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Prisoners’ Justice Day – by Pete Collins

BOUND & GAGGED

A Subsidiary of Buried Alive Illustrations

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AUGUST 10TH MEMORIAL

Prisoners Justice Day (PJD)

                                                                                                    

 

By Peter M. Collins 079283B – 2008

Edited by: Kathleen Kenny

Every year as August 10th approaches, a sense of loss settles on prison populations as we all come to terms with knowing that more lives were lost this year and consequently there are more prisoners to be remembered. Some of us have lost close friends and loved ones and our anguish is more acute as we reflect upon and deal with the grief,  pain and  loss. Increasing social awareness amongst prisoners, ex-prisoners, family, friends and community activists means that persons dying while in custody are remembered, missed and honoured. There are many different efforts both inside and outside prison walls to create the conditions under which the disadvantaged prisoner community, friends, loved ones and supporters can create meaningful remembrances.

While many of us understand the meaning, background and purpose of the August 10th Memorial Day, there are many who are not aware of how and why the protest sprang forth out of Canadian prisons.

In 1971, the harsh atmosphere of Kingston Penitentiary produced one of Canada’s bloodiest riots. Before the riot was over, two prisoners died, some prisoners were tortured, 5 guards were taken hostage, and part of the prison was destroyed. As a result 86 prisoners alleged to have been involved in the riot were shipped to the newly open prison, Millhaven Penitentiary. When the prisoners arrived in chains they were brutally beaten by the guards. Prisoners, some of whom were stripped naked, were forced to crawl on the ground while they passed the official gauntlet of power. They were kicked, punched, gassed, beaten with clubs, and thus Millhaven was baptised in a legacy of violence. As a result, a Royal Commission of Inquiry was commenced, chaired by Justice J.W. Swackhammer.

One of the responses to the Swackhammer report was that Solicitor General Warren Allmand appointed Ms. Inger Hansen as the first Correctional Investigator (CI) on June 1st 1973. It should not go without notice that many of the concerns of the CI remain outstanding problems.

In the mid-1970’s the Canadian Penitentiary System (CPS) experienced a series of riots, strikes, murders and hostage takings;

“that grew in numbers and size with each passing year. By 1976 the prison explosions were almost constant; hardly a week passed without another violent incident. In the 42 years between 1932 and 1974 there were a total of 65 major incidents in federal penitentiaries. Yet in two years – 1975 and 1976 – there were a total of 69 major incidents, including 35 hostage-takings and involving 92 victims[1]  . . .”

The resulting 1976 MacGuigan Inquiry and Report to Parliament was a damning indictment of the Canadian Penitentiary system and while Canadian legislators had created oversight and pressure release mechanisms[2] in the federal prison system, prisoners still struggled against horrendous conditions and many died. For those who suffered and died we owe respect – indeed homage. Who could deny that we owe much more to those many souls who trudged some lonely and dangerous prison yards and halls and whose lives and deaths softened paths for us?

The first August 10th Memorial Day was held in 1975 to mark the needless death of Eddie Nalon who had died on August 10th 1974. Eddie’s death was defined as suicide by the coroner’s inquest but it was noted that the prison guards had ‘disabled’ the emergency buttons in the punitive isolation[3] areas of the prison. One fact that was not brought out during the coroner’s inquest was that the Millhaven guards regularly ignored the emergency buttons and often disabled the buttons in order to avoid interruptions to their nightly card games. In this particular case, Eddie was part of a prisoners’ grass roots movement to improve working and living conditions in the prison setting and had committed to stand firm with his counterparts and refuse to work. In an effort to break the backbone of the movement and the spirits of prisoners standing up for their rights, the Millhaven administration placed certain prisoners in isolation. As such, for refusing to work under degrading, slave labour conditions Eddie experienced an endless cycle of long-term isolation and a punitive diet regime, which was punctuated every 30 days[4] by Millhaven changing the official designation of Eddie’s incarceration from “punitive segregation” to “administrative segregation”. Eventually the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) had agreed to release Eddie from the pattern of isolation but in a contemptuous move they purposely transferred him to a “work range”.  Eddie predictably refused to work and he was thrown back into solitary confinement: the hole. While in isolation his case was again “reviewed” by the Segregation Review Board” (SRB) and they gave assurance of Eddie’s imminent release to a non-working range. Eddie was told repeatedly by guards in the days and weeks following the SRB that his release was going to happen “that day” but they never actually fulfilled the promise. This ongoing pattern of attrition eventually accomplished its goal to break Eddie. On August 10th 1974 Eddie succumbed to the psychological torture and slashed his wrists; he would be released on that day one way or the other. As Eddie’s blood drained out onto the isolation cell floor the guards not only ignored the emergency alarms (through their purposeful sabotage), which had by this time been pressed by all of the prisoners on the isolation range who could hear Eddie was dying. The guards continued to ignore the isolation prisoners who were screaming for help and banging on their cell doors.[5] So loud was the banging and screaming that prisoners in the “administrative segregation” cells heard their efforts to get medical attention to Eddie and they began to smash things and scream in their cells to get Eddie medical attention – all of this effort proved futile. The guards whose post is located between the segregation and isolation cell block heard the banging, screaming and pleas for help simply played poker until the end of their shift when they finally did a security walk[6] and ‘discovered’ Eddie dead.

