Tom Garner was a hard man doing a tough job. But the former British army sergeant who became Commissioner of Prisons was much more than a barracks square disciplinarian; he transformed the old colonial-style jail system into a modern Correctional Services Department which today stands as a model for many countries. Thomas G.P. Garner, CBE, died at his home in Marston, Lincolnshire, England, on August 21. He was 79. Born in Liverpool in 1925, his education was interrupted by war. In 1941, he signed up with the Royal Artillery and served after D-Day in the liberation of Europe. After the German surrender, he served in Burma and was posted to Hong Kong in 1946. When he retired as director of correctional services in 1984, after 38 years' service, Garner quipped that he had 'done a life sentence'. He almost did more; there were at least three convict plots to assassinate him. All were frustrated. Commissioner of Correctional Services Pang Sung-yuen said Garner was a career professional with lots of ideas. 'He was a strong leader who focused prison work into rehabilitation fields,' Mr Pang said. 'He set clear directions for his colleagues and laid foundations for the modern correctional services of today.' Sergeant-Major Tom Garner, aged 23, left the army in 1947 and promptly joined the Hong Kong prison service. There was in those days little thought of rehabilitation. He thought there should be more to prison than simply walls, cells and barbed wire. After he became commissioner in 1972, Garner began to institute changes. He worked with young offenders in the Stanley Boys' Training Centre and with drug addicts of all ages at Tai Lam Drug Addiction Centre. His idea of a family holiday was to go to various countries where he invariably met his counterparts in local jails. Garner instituted such reforms as stressing education, so convicts could find work on their release, and rehabilitation, especially of drug addicts. One initiative he introduced in the 1970s was the 'short, sharp shock'. There had been a frightening rise in crimes of violence by young thugs. The public was demanding action. So was government. Garner came up with the idea of Sha Tsui Detention Centre on Lantau where young offenders entered a rigid environment, toiling all day under relentless discipline. One six-month taste of this would keep them on the straight and narrow, he said. He was right. Sha Tsui still operates today. The most dramatic event of his long career came in 1973, shortly after his appointment as commissioner. He clamped down on wardens who had been smuggling drugs into Stanley Prison. The result was a riot in which 350 convicts held three officers hostage. Typically, Garner acted decisively. Ordering all staff out, he entered with one Chinese colleague to confront the rioters, some armed with cell-made knives. He accepted some of their points. The prisoners released the guards. Then Garner ordered them to clean up the mess before staff would return. Tom Garner had controversial ideas that often were not appreciated by a public that favoured a stringent approach to punishment. But he was absolutely unbending on rules and regulations. 'A prisoner must do as he is told in prison,' he said. But he also stressed the benefits to both prisoners and society of rehabilitation and education. When he retired he could look back with satisfaction. Jails, once ruled by triads, had been changed to places where everyone obeyed the rules. Young offenders could learn skills and behaviour for life on the outside. When Garner joined the colonial prison service there were two institutions with 370 staff. When he left the modern Correctional Services, there were 28 prisons, detention centres, drug addiction centres and other institutions staffed by 6,500 professional officers. He is survived by Beverly, his wife of 47 years, and their three sons.