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The Globe and Mail

Who's who of organized crime populate Quebec's Leclerc

Quebec mobster Raynald Desjardins is seen on this undated file photo. Desjardins was held at Leclerc Institution in Laval, Que.

The Canadian Press

The Leclerc Institution is a prison near Montreal whose inmates read like a who's who of organized crime in Quebec. Bikers, street-gang members and mobsters have all done time within its walls.

The 51-year-old federal penitentiary has gained a reputation for the influence wielded by criminal groups inside. The late Mafia kingpin Frank Cotroni once headed the prisoner recreation committee. Raynald Desjardins, a close associate of Montreal mobster Vito Rizzuto, had a jogging track built on prison grounds in the 1990s. After Mr. Rizzuto himself was arrested in 2004, he reportedly hoped to be incarcerated at Leclerc so he could be among his cronies.

Today, the prison in Laval is said to be controlled by the Hells Angels biker gang, who had reportedly maintained an exclusive membership at the prison pool before it was demolished by federal authorities this year. The presence of the notorious biker gang inside the jail helps maintain a certain level of jailhouse calm, experts say.

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"The situation in Leclerc is pretty stable because there's one dominant group at the institution – the Hells Angels – and they maintain a fairly peaceful atmosphere by penitentiary standards," said Stephen Fineberg of the Quebec association of prison lawyers.

Despite its medium-security designation, Leclerc has a ramped-up level of protection that makes it closer to a maximum-security establishment, a sort of "max lite," experts say. They raise concerns about the impact of dispersing career criminals allied to organized crime networks into other prisons with rival gangs; also, since Leclerc houses many inmates from the Montreal area, prisoner transfers to other locations will take a toll on family visits.

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About the Author

Ingrid Peritz has been a Montreal-based correspondent for The Globe and Mail since 1998. Her reporting on the plight of Canadians suffering from the damaging effects of the drug thalidomide helped victims obtain federal compensation and earned The Globe and Mail a National Newspaper Award, Canadian Journalism Foundation award, and the Michener Award for public service. More

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