Before long, in 1976 -Robert (Bob) Landers, was placed in punitive isolation as retribution for his continuing efforts to get better living and working conditions for prisoners. Bobby was working with other prisoners in Millhaven to arrange a work stoppage to protest the intolerable prison conditions and to call public attention to the treatment they were receiving. In the manner typical of the Millhaven administration, prison guards perceived the efforts to generate positive change for prisoners as a danger to their status and used punishment to deal with the prisoner’s efforts to form some kind of union. Back in those days the CPS had recently been compelled to accept the formation of Prisoners’ Committees at each prison and there was considerable animosity between the Guard’s Union and the Prisoners’ Committees and Prison administrations. There were often running conflicts that escalated into serious incidents with each side blaming the other. Bobby and others were thrown in the hole in a move designed to stymie efforts to improve working and living conditions. Prisoners, who were also in the hole, heard Bob calling out to guards that he was in trouble and experiencing serious chest pains. After some time passed, a guard actually did show up in front of Bob’s cell and asked him what he wanted. Bob explained and pleaded that he needed to go to the hospital but the guard just told him to wait for the nurse to do her nightly rounds. When the prison nurse did show up she didn’t conduct a real assessment, and simply refused to have him brought to the hospital, telling him to wait until the doctor came in the following day. That night, after scrawling his symptoms on a piece of paper, Bob died from a heart attack in those same isolation cells. It turns out that the emergency button alarm and all the subsequent banging and screaming from other prisoners were ignored by the guards in favour of their nightly poker game. At the coroner’s inquest it was established by a heart specialist that medical negligence killed Bob and he should have been in an Intensive Care Unit and not in solitary confinement.

In 1977 – Glen Thomas Landers died after being shot off the perimeter fence and left to bleed to death. Glen was also serving time in Millhaven when his brother Bobby died the year before. Glen had to struggle with being around the same guards who had allowed his brother to needlessly die, alone and suffering. Within a year Glen and a group of other prisoners had planned to escape Millhaven. They managed to cut the security bars over a window in the common room area. However, on the night that Glen and the others had decided to escape, the Special Handling Unit (SHU) guys had refused to go back into their cells at the end of their exercise period. While this may (or may not) have been part of an orchestrated diversion for the escape attempt it had resulted in a police presence around the SHU yard which was in the front area of the Millhaven compound. When Glen and the others got out into the yard behind the Millhaven compound they became aware of the police presence around the prison. Most of the prisoners abandoned the escape plan and went back through the window into the prison. Glen and one other prisoner decided to try push the issue and managed to pass the first fence when gun shots and warnings to lie down rang out into the night. The other prisoner dropped to the ground while Glen sprinted toward freedom at whatever cost and hit the fence. Glen never made it across the second fence and subsequently lay, between the perimeter fences, bleeding from bullet wounds.

The prison guards refused to pick him up and get him medical attention, later stating it was too dangerous because the SHU prisoners were out of their cells in the yard. It is true that guards had repeatedly told the SHU prisoners who were in another area of the prison – (beyond sight of the other ongoing events) – that they had to go into their cells so the guards could pick up a wounded prisoner. The SHU prisoners did not believe the guards and speculated that the gun shots they had heard indicated someone may have escaped. If they went into their cells it would have facilitated more staff being deployed to search for the escapee(s) and therefore they refused to go in. It is relevant to consider that the SHU yard is a secluded prison yard within a prison yard and that it is several football fields (in distance) away from where Glen was lying severely injured. In addition to the huge separating distance between the two areas there were no less than four 20-foot high razor wire topped fences and 5-manned gun towers between them. Also in order to underwrite the incredibility of any safety claim preventing staff from picking up Glen, it was observed that the SHU yard was surrounded by armed Ontario Provincial Police and armed CSC Guards. Further, the double perimeter security fences allow a security vehicle to drive between the fences so they could have driven up and picked Glen up instead of letting him bleed to death.

As time goes by we begin to think of people as historical and we don’t pause and consider their lives and their feelings, their desires, hopes and dreams. I was recently speaking with Barbara (Bob and Glen’s younger sister) and she told me how poetry and drawing were very important to her brothers. After all these years she and her family still had questions and still struggle with the heavy weight of loss and sorrow.

These people’s deaths: Eddie Nalon’s in 1974, and Bob Landers’ in 1976 and Glen Landers’ in 1977 mark the passing of respected men who stood up against a dangerous and unaccountable prison system. Epitomised by their living struggle and their deaths is the remarkable strength and courage of the human spirit. They are remembered for their great effort and the price they paid wrestling for some semblance of justice. These incidents combined to solidify the prisoner population in Millhaven and they prepared for and stuck to their decision to continue the annual August 10th Memorial Protest, peacefully, silently, in observation. It is commonly understood that the early efforts of these long suffering prisoners helped provide both the glue and the impetus for others to join together and strive toward solidarity and struggle for human rights, for health care, for meaningful education, for job training, for dignity, for purpose, and to live free of inhuman degradation, humiliation, violence and death.

On August 10th 1975 all prisoners held in Millhaven stayed in their cells. Prisoners committed to observe a day of fasting and non-violent work and non-cooperation in memory of Eddie Nalon.  The entire prisoner population refused to eat, work or speak to prison guards. No prisoner ate, because those who died could no longer eat. No prisoner went to work because those who died could no longer work. No prisoner spoke because those who died could no longer speak. This was the first of thirty-three annual peaceful and silent observations of lost lives. This first step of many turned into an internationally recognized non-violent, non-denominational remembrance of people who, while being held against their will, had died in the state’s hands.

These prisoners wrestled with the implications of their fellow human beings and fellow social exiles dying in prison.  There would be no legitimate public inquiry, no public memorial, and certainly no public outrage marking these individual’s deaths. They were just gone and another prisoner now filled the empty cage. Families and loved ones of the dead prisoners would be left with horrific thoughts and imaginations of their loved ones last tragic moments in a lonely, dark and dangerous prison cell. There would be no comfort for families and loved ones who saw a person they loved forced into the confines of a prison never to be seen again, left only with the horror of imagining, and at times knowing, the worst.

In 1976 the Odyssey Group formed in Millhaven.  Howie Brown has been remembered as one of the instrumentally motivating and unifying people around the August 10th Memorial, Prison Justice Day. Howie Brown was one of the men in the hole beside Robert Landers when he was dying. His outrage, sense of loss and enduring efforts combined with a core of men serving time inside along with their families, loved ones and community supporters, worked together to champion the plight of prisoners.

