantial amount of research on the intersection of race and criminal activity in the US (Wortley 1999), in the Canadian context the primary obstacle is that there is limited research on how criminal justice outcomes are impacted upon by intersecting elements of race, socioeconomic status, and gender (Wortley 2003). The information that is available indicates quite clearly that certain racial minorities are heavily overrepresented in the Canadian correctional system (Tonry 1997; Wortley 1999).
The question then remains as to whether this overrepresentation of racial minorities in Canadian prisons is due to racial differences in offending or to broader dynamic social structures. Some compelling and valid explanations have been presented, such as: the concentrated disadvantage so often found affecting racialized neighborhoods (Sampson, Morenoff, & Gannon-Rowley 2002; Tonry 1997; Wilson 1991); the increased fetishization of security, capital, and public safety within the political economy of the prison industrial complex (Neocleous 2007); or the systemic discrimination that operates within the Canadian justice apparatus and its policing appendages (Roberts & Doob 1997; Wortley 2003, 1999). As Mosher (1998) powerfully illustrates, these broader structures are mutually constitutive and their interwoven processes are challenging to extricate from one another. However, the results of the present work present a compelling argument which locates the overrepresentation of racial minorities as rooted in the systemic racial and class-based discrimination which characterized the Canadian correctional apparatus as a system for regulating racialized bodies and a socioeconomic underclass (Foucault 1980, 1977; Macgregor 2015; Mosher 1998; Wacquant 2002, 2005; Wilson 1991). Following sections of this article expand upon this argument. However, it seems most responsible to first examine the inception and formative years of the Canadian carceral system. This began with Kingston penitentiary.
THE BIRTH AND ADOLESENCE OF KINGSTON PENITENTIARY
In the early 19th century, the citizens of Upper Canada did not see crime as a serious problem, yet legislators and journalists of the time were making appeals to public safety; the population was divided (Hennessey 1998; Smadych 1991). Press and politicians in the United States had been popularizing the Auburn prison model as an advanced method of social control. This model operated as a workfare system based on the penitentiary design of the Quakers of Philadelphia who contested the harsh punishments of their time and instead insisted that offenders could be made penitent through segregation and opportunities for honest labor (Correctional Service Canada 2014). These institutions eventually came to offer the trades-labor of inmates and its products for sale on the market. Some Canadian advocates for the reformation of penal practice believed that these workfare systems would “[bring] ‘the labor of rogues’ [into] competition with that of ‘honest men’” (Smandych 1991:141) and that social and economic resources could be put to better use towards the construction of less-coercive agencies outside of the state, such as churches and schools, which would work to prevent crime by bringing about an advance in moral intelligence through education and religious instruction. The Tory institutionalist opposition to these reformists insisted that proper institutions were the proper sites of social control. Tories diffused the arguments over the Auburn workfare system by declaring that “convict labor shall never be instituted so as to cause injury to honest mechanics…[and] in no case…should (the) products of prison labor be sold below current prices, and each section of the province should receive its appropriate share of the goods” (ibid.:144). The debate was mostly settled and the first Canadian penitentiary was constructed on the west side of Kingston, Upper Canada. Built primarily from limestone to resemble the Auburn prisons of the 1830s, the edifice was based on plans drawn by master builder John Mills (Hennessy 1998).
Kingston was heralded as modern moral architecture, “a model society, a laboratory of controlled behavior, a visible panacea for many of Upper Canada’s real or imagined ills” (Taylor 1967:408). A rush of prison construction spread across the country (Neufield 1998). It was believed that the physical structure of Kingston itself embodied the principled objectives of the Quakers, which were also the social and political justification behind the construction of the Auburn model prison. These justifications however contrasted the harsh realities observed by the penitentiary inspector for 1889, who reported, “it is to be regretted that, the degree of reformation accomplished in any one or all of the penitentiaries is not commensurate with the exact observance of rule and discipline which is sought to be enforced and which, for the most part, is promptly rendered” (Canada Sessional Papers 1890:xii). As Neufield (1998) observes, the first prison in Canada came to embody a disjuncture between expectations of disciplinary practice and its daily realities. Although there is much research available on Kingston during the 19th century, there is a paucity of research on the institution between 1900-1920, the period studied by the current article. As my results will show, Kingston penitentiary during this period exemplifies a critical era of nation-building for Canada whereby the Canadian carceral apparatus operated through race- and class- based discriminatory practices to regulate, exploit, and produce a disadvantaged racialized underclass.
RACIALIZATION, DISCIPLINE, AND GOVERNMENTALITY CONVERGE
Although Roberts (1994) and others claim that “Canadians do not have a history of classifying people in terms of skin color” (1), the data in this study and numerous others would contest that claim. To resolve this problem, numerous scholars would suggest that to understand developments in Canadian prison law and carceral systems one must first begin by examining American models which have heavily influenced the direction of Canadian carceral systems from their inception (Mandel 1986; Mosher 1998; Roberts 1994; Smandych 1991). It has been argued that these relationships are “products of conflicts of power, as coextensive with other political issues, especially the issues of racism” (Mandel 1986:81). That correctional institutions demonstrably function as race- and class-based sorting systems did not suddenly arise from the ether. These arrangements emerged from the fusion of security and economy (Kaplan 1978; Mandel 1986; Neocleous 2007).
Mosher (1998) provides a detailed analysis of how the reproduction of the highly racialized American penal system in the Canadian context interacts with immigration, access to social services, and spatial and temporal divisions to create a hierarchy of blame and exclusion. Through systems of risk selection based largely on their values and internal logic, institutions shape the carceral system by defining who or what societies are allowed to blame for risks and violations and vice versa (Simon 2001). The consequences of this are that “penal exclusion has been layered on top of economic and racial exclusion, ensuring that social divisions are deepened and that a criminalized underclass is brought into existence and systematically perpetuated” (Garland 2001). Here, Garland (ibid.) does more than an adequate job of illustrating how Foucault’s (1977, 1980) concept of disciplinary power acts upon bodies within correctional milieux to produce and reproduce various kinds of profitable and enduring subjectivities. Although a contentious concept, many scholars argue that social control cannot be understood solely in terms of the political economy of the state, but must rather be seen as a semi-autonomous ‘disciplinary power’ that is an end-in-itself (Lowman 1986) which constitutes and regulates bodies for profit through diagnostic processes that determine the right to life (Burrell 1988; Legg 2005; MacGregor 2015; Neocleous 2011, 2007).
