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“I have a family member in the Burnside prison. I’ve watched the peaceful protest out of Burnside unfold with a touch of hope and optimism. But the statement given by Justice minister Mark Furey makes me angry, frustrated and tired.

Our provincial government has shown that it does not want to be held accountable: not to prisoners and not to the public. Our government has shown its willingness to selectively provide basic services, and Nova Scotians who deny the legitimacy and sincerity in our incarcerated community’s demands and peaceful protest are denying fundamental access to rights and resources that should be accessible to all.

The government’s response to this peaceful protest is one of contempt. Despite clearly laid out concerns and demands on the part of the protesters, Justice minister Mark Furey denied them access to fair debate. Nowhere does the minister mention access to healthcare. Nowhere does the minister mention the community’s demand for contact visits, their demand for basic healthy food or the simple fact that inmates still are not receiving the yard time they are entitled to under the Corrections Act.

As El Jones pointed out, in his statement Mark Furey is not addressing prisoners. He is addressing the public. No one should have their basic human rights debated and held at the mercy of those who might never share their situation. By prioritizing public opinion over alarming and abusive conditions at Nova Scotia’s largest prison, Mark Furey shows us his fundamental disregard for the human rights of those incarcerated.

The simplest thing Justice minister Mark Furey can do is to change his language. Furey refers to the incarcerated community as “…offenders who come from vulnerable environments…” Why do our family members have to be continuously referenced in the context of their crime but not in the context of their humanity?

The peaceful protest that the incarcerated community in Burnside launched was one framed on a quest for basic human rights. Mark Furey consistently avoids the use of words and phrases like ‘people,’ ‘community’ and ‘human beings’ strategically. What better way to deflect the humanitarian concerns of incarcerated communities than referring to them as offenders, a word that evokes images of crime and disrespect? I will no longer stay complicit in the disrespect and willful dismissal of calls for access to basic services.

Our Provincial Government is accountable to Nova Scotians to provide every resident with a dignified existence. Mark Furey needs to approach our incarcerated community with respect and empathy. Nova Scotians will be waiting.”

– Manuel Moncayo-Adams, “Nova Scotia has responded to prison protest with nothing but contempt.The Coast, September 8, 2018.

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On Thursday, 17 days into the protest at Burnside, Minister of Justice Mark Furey released an op-ed piece publicly addressing the issues raised by the prisoners for the first time. Unfortunately, prisoners cannot access his comments, and there seem to be no plans to circulate his piece in the facility so they can read and respond to his arguments.

Minister Furey: Over the last few weeks, attention has been focused on Nova Scotia’s largest correctional facility, the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside.

How we treat Nova Scotians who are incarcerated in our jails deserves discussion and debate. It is also important that the work being done and investments being made to enhance and improve our correctional facilities is highlighted to inform that discussion.

In 2018 this has included:
• introduction of direct supervision — already having a positive impact within the facility.

Striking Prisoner: No. It’s not at all. Even the staff will agree with me on that one.

Furey: Direct supervision allows for early intervention as our staff are there to assess and respond to incidents before they escalate. It provides a safer environment for both our staff and inmates

Prisoner: No. Well, it may provide a safe environment, I guess. I mean, I couldn’t say it’s a dangerous environment, but what I would say is: the staff don’t agree with it, they don’t want to be here, there are safety issues. They said that themselves.

The work refusal will show that the staff don’t agree that this is a better environment, that this a “highlight.” Their work refusal is based on danger, safety and security issues, and not being able to hear their radios. They refused to work the dayroom because of those three things.

Furey:
• first inmate services fair, which gave more than 20 community agencies and government departments an opportunity to connect with inmates on a wide range of rehabilitation and community supports.

Prisoner: First services fair? But I thought when our demands came out they said they had all these programs. So now they only had one job fair, for the first time this year? So which is it?

Furey:
• installation of body scanners which will significantly reduce incidents of contraband entering each of our four adult facilities

Prisoner: When rehabilitation should be the main focus of a correctional facility, they’re focused on security. Contraband is more important than families reuniting with their kids.

Furey:
• improved training and the recruiting of more Indigenous and African Nova Scotians correctional officers to be more reflective of our communities

Prisoner: Fuck off. Like holy fuck man. [Laughter]

Like what, just because one guy came back from leave the other day? Who else? There’s an African guy here, so that’s it. They hired one black guy. And they got one captain just because of a guard complaining about racism in the paper? Man, these guys are frigging crazy.

