No Sitting On This Fence



All this talk of my past made me curious as to just what happened to all of the  juvenile detention centers that I spent time in for one reason or another.  The scandal of Berthelet in 1972 when all those young boys committed suicide.  The scandal with the young girls being forced into prostitution by a social worker at Shawbridge.  The workers at St Vallier’s detention Center striking and actually occupying a floor of the building, because of the overcrowding leading to stress and unsafe working conditions.

St. Vallier juvenile detention was my 1st stop as a child destined for the big house.  I remember  a kid having to kneel on the palm of his hands for talking after lights out.  Refusal meant going to the hole. Do me a favor put your palms under your knees just to get the feeling. Imagine 15 to 30 minutes of this or more.  I remember getting into an argument with the kid under me after lights out. We slept in dorms in bunk beds 2 high. I was hauled out of bed, from the top bunk, cuffed in the back of my head, put on an elevator and taken to another floor.  It was the psycho ward they told me and in the morning I found out they were not joking.  These kids were on so many meds they walked around drooling. After a couple of days they asked if I learned my lesson and was ready to go back into normal population, or did I wish to remain with the psycho? I said I was ready to go back and after lunch I was returned to normal population.

The hole was an interesting concept to ally the minor children. When sent to the hole you were stripped down to your under garments and put in a small room with a blanket and pillow.  A guy sent there for sleeping with hs high school teacher and refusing to move back home had tried to escape by attacking a guard after lights out. He was beaten down and thrown into the hole. Days later he was still in there when I was getting released and was begging anyone to call his parents or tell somebody what was happening to him.  I am glad to say that this building is now a nursing home by the looks of it and there ar no more children kneeling on their hands.

 Berthelet detention center had to be the worst possible place for any child to have to spend time.  In my earlier story about juvenile detention I outlined who I met there and what it was I learned.  None of it was good for society or me.  I arrived at Berthelt after dark, but the fences and razor wire came rushing back to me when I began to take pictures.  I remember now just how alone and afraid I was at 16. I had no idea where I was, but I do know that the area was like being in the country when I was a boy. I understand now why my mother did not come on visiting day. I remember now just looking at the building again the cell with  the bars and the light in the ceiling that stayed on 24 hours a day 7 days a week . The cell was six feet by six feet with a cot , a sink and a toilette.  It was extremely hot and dry.  It was so hot and dry that I caught bronchitis, but there would be no trip to the hospital and no doctor he only came to Berthelet twice a month.  I would not see a doctor until I was released.  I have bronchitis to this very day.

Everything here as well was in french and the majority of the population was french, but it was here that I learned the business end of crime. I was there for not going to school and they did not even have a class if you wanted to go.  I felt betrayed by my mother and the court.  Why could’ nt she just have okayed me quitting school? I was working. I was 16 the legal age to work with your mother’s permission. Was this place better than my girlfriend’s place and working?  The worst thing about Berthelet was the empty time.  I generally spent this time alone in my cell reading and plotting. As I said before I did attend arts and crafts.  I was there to be intimidated and show me what would happen if I continued on this path.  When I later graduated to Bordeaux I was already used to the clanging of the door, the light being on 24 / 7 so this part of going to jail was no longer a deterrent for me.

Use your wiles I was taught here. Lie  to them and tell them what they want to hear and then do what you want and they will eventually give up on you.  This is exactly what happened soon as I got out of this prison.They say that a picture is worth a thousand words so here are a few thousand.  You will not find these photos of these or any other juvenile detention center on the internet.  They are not listed in the phone book either.  They do keep children somewhere in the court-house building, I know because my 13-year-old daughter was taken there when she ran away from home a few years ago to run the streets with her boyfriend and released to me in the morning .  The government did not do away with these institutions of pain like they claimed years ago. They just took them below the radar, out of the public eye.  Out of sight out of mind.  How many of these detention centers are still in operation under the radar I wonder and by what regulations do they operate now?  All I know for sure is that in my day kids were abused in them and died in them and they came out worst than when they went in.  The day I took these pictures bought everything back to me and none of it was good.

Would you like your child to stay here for any reason now that I have shown you in advance what they are looking at.  This is not a place for children.  Do all that is in your power to see that your children do not end up here or somewhere like it. “Please!”