This conjecture aligns with the words of Wacquant (2005), who remarked that the carceral model “has been elevated to the rank of main machine for ‘race making’. Its material stranglehold and classificatory activity have assumed a salience and reach that are wholly unprecedented in American history as well as unparalleled in any other society” (128). It is not by chance that certain racialized minorities are overrepresented in Canadian prisons because, as the present study shows, the classification and regulation of racialized and disadvantaged people was a characteristic of this system from its beginning. Although Foucault’s (1977) data was restricted to the French context, some of his insights gain utility in this study of the birth of the prison in Canada (Neufield 1998) in Kingston in the early 19th century. In Foucault’s (1977) analysis, early human penal practice was characterized by punishment inflicted upon the body and transitioned to the current era where prisons enact disciplinary power upon the soul. This marked the emergence of a political power with such powerful observational knowledge over individuals that its institutions could inscribe their power upon them and thus remake individuals as subjects (MacGregor 2015; Mandel 1986; Neocleous 2011; Neufield 1998). As the results of the present study show, this was not the emergence of a system for moral reformation, but of a racist and classist governmentality of social control centered on nation-building. Combining the terms government and rationality, Foucault (1991b) argued that political and disciplinary power had adapted to shape the conduct and character of individuals to create proper citizens. Foretold by Foucault, this power has resulted in the overrepresentation, nay, production of minority groups within the criminal justice system. The present analyses show how Kingston exemplifies the beginning of this process. Further discussion of this argument first requires an examination of the methods and results of this work.
The data for this work were collected through the Library and Archives of Canada (LAoC). In this archive exists profiles for hundreds of prisoners incarcerated between 1890-1930, each of which provide a large number of personal characteristics including a photograph of the prisoner, prisoner number, name, age, place of birth, height, weight, complexion, hair, eyes, occupation, sentence, date of sentence, place of sentence, crime, and distinguishing features. Each page of the profile ledgers contains 5 profiles and there are dozens of MIKAN numbers to classify each page. Consequently, this article does not reference individual pages. The current aggregated data set for this study consists of 433 observations between 1900-1909 and 611 observations between 1910-1919 for a total of 1,044 prisoner profiles. According to Babcock (1986), Baehre (1977), and Mosher (1998), until the 1930s the population of Kingston penitentiary rarely exceeded 600 prisoners in a given year. Considering that most prisoners were sentenced to multiple years over these time periods, a sample of 1,044 is more than adequate to reflect the general population.
These data were imported into Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) 9.4. Once imported, a number of different statistical techniques were performed on these data. First however, certain techniques require that the measurement of variables are changed because nominal variables that represent certain descriptive classes cannot factor into statistical equations. For example, the classification of ‘white’ for ethnicity or ‘farmer’ for occupation cannot be used in equations necessary for these analyses. In order to perform the appropriate analyses, certain nominal variables were recoded into dummy variables to allow for various tests. By recoding into dummy variables, these analyses can detect if there is a difference, on average, between, for example, the effects of being white (1), or not (0), on length of sentence (a continuous variable).
The recorded ethnicity of each offender was recoded into an ordinal variable with 7 categories using the classification ‘white’ as the reference group: 0 – White, 1 – Black, 2 – Hispanic, 3 – Italian, 4 – Indian, 5 – Irish, 6 – Eastern European, 7 – East Asian, and 8 – Middle Eastern. Irish was chosen as a significant ethnicity because of the historic mistreatment of Irish people. From this ordinal scale, dummy variables were generated representing each category. Furthermore, another dummy variable was generated, Person of Color (POC), which represented any offender profile for which ethnicity or complexion was recorded as ‘black’, ‘indian’, ‘chinaman’, ‘hispanic’, ‘middle eastern’, ‘colored’, or ‘negro’. Because of compelling results found with respect to the recorded ‘complexion’ of each offender (which will be discussed in further detail in following sections of this work), these were also recoded into dummy variables representing ‘Dark’, ‘Swarthy’, ‘Medium’, ‘Sandy’, ‘Fair’, ‘Light’, ‘Negro’, ‘Sallow’, ‘Colored’, and ‘Indian’.
The recorded occupation of each offender was recoded into an ordinal variable using 3 categories. These recoded variables are: 0 – Laborer/Farmer, 1 – Trades/Service, 2 – Professional, and 3 – No Occupation. The reference group of ‘labourers’ was used to refer to any profile with a recorded occupation that could be considered closely related to menial wage labor. The second category refers to any recorded occupation that would require some kind of advanced practical training in a trade or service industry, such as a tinsmith, moulder, mason, railroad engineer, minister, musician, horsetrainer, teamster, and so forth. The third category was used to refer to any recorded occupation that could be considered as requiring a high level of training and connections among a higher socioeconomic status class, such as a bank teller, office manager, physician, bookkeeper, and so forth. Dummy variables were generated from each of these categories: ‘Labour’, ‘Trades/Service’, and ‘Professional’.
The crime for which the offender was charged is recoded into 9 variables with no reference group. The reason for this is that the ‘crime’ variable is not used as an independent variable in any analytic technique. Instead, it was decided that these 9 codes would represent a crude crime severity index that could be used as a dependent variable. The severity of crime was decided upon with respect to the immediate threat the crime posed to the community. These 9 variables are coded as: 1 – Fraud/Misconduct, 2 – Property damage, 3 – Robbery/Theft, 4 – Rape/Lewd Behavior, 5 – Assault, 6 – Manslaughter, 7 – Attempted Murder, 8 – Murder, and 9 – Multiple Charges. ‘Multiple Charges’ was coded as 9 as a control because there were very few of these observations and, as such, they are considered missing variables for the purposes of analysis.