Furey: We know that if we do not help address the root causes of criminal behaviour such as substance abuse, lack of education, mental health and anger, the cycle of violence and conflict with the law will continue. Our correctional staff work hard every day to ensure we keep our inmates safe and support them to make positive changes in their lives. They have a tough job and play a critical role in our operations.

Prisoner: Uh, the staff feel as if they’re inmates too because they don’t know anything half the time. Whenever we have questions they’re like, “I don’t know, this place is fucked.” They literally feel like inmates. That’s what they say.

Furey: Many offenders come from vulnerable environments and we need to be responsive to their lived experiences. Many are on remand waiting trial and have not been convicted of a crime. And some pose the highest risk, have the highest needs and are among the most dangerous in the province.

Prisoner: Well then, why don’t you have any frigging rehabilitation programs? Why don’t you have Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous or something for people to do all day rather than being locked in a cell for the last seven days on 23-hour lockdown?

Furey: Many offenders come from vulnerable environments and we need to be responsive to their lived experiences. Many are on remand waiting trial and have not been convicted of a crime.

Prisoner: And are being treated as if they’re super max inmates. That’s what that sentence should say.

Furey: And some pose the highest risk, have the highest needs and are among the most dangerous in the province.

Prisoner: So we don’t give them any programs before we release them. Great.

Furey: I think everyone can appreciate that our correctional facilities can be challenging places to live and work.

Prisoner: Why is this [Burnside] the only facility with all the issues? Why is it the only facility with the low quality of food? Why it is the only facility with no programs whatsoever? If we have the largest population of all the counties in the province, why don’t we have the most programs? Why don’t we have the best food? Why don’t we have more extracurricular things to do?

Furey: Every inmate deserves respect and their human rights protected. And we are doing that. They are in custody because they have been charged criminally and the community does not accept the behaviour.

Prisoner: Oh, wow. But I thought you just said I was innocent until proven guilty.

Furey: Looking forward, we remain focused on inmate programming and training. Program Officer positions have been created and recruited to ensure the continuous facilitation of inmate programming. This fall, these officers will deliver evidence-based programs in areas of addictions, emotional management and trauma consistent with case management practices.

Prisoner: I would like to ask him: like, do you want a cookie? Do you want a frigging smiley face sticker? This place has been open for 18 years and now you’re finally getting programs?

What happened to all the programs they supposedly had when the statement came out?

Furey: Additionally, we are developing incentive-based programs for inmates

Prisoner: So basically you gotta tell on someone to get something. That you should probably have anyway.

Furey: as well as having conversations regarding the formation of an inmate committee at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.

Prisoner: Which has been going on since 2013. I’m a witness to that. Every time the conversation comes up and they say, “oh, who wants to be head of the inmate committee on this range?” Somebody says, “I do!” and they’re shipped out the same fucking day.

Furey: We continue to work closely with the NSGEU to support our staff and we have excellent relationships with community partners, like Elizabeth Fry, to support people in our custody and for those who are returning to the community. We want to help inmates get back on track so that they transition from custody safely back into the community.

Prisoner: What do you do to help inmates? Like please — that’s just, period. What do you do to help inmates?

Furey: With respect to correctional services in the province, my job as minister is clear: keep inmates safe and healthy and provide them with the tools to be successful when they return to our communities, many times under the supervision of our community offices; keep our correctional officers and other jail staff safe and well equipped to do their jobs, and above all, keep the public safe.

Prisoner: Well, now that he said he gives me the tools to reintegrate — I’ve seen the tool belt, but there doesn’t seem to be any tools in there. Where are the tools?

Minister Furey was also questioned by members of the media. The transcript of his comments to the media is from Michael Tutton with the Canadian Press.

I asked the striking prisoner to respond to these comments.

Question: Are you planning any specific actions in response to the 10 demands?

Furey: We’ve had ongoing dialogue within our Correctional facilities, our labour leaders and the NSGEU who represent workers. We have a strong relationship in that environment that continue to review most and all of those concerns that come forward. I’m quite confident that the most recent circumstances that have been brought to our attention continue to have been addressed within that environment.

Prisoner: I would say that without knowing what the so-called inmates, the people incarcerated here need, without addressing us to see what is needed, how can you know?

Question: Are you asking for a higher budget to address some of these requests?

Furey: Collectively within the D of J looking around the department around budget pressures. We are coming into the fall session. We will commence budget discussions at treasury board and I’ll have the opportunity at that time to advance issues within the department of justice.

We haven’t had those discussions yet. We’ll engage in those discussions over the next couple of weeks leading into the budget process.