In the 1980’s the Infinity Lifers Group was born and the academic community from Ottawa University became increasingly involved with what was going on in the prison setting. At the 3rd International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA) Howard Davidson, who was teaching prisoners in Western Canada, brought forth 3 papers written by prisoners. Robert Gaucher, a criminologist concerned with the self-reinforcing (and delusional) careerist manner in which the academic and professional community excluded input or contribution from the actual subjects of their work (prisoners & the criminalized) became mobilized. After the 3rd ICOPA, Gaucher &  Davidson worked together with many others across Canada and beyond to create a forum in which prisoners’ voices would no longer be silent. Their combined effort and concern resulted in an editorial board and resulted in the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons (JPP) which was born in 1988[7] and continues to be an outspoken forum about prison, by prisoners.

In any discussion about the prison experience in Canada it is important to include Claire Culhane. Claire was born on September 2nd, 1918. Claire was a mother, grandmother and a great grandmother; she was a nurse in Vietnam during the USA police action/war in the 1960’s and a union activist and social activist unfettered by the national boundaries of any country. Claire was one of the founding members of the Vancouver based Prisoner’s Rights Group.[8] Clare had been under surveillance by the CIA, the FBI and the RCMP due to her activist protesting efforts to stop the Vietnam War. In 1974 Claire began to teach women in the Lakeside Regional Prison for Women on a volunteer basis. On June 9th, 1975 three prisoners took 15 people hostage in order to avoid being placed in segregation. After a 41 hour standoff the guards stormed the prison and killed one of their own officers. Over the next month Claire joined in demonstrations outside several British Columbia prisons protesting prisoners’ living conditions inside Canadian prisons. Claire continued to advocate on behalf of all prisoners and joined the newly formed Citizens’ Advisory Committee in 1976. During what was called one of the worst riots in 50 years, Claire went inside and spent 80 hours with the prisoners, ultimately helping to find common ground through which a negotiated settlement could be achieved. Four days later Claire was banned from visiting prisoners. This ban only served to strengthen her outrage and resolve and she began to organize on a national level, she went on to stage sit-ins at warden’s offices and chained herself to the gates of the British Columbia prison and even to the gates of the Canadian Parliament where she staged a 25-day protest! She wrote several books[9] and commenced book tours. With uncompromising work she agitated and forced accountability and change where she could.

Claire’s relentless efforts tore open the curtains; she was a wrecking ball to the ‘walled-in’, secluded and secretive world of the prison industrial complex; she was the prison bureaucrat’s worst nightmare, and truly, she was the prisoner’s angel. Eventually Claire’s visiting privileges were reinstated. Claire was an amazing and tireless social justice advocate whose efforts were remarkable on many levels and for many causes. Claire spoke out loudly, and acted out against Canadian prison conditions and prison abuses.

“We can only proceed, individually and collectively. To make whatever improvements are possible in our respective areas of concern, sustained by the hope that others are doing the same.”

 (Claire Culhane, “No Longer Barred from Prison: Social Injustice in Canada”)

Much to family and friend’s amazement (and dismay) Claire continued fighting the CSC and supporting prisoners even on her death bed asking family and friends to mail her letters or write a response to this, that, or the other. Claire passed away on April 28th, 1996 at the age of 78. Claire will always be remembered by the very many prisoners she helped with her kindness, her concern and relentless courage and rock solid integrity. Claire is truly a Canadian social justice icon.

FAMILY, FRIENDS & LOVED ONES

Families and friends often feel socially ostracized when a loved one and their family are publicly shamed and humiliated both with the crime and the ensuing media reporting. The sense of exposure and condemnation by society is magnified under the disturbing lens of modern 24 hour media organizations. Family members and friends painfully recount how many relationships collapse as friends and community abandon and distance themselves from the families of prisoners. It is understood, by prisoners, that their incarceration is not the only hardship that comes from imprisonment. The residual effects touch non-incarcerated people in many varying and extremely negative ways. Children deal with the loss of a parent and single parents struggle with raising children while their partner is in prison. These circumstances often mean they have to rely on state assistance which is a complex difficulty in itself. Suffice to say that when these difficult and hope-sapping circumstances end with the prisoner dying before the end of their sentence all of the hardships are amplified.

Empirical social science evidence shows that the majority of prisoners come from economically disadvantaged childhood backgrounds with experiences of significant trauma, such as physical, psychological or sexual abuse, and/or experiences of racism, sexism and/or suffering from emotional and/or intellectual developmental issues, and/or have lower education levels.  Many have been damaged by exposure to psychiatric facilities, residential schools, reformatories, or have been state raised in Children’s Aid Societies. These socially isolated and damaged prisoners, finding themselves once again rejected by society and seeing how easily the prison system dispatched them from the face of this earth, decided to call attention to their humanity, their struggle and their sorrow. The deep sense of loss and the human need to belong stirred in this group of secluded and disadvantaged people resulted in a pro-social, life affirming and life respecting memorial observation on August 10th 1975, organized by the Millhaven prisoners as their form of social protest.

It is relevant to this discussion to note that prisoners who die in Canadian prisons and whose bodies are not “claimed[10]” by someone, are buried without a name or grave stone and with just a small marker with a number on it. Reduced to a number in life by the prison system and relegated for time immemorial to a lonely number.

AUGUST 10th MEMORIAL DAY – 1975

In the initial moments and hours of the August 10th Memorial Day in 1975, the first anniversary of Eddie Nalon’s death, CSC was caught off guard. The silent protest came as a shock to prison guards and prison administrators. The regimented “cattle call” for prisoner feeding commenced with a P.A. loud speaker announcing it was time to pick up the first meal of the day. The electric cell doors simultaneously crashed open but not one prisoner walked down to the “food serving area” to pick up food shoved through a slot in the wall. While the 1975 August 10th Memorial Day went by peacefully, CSC was extremely alarmed and felt threatened by this demonstration of prisoner solidarity.