Country of origin was recoded into an ordinal variable with 9 categories: 0 – Canada/Ontario, 1 – French Canada, 2- America, 3 – England, 4 – Ireland/Scotland, 5 – Scandinavia, 7 – Russia, and 8 – Spain. From this, two other dummy variables were created representing ‘canadian’ and ‘immigrant’.
Length of sentence was translated in terms of the number of months sentenced; a continuous variable which can be used for all available kinds of statistical analyses.
Several interaction terms, or index dummy variables, were created from offender characteristics to test for the effects of multiple intersecting characteristics. For example, if an offender was a ‘labourer’, ‘not white’, and an ‘immigrant’, a dummy variable (lbnwhimm) was coded as 1 while those observations which did not accord with these characteristics was coded as 0. This was performed to capture the following intersections: labour x not white (lbnwh); labour x immigrant (lbimm); labour x not white x immigrant (lbnhimm); POC x labour (POClb); POC x immigrant (POCimm); and POC x labour x immigrant (POClbimm). Another 5-category ordinal-level measure was created to capture intersecting characteristics in order to perform an ANOVA. This was constructed with a reference group coded as 0 for those observations which do not fall into any of the following categories: POC (1); POC & labour (2); POC & immigrant (3); and POC, labour, & immigrant (4).
All of the above data collection and recoding was performed for the entire period between 1900-1919 as well as for each decade for a total of 3 full data sets and analyses. Surprisingly, there was only one missing case due to the destruction of that page in the ledger.
Before moving forward, it seems important to note a few possible limitations or targets for critique. All of these profile characteristics were recorded by a correctional officer at the time. Consequently, some of the characteristics did not follow a consistent system of categorization. That is to say that, for example, some offenders were charged with ‘carnal knowledge of a girl under 14 years old’ while others were charged with ‘knowing a girl carnally under 14 years old’. Another example is how one offender’s ethnicity was recorder as ‘full blooded indian’ while others were recorded as ‘indian’. The investigator was faced with taking it upon himself to translate these recorded characteristics into an appropriate category.
METHODS OF ANALYSES
Each of the methods to follow were performed for each of the three aforementioned time-periods, 1900-1909, 1910 – 1919, & 1900-1919. First, three analyses of variance (ANOVA) were performed on two dependent variables, sentencing and severity of charge. The first two tests used the categories of the recoded occupational codes and recoded categories of ethnicity as independent variables (IV). A third ANOVA was performed using as an IV the constructed variable POClbimmcat, which represents the categories of POC (1), POC & labor (2), POC & immigrant (3), POC & labour & immigrant (4), with a reference group (0) to represent those observations which do not fall into any of the other categories. These tests determine if the difference in the mean effects of each IV on the DV are due to chance or are indeed due to a significant difference between groups.
Following this, these data were subjected to a series of t-tests, or difference of means tests, to determine if, on average, there is a difference in the effects on a dependent variable of one group compared to another. These tests were performed on two dependent variables (DV): length of sentence in months (sentence) and severity of charge recorded (sevcode). The independent dichotomous variables chosen for individual t-tests were as follows: black, white, Indian, not white, labour, immigrant, POC, POC x labour, and POC x labour x immigrant, labour x not white, labour x immigrant, labour x not white x immigrant. Multiple other tests were performed using other dichotomous variables (i.e., trades/services occupation, Italian ethnicity, etcetera), but these are excluded from the results presented here because of their insignificance except for the difference between those observations of prisoners recorded as having a dark complexion. These surprising results are included here and discussed in further detail in following sections. In the next section I turn to the results of these analyses.
The following results are organized by time-period. The first is 1900-1909, the second is 1910-1919, and the third is the full period between 1900-1919.
The population for this time period contains 432 total observations.
The most important and relevant descriptive statistics for this with respect to the objectives of this study are presented in the same sequence as discussed in the previous data collection section above. Frequencies of various ethnicities are presented in fig 1. As the reader will notice, there are no prisoners of East Asian or Middle Eastern descent among this sample.
There is a total of 23 Persons of Color (POCs), which are included in this analysis in a following section. Furthermore, these frequencies give purchase on determining the overrepresentation of racialized minorities in Kingston Penitentiary during this period. The Fifth Census of Canada (Canada Census and Statistics Office 1912) provides populations by ethnicity for 1901 and 1911. As such, I have taken an average of these two numbers for each ethnicity to compare against the sample population from Kingston during this decade. Fig. 2 presents averages and their percentages of the number of each ethnicity in Canada compared to the average of the national population between these census years (5,371,315 + 7,206,643/2=6,288,979) according to the Fifth Census of Canada (ibid.). Unfortunately, this census did not account for a Spanish, latino, or Hispanic peoples. Furthermore, the difficulty in demarcating what counts as ‘White’ has been an enduring problem in the social sciences for some time. Thus, I chose those populations of English descent or ‘Western’ more generally. Consequently, the remaining ethnicities and nationalities listed in the census are not included in Fig. 2 or this study more generally.
As Fig. 2 shows, Blacks were overrepresented in our sample of Kingston penitentiary prisoners by over 17 times their relative percentage of the general population. Remarkably, those of Italian descent are overrepresented by almost 25 times their relative percentage of the general population. Surprisingly, Indigenous people are not overrepresented in our sample. Discussion of these findings and their implications are presented in following sections of this work.
Because my analysis finds surprising results with respect to prisoner ‘complexion’ as recorded in the prison ledger, Fig. 3 presents frequencies of these data. Analyses in following sections of this article illustrate how ‘complexion’ is heavily correlated with severity of charge and length of sentence; especially if complexion is ‘dark’ or ‘fair’. Discussion of this also follows.
