A fascinating look at prison food in British Columbia in 1898

For prisoners sentenced to hard labour, supper consisted of one pint of gruel and eight ounces of bread per day!

For prisoners sentenced to hard labour, supper consisted of one pint of gruel and eight ounces of bread per day!

Recently we looked at the regulations governing the management of B.C.’s prisons in 1898. We’re not quite done. This week we’ll look at the “scale of dietaries for use in provincial gaols”.

In other words, the governance of what prisoners were fed while serving their regular sentences or with hard labour…

1. No beer or wine, or fermented or spiritous liquors of any kind shall be allowed to prisoners, or permitted within the Gaol, unless specially ordered by the Gaol Surgeon, such order to be recorded in his Journal, together with the name of the prisoner for whom the article is ordered.

2. No smoking shall be allowed, nor shall any tobacco be permitted in the Gaol, except by the order of the Gaol Surgeon, such order to be recorded in his Journal, together with the name of the prisoner to whom the privilege is allowed.

3. No food of any kind shall be sold by any Gaol Officer to a prisoner, or by one prisoner to another; nor shall any Gaol officer have any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any food, clothing or other articles supplied to the prisoners; nor shall any Gaol Officer, or any member of his family, use any of the Gaol stores except for heating, lighting or cleaning the house or quarters allotted to him.

4. The Gaol dietaries shall be divided into two scales, viz:

For prisoners awaiting trial, or under sentence with hard labour for a term of 30 days or under, where the labour is done in ordinary Gaol work.

For prisoners sentenced with hard labour for a term of over 30 days, and the labour consists of cutting wood, breaking stones or in extra-mural.

5. The dietary under the foregoing scale shall be as follows:

SCALE NO. 1. Breakfast. One pint of gruel (made from oatmeal or Indian corn meal) and eight ounces of bread every morning.

Dinner. Five ounces of smoked meat (without bone), eight ounces of bread and eight ounces of potatoes on three days of the week. Eight ounces of bread, one pound of potatoes and one pint of gruel on two days of the week. One pint of soup and eight ounces of bread on two days in the week.

Supper. One pint of gruel and eight ounces of bread every night.

SCALE NO. 2. Breakfast. One pint of gruel, eight ounces of bread and one pint of pea coffee, sweetened with molasses or brown sugar, every morning.

Dinner. Six ounces of cooked meat (without bone), eight ounces of bread and eight ounces of potatoes on each day that hard labour is performed; otherwise Scale No. 1 to be followed.

Supper. One pint of gruel and eight ounces of bread every night.

6. The oatmeal gruel shall contain two ounces of oatmeal to every pint of water, and the Indian cornmeal gruel two and a quarter ounces to the pint; the soup shall contain three ounces of cooked meat to the pint, and the usual quantity of vegetables, with pepper and salt. Pork may be used once a week instead of beef, but one ounce less in weight must be given than is named in the different scales; fish may also be substituted for beef once a week, in which four ounces more must be given than is named in the different scales; and all prisoners shall be allowed at their meals as much good water and salt as they desire.

7. Prisoners under the care of the Gaol Surgeon shall be allowed such diet as he may direct, his instructions in this respect to be entered in his Journal for the guidance of the Gaoler.

8. The food supplies shall be carefully weighed or measured when delivered out for use, and the Gaoler shall enter the weight or quantity in the Account Book, and he shall exercise the greatest care, so as to insure that all food supplied to the prisoners shall be of good quality and of the proper weight or measure.

9. The Gaoler shall receive and examine all articles of food and other supplies, and shall carefully weigh or measure the same, and shall enter the weight or measurement and the price in the Account Book.

10. The cooking of the food and the washing of clothes and bedding shall be done by a prisoner or prisoners, under the supervision of the Gaoler.

(Reminds me of some of the airline food I’ve been served.—TW)

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