CSC RESPONSE TO AUGUST 10th MEMORIALS

The CSC failed to recognize and respect the prisoners’ memorial as a positive affirmation and respect for the sanctity of life. The CSC began to take steps to sanction prisoners for their participation in the work stoppage and protest. These sanctions occurred in a variety of ways, i.e., prisoners were placed on report, charged for not going to work, deducting earned remission, family visits were delayed, mail was withheld or lost, access to the yard or recreation was delayed or denied, placements in solitary confinement increased, support for parole or transfer was removed, and medical attention was denied or delayed.

As the August 10th Memorial Day or Prisoner’s Justice Day (PJD) spread across Canada and took hold in every prison, members of the community outside began to hold candle light vigils in most major cities to commemorate those people who lost their lives in prisons, With this, the CSC had to stop visibly punishing prisoners for observing the August 10th Memorial day (PJD). And while the CSC did stop overtly punishing prisoners they continue to interfere with the observation of PJD by actively hindering and creating hassles to undermine the observance of PJD.

CENSORSHIP OF AUGUST 10th MEMORIAL T-SHIRTS & DESIGNS

In each prison there is usually one or more prisoners who create PJD designs and submit them to the Prisoner Committee and then through a varying evaluation & selection process. Dependent on how the population runs it, the prisoners choose amongst themselves, which design they want for that years PJD image. The image is then given to the prison “social development” department to be forwarded to a printer. Once completed each individual prisoner pays for his or her shirt.

However, each year the CSC insinuates/forces their unwanted opinions and directions into the process. They have made it increasingly difficult to meet senseless bureaucratic and erratic standards of needlessly imposed censorship. The CSC continues to engage in an active pattern of unreasonable suppression and control of the August 10th Memorial designs. Each prison administration imposes a variety of fluctuating restrictions which force prisoners to make design alterations and then when they meet the prison administration’s criteria the now prison administration “approved” design is sent to the CSC Regional Headquarters and even to CSC National Headquarters, and any number of unnamed prison bureaucrats impose their conditions of censorship upon the images and words contained within the designs and images. Then the prisoners have to either make these imposed changes or fail to have a shirt design for the August 10th Memorial. Often the CSC imposes these changes at the last minute in order to completely compromise availability of the Memorial T-Shirts before the Memorial Day.

So nitpicking has been the CSC censorship that the following are examples of design and text changes that CSC has refused: 1) the word “prison” (i.e., In memory of those who lost their lives in prison.) 2) the word “children” (i.e., In memory of the men, women and children who lost their lives in prison.) 3) the word “state” (i.e., In memory of those who lost their lives in the forced custody of a state.) 4) a signature that included the artist’s FPS number 5) an image of a gravestone.  6) an image of a skull.  7) an image of a flame. 8) an image with a candle. 9) an image of a round circle of barb wire (because a CSC employee (Native Liaison[11]) stated it looked like a  dream catcher and is therefore offensive to the Aboriginal community. It is worth noting at this point that the artist who created the artwork referred to in point 9 is Tammy McFadden, wife of a lifer, and she is of Aboriginal decent.

While most prisoners accept that there may at times be circumstances under which a prison administration should have the latitude to refuse certain images or text for security reasons[12], they should not be motivated by the trivial whims, or unfettered power & control motivations of prison bureaucrats with no other agenda than to damage the observation of the August 10th Memorial Day. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms dictates that persons in Canada are permitted freedom of speech and expression and the Conditional and Correctional Release Act confers upon prisoners all those rights except those necessarily removed due to incarceration. Therefore prisoners clearly have the right to freedom of speech and expression which clearly extends to August 10th Memorial Day designs.

While Canadian legislators struggle with balancing their societal responsibility to those who have violated the social contract and committed a crime, it remains in Canada’s interest to validate and protect prisoners’ legal rights to freedom of speech and expression protections. To do any less would validate the ongoing abusive and arrogant state treatment and censorship, and also underline that prisoners are considered by the state to be worthless, in life and death. The prison industrial complex has at its heart no vested interest in viewing prisoners as living, thinking human beings, and for no legitimate reason the CSC exhibits the thug-like desire to subjugate, humiliate and silence protest and dissent.

Regardless of our mistakes in life, whatever they were, it serves no good purpose to allow prison bureaucrats to undermine the legitimate and heartfelt endorsement of prisoners’ worth as human beings.

OUR OBLIGATIONS AS PRISONERS

It is imperative that as prisoners we remember that some prisoners absolutely have to eat due to illness, age and/or other conditions and it would be wrong to direct or expect anyone to compromise their health to observe August 10th. It is important to remember that HIV/AIDS and cancers create conditions in the body that waste muscle tissue and as such it is exceedingly important that people enduring these illnesses need to maintain a regular source of nutrition. Further to the above there are many medicines that require food to ensure proper absorption. The failure to eat is detrimental to many others due to other medical conditions. As intelligent, concerned and aware prisoners we should be working together as individuals and groups with our respective committees and groups to ensure that people who are ill and require food do not go without food on August 10th. We need to work together and make sure that prisoners have access to pre-packaged high nutrition food bundles for those who need the assistance, and in this way prisoners will know that we recognize their situation and support them, and they will not have to experience the uncomfortable feeling of getting food from the prison administration on August 10th Memorial Days.