About archemdis

I try to say what is on my mind and not hurt others, but some things need to be said whether they hurt or not and I do just that. I try to listen as well as talk, but my opinion is just that mine. You need not take it as your own, just respect the fact that I am entitled to it, as you are yours. I do read all comments, but will only answer, or allow to be displayed those which adress me by name, refer to the post by name in the comment, or that have been sent through the proper channels. In this manner I can tell whether the comment was meant for me and that it is not just spam.
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8 Responses to No Sitting On This Fence

  1. i would like to talk to you if possible
    can i get your e mail?
    the one here is not acepting my e mails
    maybe something just anit right..

    • archemdis says:

      Hello Victor I have sent you another e-mail adress hope that it works. I will be glad to talk to you. have a great night. If you are still having a problem let me know and we will try to work it out.

  2. i was ther as well ,,,,then we were in waredale …then off to shawbridge
    then to the halfway house in rosemere..
    thats when i lost the life of my younger brother peter/
    in shawbridge,
    i always wonder if he still be here if we never heard of st valier??

    • archemdis says:

      Sorry to hear that, but I know how you feel. My older brother spent from 13 years old to 18 years old in Waredale and he was lost to me in the sense that I never saw him until he got out and by then he was pretty much a stranger to me. Guys were there for no other reason than their parents did not want them, or could not look after them. My best friend spent from 5 years old until he was 10 years old in Shawbridge , because his mother could not afford to take care of him. I hope you have found some peace and remeber you were not alone and are not alone now.

  3. robert briere says:

    I am very interesting about everything concerning BERTHELET centre. I have a friend girl , just like you, she’s 58 now, who had lived the same thing. She recognized on the first picture the buildings in the center of the picture, the exact place where she was detained(she was 14 at this time). she want to make contact with you, please it’s very important, you are not alone in this case. She read your letter with tears. For many years she have tried to make contact with others persons like you without sucess, you are the first. Thank god maybe we can shed some light into this horrible mess of all of those juvenile detention centre like Berthelet in quebec…thanks anyway…waiting for your reply…sorry for my english

    • archemdis says:

      Hello robert,
      It is at times like this that I am sorriest that I do not speak French. Just taking the pictures made me sick to my stomach. I remember my cell, the light that never went out and the lonliness and fear of being alone and away from my family. I had the extra poroblem of not understanding any of the rules I was an English kid in a Frencch institution. Have your girlfriend write to me at, and we will take it from there. Have a great day and thank you for writing to me. Look forward to hearing from the both of you. These were indeed troubling times and we as the children were made to suffer greatly!

  4. Bob Mc Donald says:

    Hello To All,

    I was talking with my girlfriend and remembering the old days going back to the peroid between 1966 and 1968. During this time I was trying my best to be as big a pain in the ass as I could. Coming from a middle class family and growing up in Chomedey Laval I soon learned about drugs and became the town trouble maker. Starting out with not wanting to go to school and progressing to running drugs ….. mostly hash at first and progressing to chemicals for the local bad guys it wasn’t long before I ended up on the 5th and then the 3rd floor of St Vallier. This was my first of 3 ….. 10 week stays at St Vallier. Wow !! the memories started to come back and my girlfriend could not believe what I was telling her. We Googled the web-site and sure enough it was all true. The memories of abuse and the not knowing what was going to happen to me the next time I went to court in a jacket that was usually 3 times to big was crazy. I can tell stories of physical abuse that I never endured myself but saw infliced on others that most people would not believe. No school,very little excersise , playing cards for cigarettes and the day in day out ritual of playing pool and ping pong was the norm. Anyway I am now 57 and carried a big chip on my shoulder for most of my life. After fighting alcohal and drugs most of my life I managed to raise a family and be pretty successful. I did mamage to quit the drugs and drinking 15 years ago and finally get my life back together although a divorse was inevitable. Both my kids recently graduated from college and university unlike me who never made it past grade 8. St Vallier for me was a definate eye opener and did make me realize that I did not want any more of the system . Would like to hear from any who spent time at St Vallier.

    A Survivor !!!

    • archemdis says:

      I know what you mean, it was terrible back then to be in one of those places. I try to remember, because it will happen again if we let them forget.

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