Prisoner occupations are an important aspect of this work. Fig.4 presents prisoners’ recorded occupations divided into three categories. As the reader can see in fig. 4, the sample population follows a fairly equal distribution across occupations. I offer compelling conjectures about this in following sections.
Fig. 5 presents the frequencies of the severity of crime with which an offender was charged.
|Severity of Crime Charged||Frequency||Percent||Cumulative|
|Frequency Missing = 4|
As the reader can note, Kingston prisoners were predominately charged with robbery or theft.
Nationalism and thus prisoner country of origin are also important aspects of these analyses. All those observations which were recorded as Ontario or French Canada are included in ‘Canadian’ when accounting for prisoner immigrant status. A full list of ‘country of origin’ would consume too much space here. What is important for this study is prisoner immigrant status. Accordingly, this is presented in Fig. 6.
Fig. 6 indicates that the sample population contains a relatively equal number of Canadians and Immigrants.
Finally, Fig. 7 displays the distribution of prisoner sentences. The reader will note how this is a somewhat negatively skewed distribution with a mean of 62.5 months, or just over five years.
Analysis 1 – ANOVAs
First, I ran an ANOVA with occupational code as an IV and sentence as the DV. This was not found to be statistically significant. With respect to severity of charge, however, it was highly significant (p=0.0104) and could help explain over 2.5% (r=0.026160) of the variation between groups. Therefore, variations in sentences between occupational groups may be due to chance while variations in severity of charges are actually due to real differences between groups. ANOVAs of ethnicity code with respect to sentence and severity of charge were both significant at nearly the 99.9 percentile (p=0.0016). This would indicate that the difference in sentencing between different ethnicity groups is not due to chance. This held across all years under study. The constructed ordinal variable, POClbimmcat, which categorized combinations of ‘Person of Color’, ‘Immigrant’, and ‘Labourer, served as a third IV for an ANOVA of sentencing. This was not significant. Nor was an ANOVA of severity of charge.
Although on the surface, complexion would seem to the average person to be insignificant with respect to criminal justice practices. Surprisingly, an ANOVA of complexion with respect to severity of charge is highly significant (p=0.0155) whereas it was not significant with respect to sentencing. This would indicate that the difference in mean severity of charge between groups with different complexions is due to some real difference between groups and not due to chance.
Analysis 2 – Difference of Means Tests (t-tests)
Next, difference of means tests were performed with two DVs, sentence and severity of charge. The first dichotomous variable tested was ‘black’. With respect to severity of charge, this was almost significant at the 95th percentile (p=0.0653) with a difference of means of nearly an entire point. The effect on sentencing however was not significant. This would indicate that, on average, black prisoners were more likely to receive a moderately harsher charge but not a lengthier sentence.
On the other hand, the effect of being ‘white’ on severity of charge was highly significant (p<0.0001) with a difference in means of almost an entire point (0.8848). The effect on sentencing was also highly significant (p=0.0125) with a difference of 14 months. This would indicate that the impact of being white resulted in a less severe charge and over a year less in sentencing, while not being ‘white’ would result in the opposite.
The difference in means between being ‘Indian’ or not was not significant with respect to sentencing or severity of charge. The difference in means with respect to Labourers, however, was significant with respect to severity of charge (p=0.0031) with a difference of only half a point. With respect to sentencing, it was not significant. Contrastingly, immigrant status was found to be significant with respect to both sentencing (p<0.05) with a difference of over 8 months, but not with respect to severity of charge, which would indicate that immigrants would receive longer sentences independent from the severity of charges laid.
These results are quite telling and are expanded upon in the discussion section that follows. However, the true tale emerges from the interaction of characteristics. A t-test of being a person of color (POC, as conceptualized in previous sections) with respect to severity of charge was significant (p=0.0559) whereas it was not with respect to sentencing. I chose to investigate the intersection of status characteristics further. A t-test with an IV interaction term of being a POC and a laborer was not significant with respect to sentencing or severity of charge. A similar test was performed with an interaction term including immigrant status. This was also insignificant, perhaps due to the operationalization of these variables. However, the interaction of being ‘not white’ and a ‘labourer’ begins to reveal more of the story. In this case, the difference in means of severity of charge is significant beyond the 99th percentile (p<0.0001) with a difference of over 1.5 points and nearly equally as significant (p=0.0193) with respect to sentencing with a difference of over 16 months more for those who are ‘not white’ and labourers.
Further investigation reveals a deeper tale. Next, I used as an IV the interaction term of being ‘not white’, a ‘labourer’, and an ‘immigrant’. The difference in means with respect to severity of charge was highly significant (p<0.0001) with a difference of nearly two entire points more on the index. This interaction term was also highly significant (p=0.0139) with respect to the difference in means regarding sentencing with a sentence of nearly two entire years more for those who were ‘not white’ and ‘labourers’ and ‘immigrants’.
A t-test of ‘fair’ complexion with respect to severity of charge was also highly significant (p=0.0133) and indicates that those with a ‘fair’ complexion received a moderately less severe charge. Sentencing was insignificant here. On the other hand, a t-test of ‘dark’ complexion with respect to severity of charge was highly significant (p=0.0012) and shows that, on average, those with a ‘dark’ complexion would receive a moderately harsher charge. A similar test of sentencing was insignificant. A t-test of having a ‘dark’ complexion as well as being a labourer was also highly significant (p=0.0006) with respect to severity of charge where such prisoners would receive, on average, nearly an entire point harsher charge. Sentencing was also insignificant in this case. Even more revealing is that a t-test of the intersection of having a ‘dark’ complexion as well as being an immigrant was highly significant (p=0.0027) with respect to severity of charge. These individuals would receive, on average, nearly an entire point more with respect to the severity of charge. Further to this, sentencing was also highly significant (p=0.0072) and such individuals would receive, on average, a sentence of over an entire year more than their counterparts. Further still, a t-test of an intersection of all three characteristics (‘dark’, ‘labourer’, and ‘immigrant’) was highly significant for both severity of charge (p=0.0007) and sentencing (p=0.0221). These prisoners received, on average, a charge over an entire point more severe and a sentence 17 months longer. Stretching an intersectional approach further, a t-test of the previous three characteristics and being recorded as ‘not white’ was not significant with respect to severity of charge but was highly significant with respect to sentencing (p>0.0001). On average, such individuals would receive sentences almost 4 years longer than their counterparts. These findings are discussed in following sections.