INTIMIDATION & RESPECT 

Notwithstanding legitimate health issues it is important to note that it would be, and it is a very sad commentary on everyone when anyone tries to force another person to observe a solemn day of mourning. Education and understanding will better serve everyone in the effort or desire to foster respect and observation of the day. Fear and intimidation practices expose a bully’s cowardice and pathetic (albeit unwitting) allegiance to the obscene power and control practices of the prison industrial complex.  Intimidation is counterproductive to honouring those people who have died and frankly it is disrespectful to the August 10th Memorial Anniversary and all that it stands for.

As we experience and share our heartfelt sorrow for those who have passed and we observe our common experience and the link we have to such incredible and enduring suffering, I hope it awakens or renews our personal commitment and responsibility to help those we can help today, and to try to improve the road for the people who will come behind us.

GETTING INVOLVED

We should collectively and individually strive to keep in mind that the August 10th Memorial is more than just about remembering. There are 364 other days in which struggles continue both in the prisons and in the community. In the community people are searching for solutions and calling out for changes in the justice system. Families and friends are out there banging on the other side of the walls to help put an end to the prison violence, the social inequity and racism and the neo-conservative (so called) “law & order, get tough on crime agenda” which drives longer prison terms, longer mandatory minimum sentences, all the while reducing parole and community based alternatives to prison. On the back of this article is a listing of contact numbers and addresses that you can use to get involved with ongoing efforts and help create a more cohesive and comprehensive union of concerned people. One person can change everything so if you want to help you will be a welcome addition to these combined efforts for social change.

We need to be aware of, and resistant to, the over-reliance on prison as a solution to social problems and the completely absurd premise that putting people in cages is going to ‘rehabilitate’ them and make society safer.

The imprisoned segments of society are not typically expected to be socially conscious by the larger (and free) segments of society. However, the adversity of prison can have a variety of effects upon the human psyche. In a best case scenario the prisoner becomes more thoughtful, compassionate and concerned with the wider state of affairs despite the personal degradations, dangers and violations they experience in prison. Prisoners accept that they are burdened with the legal sanction of imprisonment for their role in whatever crime they committed[13], but in Canada (at least) that does not include a death sentence, and for those who do lose their lives while serving their sentence it is socially desirable to allow the prisoner population to have one day out of 365 to pay their respects to the many people who have lost their lives while incarcerated.

 

WHERE IS THE AUGUST 10 MEMORIAL DAY OBSERVED?

During the course of the August 10th Memorial observation the anniversary has come to be observed in a wide variety of countries, such as Britain, Ireland, and Scotland, Australia and the USA and others. It is in the interests of societies everywhere to mark this solemn day and consider their role in the ongoing human tragedy of imprisonment.

In Canada, the Vancouver-based “Prisoner’s Justice Day Committee” hold August 10th Vigils in front of a bench dedicated to Claire Culhane which is located on the South East corner of Trout Lake Park in Vancouver. The Toronto-based “Prisoners Justice Action Committee[14]holds August 10th vigils and protests in front of Toronto’s decrepit Don Jail, built between 1862–1865. The Don Jail marks the location where Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas lost their lives on December 11th 1962 in the last officially sanctioned Canadian executions. The Don Jail was condemned and slated for closure for over 100 years but is still used to hold prisoners in overcrowded and extremely deplorable conditions. Is there an active community group organizing August 10th Vigils in your community? If so, get involved! If not, then this is an opportunity for you to create the place, create the agenda, put a call out, get involved – the power of a motivated individual is unstoppable and it is contagious!

There are many community-based groups who continue to carry the torch and strive to support and help prisoners, and to educate the public about what is really going on in prisons. There are also a number of community-based, academic and grass roots organizations who work toward prison abolition and helping prisoners, such as “Stark Raven Radio[15], “Joint Effort”, “Upping the Anti[16], the “International Conference on Penal Abolition[17]“PASAN[18]”,  “Critical Resistance[19]”, and “Rittenhouse.[20]  Turn to the back of this document and you will find a listing of some contact numbers that you or someone on your behalf can contact. Share the knowledge.

WHO IS REMEMBERED ON THE AUGUST 10 MEMORIAL DAY?

In Canadian prisons the prison populations are multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-belief. So it is always important to be attentive, inclusive and respectful to the wide variety of beliefs of our own population. The optimum platform, if at all possible, would provide an opportunity for every belief and thought to be shared, including music and their ceremonial diversities. Whatever happens it is self evident that no person, official or priest collecting pay from any prison branch of any government should be selected or permitted to conduct any August 10th service no matter how concerned, supportive, kind and thoughtful they are as individual people.

The August 10th Memorial observation has come to include those who died in or at the hands of state run prisons, residential schools, forced slavery, Nazi death camps, in transportation[21], internment camps, psychiatric hospitals, jails, reformatories or while being arrested, tazered, restrained or held in a US run secret torture prison or a secret CIA experimental hospital or any of the variety of different ways human beings lock other human beings up. Whether deemed an “Enemy Combatant” or a “Prisoner Of War” they are remembered. Regardless of gender assignment, sexuality, color, race, nationality, personal beliefs, crime, disability, language, religion, political beliefs, weight or age; if they died while in the forced custody of any state then they are who we remember and mourn on Prisoner’s Justice Day – the August 10th Memorial Day.

The August 10th Memorial Day recognizes prisoners who die in a community hospital bed after being moved from a prison just before death which is a state trick to sidestep the mandatory coroner’s inquest of a prisoner’s death. This official practice skews the accuracy of Canadian prison death rates and avoids damning testimony about abusive prison conditions, disease, negligence and medical mistreatment. It has become generally accepted that many people who leave the prison experience alive have been so terribly damaged by the experience that they never actually get back on their feet and they never get their lives back and while they die in the community as “free people”, their lives were destroyed due to exposure to the prison system, and they should be remembered as prison victims on the August 10th Memorial Day.

