FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Calls renewed for an end to solitary confinement and other prison policies
and practices that contribute to deaths in custody
August 9, 2015 (Algonquin Territory / Ottawa) – 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 solidarity and 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.
Tomorrow, we will observe PJD for the 40th time because preventable deaths in custody, like that of Ashley Smith who died in a segregation cell at Grand Valley Institution in 2007, still occur. Despite occasional public outcries and government promises for much needed reforms to save lives, little has changed. 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 Correctional Service of Canada and Public Safety Canada figures compiled by the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project. Between 2008-09 and 2010-11, 80 deaths were reported in provincial jails and prisons, where people continue to die. The recent deaths of Edward Snowshoe and Kinew James behind bars are a solemn and tragic reminder that Canada’s prisons disproportionately target, warehouse and harm indigenous people, part of the colonial legacy highlighted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As they did four decades ago, 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.
It is not enough to shed tears and ask for change – we must demand it. A PJD march is taking place tomorrow at 4:00pm on Algonquin Territory / in Ottawa. It begins at the Jack Purcell Community Centre (320 Jack Purcell Lane). Following a land acknowledgement and brief introduction to PJD, demonstrators will proceed to the constituency office of Ontario Minister of Corrections and Community Safety Yasir Naqvi (109 Catherine Street). There, former prisoners from the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) and groups like the End Immigration Detention Network, which have been advocating for detainees held indefinitely in a maximum-security wing of the Lindsay jail, will talk about conditions and make demands concerning provincial prisons operated by the Government of Ontario. Marchers will then walk to Correctional Service of Canada national headquarters (340 Laurier Avenue West). Ex-prisoners and family members with loved ones behind bars will discuss living and dying in federal penitentiaries, and demand real change to uphold human rights and prevent deaths in facilities run by the Government of Canada going forward. The action concludes at the Human Rights Monument (at the corner of Elgin Street and Lisgar Street) where 40 seconds of silence will be observed to mark the past 40 years of inaction during which hundreds lost their lives while under the ‘care’ of Canada’s ‘correctional’ authorities.
Concerned members of the community are encouraged to participate in this non-violent action. Journalists are also welcome to attend.
OUR DEMANDS FOR #pjd2015
End the mass incarceration of indigenous peoples and minorities
End the use of solitary confinement
End prison crowding
End pre-trial, immigration and foreign worker detention
End the criminalization of political dissidents, sex workers, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org