These results for the period of 1900-1909 are only the beginning of the story of how Kingston penitentiary was a nationalist machine for regulating a racialized and disadvantaged underclass. I now move to descriptive statistics and analyses for 1910-1919.
|Frequency Missing = 1|
The MIKAN files at the Library and Archives of Canada (LAoC) for this period contained a significantly larger number of profiles. The final number of profiles aggregated for this period totals 611. Fig. 8 presents frequencies for various ethnicities of prisoners from the sample between 1910-1919.
There is a total of 24 Persons of Color (POCs) in this sample. With respect to determining the overrepresentation of racialized minorities in Kingston Penitentiary during this time, I replicated the same simple formulas used for the previous period. The average of the national population for this time period is 8,012,563 (7,236,643+8,788,483/2). Those of Spanish, latino, or Hispanic, or Middle Eastern heritage were not represented in this census. Fig. 9 presents the average frequencies of ethnicities and nationalities listed in the Sixth Canadian Census (Canada Census and Statistics Office 1921) relevant to this study.
Again, the reader will notice that Blacks are heavily overrepresented in this sample by nearly 12 times their relative percentage of the general population. Italians are overrepresented by over 50 times their percentage of the population. Again, there is no indication that Indigenous peoples were overrepresented at this time.
As following sections will highlight, the recorded complexion of prisoners is an important consideration. The analytic findings with respect to complexion are discussed in a following section. Fig. 10 presents prisoner complexion for 1910-1919.
Prisoners’ recorded occupations, divided into three categories, are presented in Fig. 11. Again, these data follow a fairly equal distribution across occupations, except that there is a larger percentage of those from trades/services occupations compared to the previous period.
Frequencies of the severity of crime with which an offender was charged are presented in Fig. 12.
|Frequency Missing = 2|
There was a significant number of prisoners charged with ‘desertion’ in this sample. Because this causes no immediate harm to members of the community, ‘desertion’ was categorized alongside ‘fraud/misconduct’, which explains why this category is substantially larger in this sample compared to the sample from the previous period. With this said, the reader will note that robbery/theft again constituted the majority of crime with which a prisoner was charged in this period. Since nationalism is an important consideration with respect to these analyses, immigrant status is presented in fig. 13.
These data indicate that there was a relatively equal number of Canadians and Immigrants and that these proportions remained almost the same compared to the previous period.
Fig. 14 presents the distribution of prisoner sentences for 1910-1919. Whereas the previous period was negatively skewed, the distribution for this period shows a positive skew with a mean of 46 months.
Analysis 1 – ANOVAs
As before, the first ANOVA used occupational code as an IV and sentence as a DV. Contrasting the previous period, this was highly significant (p=0.0093) which indicates that any difference in sentencing between groups is not due to chance but to a real difference between groups. Severity of charge was also significant (p=0.0724). The r-square values were low, but clearly the variations in sentence and severity of charge are due to actual differences between occupational groups during this period. Once again, ANOVAs of ethnicity code with respect to sentence and severity of charge were both significant at nearly 99.9 percentile (p=0.0285 & p<0.0001 respectively).
An ANOVA of POClbimmcat (categorized combination of ‘Person of Color’, ‘Immigrant’, and ‘Labourer) was insignificant with respect to severity of charge yet highly significant (0.0014) with respect to sentencing. Clearly the differences between these groups with respect to sentencing was not due to chance. Furthermore, my results show that those who were a POC and a labourer received significantly longer sentences.
Analysis 2 – Difference of Means Tests (t-tests)
With respect to severity of charge, being ‘black’ was insignificant. Yet, sentencing was (p=0.0115) and such individuals would receive a sentence that was more than two years longer. On the other hand, with respect to being ‘not white’ severity of charge was significant (p=0.0009) as was sentencing (p=0.0039) and such individuals would, on average, receive a moderately harsher charge and a sentence over ten months longer than their counterparts. Being ‘Indian’ was insignificant with respect to both DVs.
Being a ‘labourer’ was insignificant with respect to severity of charge, but significant (p=0.0016) with respect to sentencing with a difference of almost 10 months additional time. Congruent with the previous time period, immigrant status contrasted ‘labour’ status and was significant (p=0.0001) with respect to severity of charge but not sentencing. As before, these findings trace a faint outline of race- and class- based carceral practices, but the intersection of status characteristics tell more. Being a POC was not significant with respect to severity of charge yet was with respect to sentencing (p=0.0207) with such individuals, on average, receiving over 16 months more than their counterparts. The intersection of being a POC and a ‘labourer’ was insignificant with respect to severity of charge but highly significant (p<0.0001) with respect to sentence with such prisoners receiving a sentence three years longer than their counterparts.
Advancing this intersectional framework further, the interaction of being ‘not white’ and a ‘labourer’ was highly significant (0.0023) with nearly an additional point more in severity and also with respect to sentencing (p<0.0001) with nearly two additional years in sentencing. Including ‘immigrant’ status in the interaction term, the results are highly significant (p=0.0011) with nearly an additional point in severity and with respect to sentencing (p=0.0002) with nearly two additional years of sentencing.