As prisoners each of us has to choose for ourselves what the August 10th Memorial Day means to us and how it should be observed. At different times in our lives it will touch us in different ways. As we experience the death of friends and family, or come to terms with our own responsibility for someone’s death, the meaning of life and death will reach us in significantly different ways. How family, friends and concerned community members honour and observe August 10th also has to be a personal choice. If people want to use the day as a political forum, or as a quiet day of personal or group reflection, or a day of fasting, let us be thankful for their respective support and let’s celebrate the diversity and the commitment and concern that everyone brings. We need to respect each other’s journey and we need to rise above the thoughtless and arrogant conduct of the CSC and other prison systems and refrain from judging and condemning each other. There is already far too much negative judgment and condemnation going around, and it is never useful to anything or anyone.

Justice is a beautiful word, full of hope and meaning, such as reconciliation, fairness, harmony and so on. Our modern society with its heavy focus on social control through reprisal has warped “justice” to be synonymous with punishment, retribution and pain. There will be, there can be no justice when prison is society’s first and indeed only response to social problems. Millions of people are in prisons today across the world. When wrongful convictions resonate throughout global justice systems and while secret trials are held there is no justice. When the color of your skin assigns you a higher chance of imprisonment and higher rates of execution there is no justice. When addicts are held in prison for the crime of being an addict there is no justice. When psychologists and psychiatrists foretell future criminal behaviour based on forced testing conducted under coercive prison conditions and then through the test results extend someone’s imprisonment; there is no justice. When Prisons are used as a social control tool upon the homeless, poverty stricken and mentally ill there is no justice. When prisoners are denied essential life saving harm reduction prophylactic devices[22] and medications there is no justice. When people are imprisoned for sex trade work there is no justice. When women are imprisoned for defending themselves there is no justice. There can be no justice while children are imprisoned.

AUGUST 10th

INTERNATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY

August 10th is now the International Memorial Day for people who died while in the forced custody of the state, whether they were transgender, men, women, or children. Whether they were labelled criminal or political and whether medical negligence, beating, abuse, disease, old age, shock treatment or experimentation killed them, we solemnly remember. Whether it was a heart attack, overdose, shooting, gassing, asphyxiation, stabbing or state execution that killed them, we remember. Whether starvation, electrocution, hanging, murder, or suicide stopped their hearts, we remember. Prisoners and their families, friends and loved ones observe their suffering and their passing.

There is no natural death in prison and there is no exclusion from the August 10th memorial if they died in custody.

Whether there were Christians shoved into the mouths of lions, or Jews shoved into ovens, or Muslims forced at gun point into Abu Ghraib or Guantanimo Bay or Buddhist monks imprisoned in Tibet; if they died today, yesterday, 200 years ago or 1000 years ago they are the lost souls with whom, as prisoners, family and friends of prisoners: we share a common bond in the human family. This day of silent, peaceful protest and remembrance is a personal occasion for prisoners, families, friends and concerned community members to mark the love, the humanity and the value of those who were held in chains and lost behind the fences, bars and walls.

Fires and candles have been lit since time immemorial to remember people who have died; in these troubled times we consider the human struggle and find a place in our hearts to mark their passing.

 

 

“We can’t change prisons without changing society; we know that this is a long and dangerous struggle. But the more who are involved in it, the less dangerous, and the more possible it will be.”

(Claire Culhane’s Letterhead;

PRISONERS’ RIGHTS GROUP)

Till the walls fall, the bars bend, the chains rust and the locks break, we will remember.

Just a tattered yellow ribbon

 

 

CANADIAN PRISONER RESOURCES

Stark Raven

C/O Vancouver Co-operative Radio

110 – 360 Columbia St.

Vancouve,r BC Coast Salish Territory

V6A 4J1

Starkraven@prisonjustice.ca

604 682-3269 ext 3019

Joint Effort

Email: jointeffort@prisonjustice.ca

Ph. 604 682-3269ext 3019

PO Box 78005, 1755 East Broadway

Vancouver, BC, V5N 5W1

Email: jointeffort@prisonjustice.ca

http://www.prisonjustice.ca/orginizations/jointeffort.html

Upping The Anti…

A journal of theory & action…

A project of the autonomy & solidarity network

http://AUTO_SOL.TAO.CA

998 Bloor St.W PO Box 10571

Toronto Ontario, Canada M6H 4H9

BCPWA- Prison

Outreach Program

1107 Seymour Street

Vancouver, BC, V6B 5S8

Ph. 604 893-2283, 1-800-994-2437

Collect calls accepted from prisoners

www.bcpwa.org/empower

Email: pop@bcpwa.org

BIFA – Black Inmates& Friends Assembly

2518 Eglington Avenue W

Toronto, Ontario, M6M 1T1

Ph. 416 652-3131

Bifa@colloseum.com

Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

701 – 151 Slater St., Ottawa, ON K1P 5H3

Ph. 613 238-2422, Fax: 613 232-7130

www.elizabethfry.ca

Service and advocacy group for women in prison

Direct Action Against Refugee Exploitation

309 – 977 East Hastings St., Vancouver, B.C V6A 3Y1

Infinity Lifer’s Liaison Group

Dept. of Criminology, Faculty of social Sciences

The University of Ottawa

PO Box 450 Station A

Ottawa, Ontario, Fax: 613 722-4527

Infinitylifersliasonn@hotmail.com

www.jpp.ofg

Journal of Prisoners on Prisons

www.cspi.org/books/p/prisoners.htm

John Howard Society Canada

809 Blackburn Mews, Kingston, ON

Canada, K7P 2N6

Ph. 613 384-6272, Fax: 613 384-1847

Email: national@johnhoward.ca

Justice behind walls

www.justicebehindwalls.net

Dedicated to protecting human rights in Canadian Prisons

Justice for Girls

606-825 Granville St.

