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Life is cheap in prison

Paddy Mitchell is Canada’s most famous and best-loved bank robber. He was the leader of the Stopwatch Gang, (in)famous for a string of well-planned and precisely executed bank robberies across Canada and the US in the 70s and 80s. They timed their robberies to maximize the take – while other bank robbers would net a few thousand dollars per robbery, Paddy and his gang were consistently pulling off heists in the hundreds of thousands. They never hurt anybody in any of their robberies. Equally impressive was their phenomenal ability to escape from prisons. Interestingly, everybody liked Paddy Mitchell – the police, the media, the public, everybody.

I’ve had a long-standing interest in Paddy Mitchell. I read all the books, including his own (This Bank Robber’s Life, written from Leavenworth Prison several years ago). I spent many hours in libraries, going through the microfiche files of the newspaper coverage. In university I wrote a paper about the atypical media coverage of Paddy Mitchell, and interviewed a couple of reporters who had covered him extensively. Last year I finally sent him a copy of that paper, and I’ve been corresponding with him in prison.

About a year ago, Paddy found a lump “coming through” his chest. He attempted to get medical attention in prison, but was told it was probably nothing. “I’m still waiting to go for surgery for that egg-size lump on my chest. I’m beginning to get a little perturbed. I’ve had this thing for about ten months and all I’ve got the medical staff to do is send me for a CAT Scan. No one seems to know where the results of that scan are. I think they’ve forgotten about me in the shuffle. And this “thing” keeps growing,” wrote Paddy in March 2006.

Finally, in April, Paddy had a chance encounter with a doctor who was visiting the prison on another matter. He pulled the doctor aside, yanked up his shirt, and showed him the lump. The doctor said it was probably a cancerous tumor and ordered tests immediately. It was lung cancer, and it had spread to his brain. Treatment has now begun, starting with brain surgery.

Paddy’s positive and optimistic about beating cancer. Good for him. But I’m MAD. It seems to me that if we lock someone up, we’re effectively denying them the right to meet their own basic needs – and so we must assume responsibility for meeting those basic needs. There is something gravely wrong with a system that does less than that.

So many people make such a big stinking deal out of the fact that inmates get so many ‘privileges’ like television. What about access to life-saving medical attention to a tumor growing out of your chest? Shouldn’t that be a right?

9 comments to Life is cheap in prison

  • Dakota

    This is so wrong! If society makes the decision to imprison people, they must make sure the basics necessities, like healthcare, are available.

    All the best to Paddy!

  • […] Some of you might recall a post I wrote a few months ago about Paddy Mitchell, Ottawa’s favourite bank robber: Life is cheap in Prison. […]

  • Lp

    I heard Paddy wants to finish his life up in canada (Kingston Penitentiary) is there a way to grant him his wish?
    any suggestions on who to contact and demand action for his transfer?

  • Lp, thanks for asking. I’m trying to figure that out too. The Mitchell family has asked us all to contact our Members of Parliament about this matter. Please see this post for more info:

  • wolfem

    Y’know we always get soft on a tearjerking story even if thit is about a crook. I do not take away the good that people should receive but think for a second….how much did this bank robbing stuff cost us all as citizens and taxpayers? Plenty!!!!!We cannot leave most possessions unprotected or locked, we are apprehensive when entering banks and stores etc., and we hear sob stories from these do-gooders defending lawbreakers. Finally now the culprits are paying for their crimes”Those that have been caught ,that is.”
    We have elderly law-abiding people and children that cannot afford the medical necessities and their stories do not show up on the internet to be glorified. Yes I read the story of the stopwatch gang and Yes I was intrigued but face it folks, they were thieves and even though no one got shot, it does not remove the fact that many people were and still are affected both phsically and emotionally by these ordeals. Next time you buy products check how much the hidden cost of security for these items and businesses is costing you in surcharges. Most of you do not question this but if you were made aware the arguement would surely change.

  • Wolfem, Paddy admits he was a thief, and yes there are hidden costs to all of us because of theft. He doesn’t deny that he owes a debt to society, and he doesn’t ask for any special treatment…but he’s still entitled to his human rights and access to medical treatment for his cancer.

    By the way, he just started a blog:

  • Carly

    USA’s justice has made Paddy Mitchell their trophy.

  • bobinottawa

    As you all must know by now Mr. Mitchell has died and there will be no funeral. For those of you interested in a small memorial get together, please contact me at The party will be in Ottawa within the next week or so. If you can make it…cool. If you can’t…fire your words at the email address and those that can make it will be able to read them. Thanks, Bob