A t-test of ‘fair’ complexion was moderately significant (p=0.0831) with respect to a small increase in severity of charge and with respect to sentencing (p=0.0064) with 8 additional months in sentencing. Observations with a ‘dark’ complexion were moderately significant (p=0.0505) with respect to severity of charge and such individuals received a mildly more severe charge. The difference in means with respect to sentencing for these individuals was highly significant (p=0.0092) and such individuals received over 8 months additional sentencing. An interaction term including ‘dark’ and ‘labourer’ was insignificant with respect to severity of charge but significant (p=0.0122) with respect to sentencing, which would indicate that, on average, ‘labourers’ who also had a ‘dark’ complexion also received sentences nearly 1 year longer. The interaction of ‘dark’ complexion and ‘immigrant’ status was also significant (p<0.0001) with respect to severity of charge with almost an additional point more in severity. This interaction was also highly significant (p=0.0012) with respect to sentencing and such individuals received sentences with over an entire additional year. A t-test of the intersection of all three characteristics was highly significant (p=0.0029) with respect to severity of charge with nearly an entire additional point in severity difference between means. This was also highly significant (p=0.0135) with respect to sentencing and such individuals would receive additional sentencing of over 15 months. Taking this further, including ‘not white’ in this interaction term showed highly significant results (0.0009) with respect to severity of charge and such individuals received, on average, a charge that was over an entire point more severe than their counterparts. With respect to sentencing, the IV interaction of all four characteristics was also highly significant (p=0.0002) and such individuals, on average, would receive a sentence almost two-and-a-half years longer than others.
The delineation between and compilation of data for both decades provides purchase on several different and important points for discussion, which are elaborated on in following sections. First however I turn to analyses of the entire period.
The total population of the sample for 1900-1919 is 1043 observations. Fig. 15 presents the frequencies for ethnicities in the sample for the entire period.
The average frequencies of ethnicities and nationalities in Canada that are relevant to these analyses are presented in fig. 16. I replicated the same simple formulas used for the previous period. The average of the national population for this time period is 7,538,731 (7,236,643+8,788,483/2). Again, these censes did not account for a Spanish, latino, or Hispanic peoples. The reader will note that blacks are overrepresented by almost 12 times their percentage of the general population. Shockingly, Italians are overrepresented by nearly 100 times. People of Irish descent are overrepresented by 7 times. Surprisingly, Indigenous peoples are not overrepresented. All of these findings will be discussed in following sections.
|Frequency Missing = 1|
Again, my analyses find interesting results with respect to the recorded ‘complexion’ of prisoners. Frequencies for the ‘complexion’ of prisoners as recorded in the profile ledger is presented in fig. 17. Analyses and implications of these data are discussed in a following section.
Prisoner occupations, divided into three categories, are presented in fig. 18.
|Frequency Missing = 1|
As the reader will notice, fig. 18 also shows a relatively equal distribution of prisoner occupations, except for a noticeable difference in prisoners from trades/services industries.
The severity of crime with which an offender was charged is presented in fig. 19.
|Frequency Missing = 2|
As with previous observations, the reader will notice the predominance of charges of robbery or theft.
Prisoner ‘immigrant’ status is presented in fig. 20. The reader will notice that the overall sample population is relatively equal with respect to ‘immigrant’ status.
Finally, fig. 21 presents the distribution of prisoner sentences for the complete period between 1900-1919. The reader will notice how it is somewhat positively skewed with a mean of 46 months, or just under 4 years.
Analysis 1 – ANOVAs
The ANOVA of occupational code against sentence was highly significant (p=0.0018), indicating that the difference in the interaction between occupational group and sentencing was not due to chance but to a real difference between groups. Not surprisingly, severity of charge was also significant (p=0.0487). Both r-squared values were low, but this only suggests that investigations must delve deeper into the details of the variations between groups. Once again, ANOVAs of ethnicity code with respect to sentence and severity of charge were both significant, but beyond the 99.9 percentile (p<0.0001).
The categorized variable, POClbimmcat, was significant with respect to sentence (p=0.0754) but not with respect to severity of charge. Both of these results and those from previous sections of this article indicate strongly that POCs, immigrants, and labourers were given longer sentences regardless of the severity of charge.
Analysis 2 – Difference of Means Tests (t-tests)
Not surprisingly, being ‘black’ was disadvantageous with respect to sentencing (p=0.0112) and such individuals would receive sentences over one-an-a-half years longer than non-black prisoners. This was insignificant with respect to the severity of the charge. Being ‘not white’ resulted in a higher severity of charge of more than half a point (p<0.0001) and an additional 10 months sentence (p=0.0009). Again, surprisingly, being ‘Indian’ was insignificant in both cases.
‘Labourers’, on average, did not receive more severe charges, but did receive an additional 8 months of sentencing (p<0.0001). ‘Immigrants’, on average, did receive mildly harsher charges (p=0.0007) and mildly longer sentences of around 5 extra months (p=0.0663). Persons of Color was nearly significant (p=0.1229) with respect to severity of charge yet POCs received over a year in additional sentencing (p=0.0214). Exploring intersections further, Persons of Color ‘labourers’, on average, did not receive a harsher charge but did receive nearly two additional years in sentencing (p=0.0048). Complementarily (or, perhaps, not), those prisoners who were ‘not white’ and labourers received a charge harsher by over an entire point (p<0.0001) and sentences over a year-and-a-half longer than their counterparts (p<0.0001). If such individuals were also immigrants, they would receive a charge harsher by nearly an additional one-and-a-half points (p<0.0001) and over 20 months in additional sentencing (p<0.0001).
With respect to complexion, those recorded as having a ‘fair’ complexion received a slightly less severe charge (p=0.0005) and almost 6 months shorter sentences (p=0.0257). Those recorded as having a ‘dark’ complexion received a slightly more severe charge (p=0.0003) and almost 8 months in additional sentencing (p=0.0031). Those with a ‘dark’ complexion who were also ‘labourers’ were equally disadvantaged (p=0.0086 & p=0.0085 respectively) yet those who were also ‘immigrants’ received a charge harsher by one point (p<0.0001) and over 17 months in additional sentencing (p=0.0004). If such individuals were also ‘not white’, then they would also receive a charge that was harsher by more than one-and-a-half-points (p<0.0001) and a sentence 33 months longer than their counterparts (p<0.0001).