Vancouver, BC, V6Z 1K9

Ph. 604 689-7887, Fax: 604 689-5600

www.justiceforgirls.org

Email: info@justiceforgirls.org

Open Door Books (books to prisoner group)

C/O QPIRG Concordia

1420 Sherbrooke West, Suite. 404

Montreal, Quebec, H3G 1K5

Ph. 514 848-7585, Fax: 514 848-7584

Concordia.pirg.ca/opendoor

Email: bookstoprisoners@ecite.com

PASAN

Prisoners with HIV/Aids Support Action Network

314 Jarvis St. Suite 100, Toronto,ON, M5B2C5

Ph. 416 920-9567, Fax: 416 920-4314

Toll Free: 1-866-224-9978

www.pasan.org

Email: info@pasan.org

Prisoner’s Legal  Services(BC)

205-32450 Simon Ave

Abbortsford, BC, V2T 4J2

PH. 604 853-3114, Toll Free: 1-866-577-5245

Quaker Committee on Jails and Justice

Box 61162, Kensington RPO

Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4S6

Ph. 403 244-6779, fax: 403 920-5214

Cfcs.quaker.ca/pages/jails.html

Email:qcjj@quaker.ca

Sisters In Action and Solidarity (SAS)

PO box 78005, 1755 East Broadway

Vancouver,BC, V5N 5W1

Email: sasvancouver@gmail.com

Women’s ex-prisoner peer advocacy group. Working towards the objectives of the Human Rights In Action (HRIA) project

Strength in Sisterhood – SIS

273 55th St, Delta, BC V4M 3J4

Advocacy Group for women in prison

Toronto Rape Crisis Center Prison Project

P.O Box 6597, Station A

Toronto, ON M5W 1X4

Phone: 416-597-1171

Email: trcc@web.net

West Coast Prison Justice Society

204-32450 Simon Avenue

Abbotsford, BC V2T 4J2

T: 604-853-3114, F: 604-853-1038

Womyn for Justice

Women in Prison Support Group

Kingston, ON

Womyn4justice@yahoo.ca

Prisoners’ Justice Day Committee

Email:pjd@prisonjustice.ca

Phone: 604-682-3269 ext. #3019

P.O. Box 78005, 1755 East Broadway

Vancouver, BC, V5N 5W1

Books 2 Prisoners

P.O. Box 78005, 1755 East Broadway

Vancouver, BC, V5N 5W1

books@prisonjustice.ca

Phone: 604-682-3269 ext. #3019

Books to Prisoners

OPIRG – Carleton University

326 UniCenter, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6

P:613-520-2757

books2prisoners@hotmail.com

www.opirg-carleton.org/sub-groups/b2p

Open Door Books (ODB)

Co/QPIRG Concordia

Concordia University

1455 de Maisonneauve O

Montreal, Quebec, H3G 1M8

P:514-848-7585, F:514-848-7584

Bookstoprisoners@gmail.com

www.qpirgconconrdia.org/Sections-articles5-pl.phtml

Books Beyond Bars

P.O. Box 33129, Halifax NS, B3L 4T6

P: 902-446-1788

booksbeyondbars@gmail.com

www.anchor.revolt.org/booksbb.html

www.justicebehindwalls.net

Justice Behind the Walls: dedicated to protecting human rights in Canadian prisons.

www.aidslaw.ca

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network – Focus on HIV/AIDS with a specific focus on prisons, harm reduction, sex workers and the law.

 

www.prissonlegalnews.org

Prison Legal News: produce monthly publication on court rulings and news related to prisoners rights and prison issues.

 

www.pjac.org

Prisoners Justice Action Committee – Toronto

Focus on public education and giving voice to prisoners

 

www.capp.50megs.com

Citizens Against Private Prisons based in Ontario (archived site)

www.montrealabcf.org

Anarchist Black cross – Political Prisoner Support based in Montreal

 

www.qpirgconcordia.org

Open Door Books Collective – Montreal: Provide free literature and information to people being held by the state across North America

 

www.orpirg-carleton.org/sub-groups/b2p/

OPIRG – Carleton University (Ottawwa ON) Books to Prisoners Project

 

http://robertsstreet.org/old/booksbb.html

Books Beyond Bars, Halifax

www.justiceforrgirls.org

Justice for Girls: Support, justice, and equality for teenage girls whoo have experience violence and live in poverty

http://cfsc.quaker.ca/pages/jails.html

Quaker Committee on Jails and Justice

 

http://sumoud.tao.ca/

Political Prisoner Solidarity Group

 

http://www.homesnotbombs.ca/secrettrials.htm

Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada (National Security Certificates)

 

www.adilinfo.org

Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui (The fight against National Security Certificates)

 

www.stopracialprofiling.ca

A Campaign to Stop Racial Profiling in Canada

 

www.canadianprisonlaw.com

Canadian Prison law

www.oci-bcc.gc.ca

The Office of the Correctional Investigator:  Ombudsman for federal prisoners. They investigate prisoner complaints.

 

www.npb-cnlc.gc.ca

National Parole Board of Canada: Canadian Government website

 

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario

80 College Street, Toronto, ON, M5G 2E2

You can file medical complaints about prison doctors here.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRISONER RESOURCES

www.prisonactivist.org

Prison Activist Resource Center (PARC): the source  for progressive and radical information on prisons and the criminal prosecution system.  Runs a prison news list service.

 

www.prisons.org

California Prison Focus: working to stop human rights violations, improve medical care and end long-term isolation in California’s prisons.

