Wednesday, August 10, 2016

On Prisoners’ Justice Day current and former prisoners, their families and loved ones, and supporters renew calls for an end to solitary confinement and other prison policies and practices that contribute to deaths in custody

Prisoners’Justice Day (PJD) emerged as a prisoner-initiated day of non-violent strike action to commemorate the death of Eddie Nalon in the segregation unit of Millhaven maximum-security penitentiary on August 10th 1974.  It was first observed in 1975, and in 1976 the prisoners of Millhaven issued a communication calling for one-day hunger strikes in opposition to the use of solitary confinement and in support of prisoners’ rights, in memory of Eddie Nalon and Robert Landers, who also died alone in solitary confinement.  Since then, PJD has become an internationally-recognized day of solidarityand action, both inside and outside prison walls, to commemorate deaths in custody and to demand justice for the human rights atrocities that states and their officials authorize and engage in.

Today, on August 10th 2016, we will observe PJD for the 40th time outside prison walls as preventable deaths in custody, like that of Ashley Smith who died alone in a segregation cell at Grand Valley Institution in 2007, still occur.  To make matters worse, as noted in a recent report bythe Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada and media stories the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) fails to treat the families and loved ones of prisoners with the dignity and respect they deserve, leaving them in the dark about the circumstances of their partners, siblings, children and beloved friends behind bars. “Despite occasional public outcries, countless recommendations concerning solitary confinement and mental health, and government promises for other much needed reforms to save and improve lives, little has changed, notes Farhat Rehman of Mothers Offering Mutual Support based in Ottawa. While many Canadians were in tears at the images of Ashley’s treatment in prison, at least 321 prisoners died in federal penitentiaries from 2008 to 2014, according to CorrectionalService of Canada and Public Safety Canada figures compiled by the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project. The recent deaths of Edward Snowshoe and Kinew James behind bars are a solemn and tragic reminder that Canada’s prisons disproportionatelytarget, warehouse and harm Indigenous people, part of the colonial legacy highlighted by the Truth andReconciliation Commission.  “As they did on August 10th 1974 when Eddie Nalon died, prisons still kill and maim, still traumatize captives and captors alike during their time behind bars, and still greatly diminish the common humanity we all share”, observes university student and former Indigenous prisoner Dan Parlow.

It is not enough to shed tears and ask for change – we must demand it. A PJD march is taking place today August 10th 2016 from 3:00pm to 6:00pm on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin Territory / in Ottawa. It begins at 251 Bank Street with stops and speeches at CSC national headquarters (340 Laurier Avenue West) and on Parliament Hill by current and former prisoners, their families and loved ones, and supporters.  Together, deaths in custody and other state injustices that are intertwined with Canada’s colonial past and present that continues to wreak havoc on the lives of Indigenous and racialized peoples will be denounced.  Those gathered will also demand real change, since it is 2016 after all as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently reminded Canadians.

Concerned members of the community are encouraged to participate in this non-violent action.  Journalists are also welcome to attend.              

End the mass incarceration of Indigenous and racialized peoples
End the use of solitary confinement
End the use of force in prison
End pre-trial, immigration and foreign worker detention
Stop criminalizing political dissidents, sex workers, LGBTQ2, and those with mental health and substance (mis)-use issues

To arrange for media interviews with former prisoners, relatives of current prisoners and their supporters contact:

Justin Piché
Criminalization and Punishment Education Project
613-793-1093 or