These results show the beginnings of the race-making machine (Wacquant 2005) at work. Segregating those with a darker complexion, those of a lower socioeconomic status, and those of a different nationality operated to construct difference based on skin-tone and the (in)capacity to generate capital for the purpose of nation-building. The turn of 20th century in Canada was an epoch of massive immigration from central and northern European countries and abroad. The majority of these immigrants were of peasant background and ethnic ghettoes quickly sprouted in major Canadian cities from coast to coast (Avery 1995). This time was also marked by the aftermath of the Canada First Movement which strove to define a national identity based on similar racial characteristics and shared traditions. This prominent nationalist and racist discourse sought to differentiate Canada from European nations and, particularly, the ‘Negro problem’ which plagued the southern United States (Mackey 1999). Labour leaders of the time protested that increasing immigration was swelling the ranks of the Canadian labour market and exacerbating unemployment. Yet, although this population was primarily white, they were also mostly of immigrant backgrounds as well and, as such, would construct an ambiguous and often contradictory representation of immigrant workers (Goutor 2007). Inevitably, these social and economic conditions produced increasing structural disadvantages for racialized and immigrant workers (Avery 1995; Wortley 1999) which could not help but invoke prejudices and discriminatory practices aimed towards these groups (Mackey 1999; Mellema 2000). At the turn of the 20th century, Canada was heavily focused on building a national identity through racialized nationalist discourse that shaped immigration and labour policy and carceral disciplinary power (Avery 1995; Goutor 2007; Mackey 1999; Mandel 1986; Mosher 1998; Neufield 1998; Roberts & Doob 1997). As this study shows, Kingston was an engine for this project.
The descriptive statistics for 1900-1910 presented here exhibit a fairly equal distribution of the sample population of prisoners across occupations. These data also display that no particular racial group outweighed others in the sample. This would suggest that no particular group was over-policed compared to others. ‘Labourers’ were clearly treated with disproportionate disciplinary power, receiving longer sentences regardless of the severity of the charge laid. As were blacks and immigrants. However, this was not the strongest indication of how racialized nationalist discourse shaped carceral practice at the time. As these results show, a prisoner who was ‘not white’, not from Canada, and also from a working-class background would be charged much more harshly and sentenced to a substantially longer time within Kingston’s walls. This practice, meant to “give the convict practical skills, provide revenue for the penitentiary, and above all act as a reformatory agent” (Neufield 1998:102), became instead a means of exercising social, economic, and political power over racialized, working-class, immigrant populations. This power made each member of these groups “a describable, analyzable object, not in order to reduce him to his specific features…but in order to maintain him in his individual features, in his own aptitudes or abilities, under the gaze of a permanent corpus of knowledge” (Foucault 1977:190). This insight from Foucault (ibid.) informs an understanding of how Kingston operated as a means of resolving threats against a burgeoning Canadian national identity and inflating unemployment by producing and regulating a problematic Other.
For the social control of a group, that group must necessarily be describable. In other words, this was not simply power exercised on an immigrant or racialized individual, but the production of the social representations and thus the describability of groups. Social representations are those shared schematic categories that enable the interpretation of the cultural world (Hall 1997; Hall, et al. 2013; Howarth 2006a, 2006b). The discourse of the Canada First Movement, labour parties at the time, newspaper journalists, and the public more generally, shaped the social representation of a racialized underclass (Avery 1995; Goutor 2007) thereby constituting daily practices of intergroup relations and the material conditions of group life (Bonilla-Silva 2003; Hall 1997; Howarth 2006b). Kingston Penitentiary can be seen as the crystallization of these conditions; a central mechanism for classifying and thus regulating the material bodies of an underclass (Baehre 1977; Hennessey 1998; Smadych 1991). The trope of the dangerous black male, central to the ‘Negro problem’ that plagued the southern United States, had been constructed long before Kingston Penitentiary was built (Goutor 2007). The Canadian carceral system and its classification processes proved to differentiate Canada’s proposed homogeneity from US heterogeneity by fusing race, nationality, and socioeconomic class through more severe disciplinary practice upon those groups who represented these characteristics (Goutor 2007; Kaplan 1978; Mandel 1986; Neocleous 2007). Although this study shows that blacks were disproportionately mistreated in the Canadian justice system of the time, it was those who were ‘not white’, working-class, and immigrant whose bodies were more heavily inscribed with the power of carceral classification. Moreover, those who were of ‘dark’ complexion, a broader social representation of an Other, were subject to harsher discipline. Punishment became a sort of color- and class-blind prejudice. A kinder and gentler Canadian form of prejudice and discrimination.
The period between 1910-1919 in Canada was characterized by the strains of World War I, which marked an economic surge and concomitant growth in immigration (Goutor 2007; Neufield 1998). The nationalism which characterized the operation of most institutions in Canada at this time is powerfully captured by the orders and regulations of the War Measures Act of August, 1914, which classified various kinds of dangerous enemy aliens (Avery 1995:71). This could explain the large influx into Kingston of prisoners charged with desertion. More than this, it could help explain how the disciplinary practice through Kingston took on a much more xenophobic nationalist flavor. The interaction terms I have used for this period illustrate how those with a ‘dark’ complexion, those who were ‘not white’, and those who were ‘labourers’ were all treated more harshly compared to the previous decade with respect to both the severity of the charges laid and the sentences handed down. Furthermore, the findings for this period illustrate that being ‘not white’ would still result in harsher outcomes, but it was the additional layers of ‘otherness’ which would guarantee longer sentences and more severe charges. That is, outcomes were especially harsh if any or all status characteristics subject to race-, class-, or nationalist- based prejudice were to intersect.