 

www.criticalresistance.org

Critical Resistance: Focusing on the Prison Industrial Complex

 

www.womenandprison.org

Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance. Includes Art, Writing, Poetry, Politics

 

www.ellabakercenter.org/bnb.html

Books Not Bars: Fighting to redirect California’s public resources away from punishment for young people and towards opportunity.

www.sentencingproject.org

The Sentencing Project. Promotes reduced reliance on incarceration and increased use of more effective and humane alternatives to deal with crime.

www.westernprisonproject.org

Western Prison Project

 

www.prisonsucks.com

Research on the Prison Industrial Complex

 

www.uniondelbarrio.org/cmpp

Chicano Mexicano Prison Project

 

www.prisonbookprogram.org

Prison Book Program (MA)

 

www.booksthroughbars.org

Books Through Bars (Philadelphia)

 

www.booksthroughbars.org/pbp/

Books to Prisoners: Full Listing of programs in the US

 

www.famm.org

Families Against Mandatory Minimums

 

www.ncadp.org

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

 

www.noprisons.org

The Coalition for the Abolition of Prisons

 

www.justicepolicy.org

Justice Policy Institute: promoting effective solutions to social problems and dedicated to ending society’s reliance on incarceration.

 

www.4strugglemag.org

Views, Thoughts, and Analysis from the Hearts and Minds of North American Political Prisoners and Friends.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL PRISONER RESOURCES

www.hrw.org/prisoners

Human Rights Watch – Prisons

 

www.justiceaction.org.au

Justice Action – Australia

Hosts the site for the International Conference on Penal Abolition.

 

www.sistersinside.com.au

Sisters Inside: Working with women in Queensland, Australia

 

www.ket.ac.uk/schools/alw/research/icps

International Center for Prison Studies: Global Research on Prisons from Kings College, London, England

 

www.hrw.org/advocacy/prisons/un-smrs.html

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CANADIAN PRISONS ARE HOME TO:

Over-Incarceration of Indigenous People and People from Racialized Communities * Harsh Sentences for Non-Violent Crimes * Classism * Lack of Harm Reduction Policies and Programs * Personality Assassination * Coercive Behavioural Modification * Oppression * Racism * Fear * Double/Triple Bunking * High Rates of Infectious Diseases * Over-Incarceration of People with Mental Health Issues * Higher Security Classification of Indigenous Women * Inadequate Educational Opportunities * Transphobia * Substandard Health Care * Homophobia * Stigma and Discrimination * Persecution of Visiting Families and Friends * Human Rights Violations * Non-Conformity to United Nations Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners * Inadequate Opportunities for Personal Growth * Segregation and Isolation * Inadequate Release Support * Arbitrary Punishment * Abuse of Power * Hopelessness *

Till the walls fall, the bars bend, the chains rust and the locks break, we will remember.


[1]  1972 MacGuigan Report To Parliament, The Sub Committee on the Penitentiary System in Canada – Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs

[2]Correctional Investigator’s Office and the Complaint & Grievance System – both of which, as all prisoners now know, are completely useless in so far as actually having problems in prison resolved; simply official window dressing.

[3]  The Hole in Millhaven did not (and still does not) have cell windows which is contrary to the United Nations Minimum Standards of Treatment of prisoners, and at that time the cells consisted of a cement block with embedded chaining points in which prisoners were chained to the ground.

[4]  As part of the Penitentiary Policy prison officials could punish prisoners with a restricted diet.

[5]  In Millhaven, when all of the prisoners are banging on their cell doors and screaming you can hear the noise like a train – it is impossible to misunderstand the frenzied nature of helpless people screaming for help.

[6]  Security Walk – Is a walk around the prison ranges and which includes a visual inspection of each prisoner in order to ensure that they are actually in the cell and that they are alive and healthy.

[7]  “Prisoners on Prison Abolition” Editors note, Copyright 1988, The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons. Online formatted version (2006)

[8]  Prison Rights Group was formed by Claire Culhane and several other social activists

[9]  Claire Culhane wrote “Barred From Prison; A Personal Account” and “Still Barred From Prison: Social Injustice in Canada” and “No Longer Barred from Prison: Social Injustice In Canada”

[10]  This happens quite often as a result of families not having enough money to cover the shipping costs and or the burial costs , evidencing the CSC remorseless and cold approach

[11]  Many Social Justice Aboriginal groups consider the CSC “Native Liaison” position to be an illegitimate partner to the Aboriginal community. In theory the Liaison position was put in place to address the systemic racism and unfair treatment Aboriginal s receive in the Canadian justice system – but it has been the communities experience that the liaisons have been co-opted into the CSC and they function as a hindrance to Aboriginals and their families and community contacts.

[12]  Those “security reasons” should be restricted to situations in which the image or text can be reasonable expected to have a negatively provocative outcome in a prison population. (i.e.; racist, sexist, homophobic, transgenderphobic, promotes violence, promotes hate or hate crimes etc.)

[13]  Of course this does not apply to those many prisoners who were forced to confess to crimes they did not commit or were wrongly convicted despite pleas of innocence. A significant number, as I understand it.

[14]  Prisoners Justice Action Committee – a community collective of activists working to educate the public about prison and conduct August 10th PJD events while working to include prisoners in the direction of their efforts.

[15]  Stark Raven Radio” – produces a community based radio program 3 times a month featuring in-depth interviews, news and news and analysis on issues related to prisons and criminalization. starkraven@prisonjustice.ca

[16]  Upping the Ante – is a collective that works towards challenging the status quo on social justice issues –  http://auto-sol.tao.ca – Refer to back page

[17]  International Conference on Penal Abolition  – last web site was:  www.icopa12london.rog.uk  Refer to back page

[18]  PASAN is a groupdedicated to advocating for harm reduction iand proper treatment of those with HIV/AIDS in Canadian prisons.

[19]  Critical Resistance is an organix\zation dedicated to creating meaningful dialouge and change to the status quo.

[20]  Rittenhouse Refer to back page

[21]  In transportation: is type of imprisonment through banishment that resulted in the relocation by ship from a variety of country states, to secluded areas of the world such as Australia, Tasmania, etc

[22]  Clean Needle Exchange and Clean Tattooing capabilities and Condoms, Dental Dams, etc.

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