It was during this period especially that the Anglo-Canadian population became intensely hostile towards enemy aliens (Avery 1995). The present study illustrates how the Canadian justice system became a means of describing and classifying dangerous populations of alien others. From 1900-1909, blacks would receive a more severe charge, yet not a longer sentence. In the period between 1910-1919, however, the situation reversed. Perhaps this was a means of distancing Canada from the American definition of the black Other as the enemy on the homefront and instead defining the Canadian enemy on the homefront as he who is ‘not us’, that is, he who is ‘not white’, ‘not Canadian’. Although blacks were still heavily overrepresented in the sample populations of this study, it was ‘labourer’ ‘immigrants’ with ‘dark’ complexions who were ‘not white’ that were most harshly treated. To differentiate a homogenous Canadian identity required differentiation from the influx of Eastern and Southern European immigrants, which culminated in ambiguous social and political discourse that focused on an English-speaking identity, the superiority of Canadian standards of living, and the dominance of white skin (Goutor 2007). Thus, the social representation of the Other could be exploited further, even contradictorily “contrasting labour from Italy and Russia with white labour” (ibid:98) from Canada. In other words, English-speaking labour of those with ‘fair’ complexions. That Italians were heavily overrepresented in Kingston at this time comes as no surprise. The question would be whether this is due to the notorious notion among popular culture that Italians are inclined towards criminal activity or due to the structural disadvantages produced by, and which invoke, prejudice (Mellema 2000; Tonry 1997; Wilson 1991). With respect to the overrepresentation of any population in the carceral system, this article presents evidence for the latter.
Overviewing the entire period between 1900-1919, several findings require addressing. First, Persons of Color, immigrants, and labourers would receive longer sentences, regardless of the severity of the charge. What is more important is that this does not seem to reflect a blatant prejudice that views the social representations of certain minority groups as inferior, but instead reflects an implicit bias towards ‘white’ ‘professional’ Canadians. This is most explicitly articulated through the finding that ‘fair’ skinned Canadians with a professional occupation were treated much more gently than those with ‘dark’ complexions who were ‘not white’, from another country, and a from a working-class socioeconomic position. Analyses in this article show strongly that the variations in the sentencing and severity of charges laid against these groups is due to some real difference between them. That is, the social representation of these minority groups was, and still is, a prominent factor in the charges laid and sentences given, independent of the actual criminal act. The mean sentence for prisoners in Kingston between 1900-1919 was just under four years. The mean severity of charge, based on an 8-point scale, was 3.4. Yet, as this study has shown, these disciplinary practices became increasingly harsh with the addition of each status characteristic which did not align with Canadian race- and class-based national identity.
DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
This study has dug into the population of Kingston Penitentiary in the early 20th century during a critical period of nation-building for Canada. The findings illuminate the seed-bed for the overrepresentation of racialized and disadvantaged minorities. Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg with respect to understanding the beginnings and evolution of this process within the Canadian criminal Justice system. Of any scholar, Mosher (1998) sheds the most light on how corrections in Canada are rooted in race- and class-based prejudices. Future research ought to be directed towards examining how the social and cultural configurations of certain epochs informed and were informed by social control and disciplinary practices. That whole network of control-based agencies that Cohen (1979) asserts “marked the beginning a century ago of the widening of the ‘carceral circle’ or ‘carceral archipelago’” (360).
Further research should also investigate how prison models in other cultural milieux are informed by intersections of race, class, and nationality. This type of sociology of crime and corrections would diverge sharply from the refined technicalism that characterizes criminology and instead bring an historical and structural scholarship forward. This could be expected to bring to light more thorough definitions of community, better understandings of those lines which divide ‘us’ from ‘them’, clarification of norms, and perhaps a less nuanced and firmer view of the expectations and aspirations of the human group.
Among all the details involved in this study, the most salient point would be that social representations matter. Nothing seems to capture this better than how individual skin-tone becomes so closely associated with assumptions about a person and his origin and character. Race-based prejudices between 1900-1920 may have been starker than the laissez-faire or color-blind prejudices that pervade society today. However, the notion that mere complexion, or the perceived tone of skin, was connected to the expected traditions and social behaviours of certain peoples effectively captures the centrality of social representations to understanding phenomena like the overrepresentation of racialized and disadvantaged groups within carceral systems. This study of the populations of Kingston penitentiary has revealed that Canada committed more than the felony of constructing race as a social currency (Wacquant 2005), the nation is also implicated in creating a more complex social representation of deviant Others for the purposes of capital accumulation, nation-building, and establishing a coherent national identity.
Most importantly perhaps, the results of this article ought to tear the onus away from any notion that the overrepresentation of racial minorities in Canadian prisons might be due to racial differences in offending and place that onus squarely upon broader dynamic social structures. This is not to say that we should avoid studying racial differences in offending; rather, it is to say that sociology will better serve correctional apparatuses and society at large by primarily examining those structures it claims are its savoire-faire. As Cohen (1979) has astutely remarked, “established professionals, agencies and service bureaucracies are not going to give up so easily their hard won empires of ‘expertise’ and identity in the name of some vague notion of integration” (357). Instead, in Canada, they have produced through disciplinary practice and its accompanying systems of classification the subjectivity of a deviant Other that can be regulated with relative ease and which differentiates ‘us’ Canadians on the outside of the prison walls from ‘them’ others on the inside; a deviant Other that is the one absolute requirement for the existence of disciplinary power, carceral systems, and their experts more generally (Cohen 1979; Foucault 1977, 1980; Wortley 1999, 2003). These are the roots of overrepresentation. This was the birth of the subjectification machine in Canada.
1 Kingston Penitentiary inmate history ledger, R942-104-0-E, RG73-C-6, Volume/box number 558, 1886-1912, Correctional Service of Canada fonds [multiple media] (R942-0-X-E), Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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