Prisoner: They spent $7 million renovating the place, and we can’t get a towel.

Question: What will come of the protest?

Furey: It’s important we have these discussions and ensure the rights of those incarcerated in our facility is respected.

I think it’s generated some very good discussion and my experience with my colleague in Corrections is we’ve seen some good outcomes from the discussions, so I’m anticipating the opportunities present themselves to make change where change is necessary and where change doesn’t impact the level of security and public safety that’s required in those environments.

Absolutely. Very objective approach to what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing.

Prisoner: I would say, these past weeks where all this discussion and all this stuff has been getting some public attention, this is just now breaking the surface. All these same things that are being asked for now have been asked for since this place has been open. I’m confident in vouching for that. This place has been open for 18 years!

Furey: One of the things we’ve just undertaken is a significant renovation to introduce and implement the direct supervision model. Part of that is an enhanced air exchange system. We had a very abnormal summer of extreme heat. We were all impacted by that. The renovations with the direct supervision will address the air circulation issues that have been brought to our attention.

Prisoner: Yeah they have. Well, I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t see a new air conditioner thing like they’ve got in Pictou, but it’s just a bigger area so it’s more air circulation. Which is good.

– El Jones, “A prisoner in the Burnside jail responds to Justice Minister Mark Furey.” Halifax Examiner, September 8, 2018.

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“On August 21, the prisoners at the Central Nova provincial jail in Burnside launched a peaceful protest, in solidarity with a nationwide prisoner strike in the United States, to call for basic improvements in health care, rehabilitation, exercise, visits, clothing, food, air quality and library access. The protest is ongoing.

East Coast Prison Justice Society stands in support of the Burnside prisoners’ efforts to alert the public to their urgent concerns. These concerns speak to ongoing gaps between provincial correctional practices and the fundamental human rights accorded to prisoners under both domestic and international law.

Among the concerns identified by the prisoners is lack of access to health care, including for serious mental or physical illness. This is an ongoing crisis at the Burnside jail compromising the lives and safety of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. Lack of programming responsive to addictions and other problems directly relevant to criminalization and community re-integration is another urgent issue that the prisoners have legitimately brought forward.

A disproportionate proportion of provincial and federal prisoners are Indigenous or Black. Most are poor. Many struggle with addictions and mental health problems. A full 57 percent of those held in provincial correctional facilities in Nova Scotia are awaiting trial and therefore are presumed innocent. Some are held for months or even years prior to trial. All of these prisoners experience serious threats to their health and safety in our provincial facilities.

The provincial auditor general has been highly critical of Nova Scotia corrections for its failure to comply with Department of Justice policy, including policies on the authorization and review of solitary confinement. The auditor general has recommended adoption of quality assessment processes to identify systemic problems before major incidents occur. That recommendation is consistent with the federal government’s stated intention to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture, which requires domestic processes for inspecting places of confinement. This is one of many measures required in order to address the problems that the Burnside prisoners have raised.

The prisoners at Burnside have shown a willingness to find common ground with staff, who similarly want better conditions including improved access to health and programming for prisoners. Through this peaceful protest, the Burnside prisoners have invited the province to show that it is listening.

We ask the ministers of Justice and Health: How do they propose to show that they are listening? How do they propose to demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that conditions of confinement are improved to meet basic human rights standards?

East Coast Prison Justice Society encourages government to publicly commit to a set of concrete measures through which it will respond to the concerns of the prisoners at Burnside and throughout the province.”

– East Coast Prison Justice Society, “As prisoners protest, is the province listening?The Coast, September 5, 2018.

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This column was written by an inmate at Burnside jail, as told to prisoner advocate El Jones. The writer’s name has been withheld to ensure his personal safety, and to protect the identity of his children.

A comment I heard on CBC Radio recently, made by someone who had been sentenced time and time again to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, resonated deeply with me:

“This facility gets worse and worse every time I come back.”

Another brother stated, “When you’re housed in this facility to be rehabilitated but instead you’re warehoused like merchandise, your government has failed you.”

The truth in these comments is real to me, even though it’s my first time being incarcerated. I personally feel that the public should be very much concerned with what has taken place inside the Burnside jail, because it is they, as taxpayers, who keep these doors open.

“Rehabilitation” and “transparency” are two words that should never be used in describing this facility. The bare necessities required for a healthy and productive life aren’t being provided here. Every time you can’t get a towel, a change of clothes, or a pair of shoes your size — “your government has failed you,” as my friend said.

Conditions at Burnside

Last Sunday, as we listened to callers to CBC tell us that we don’t deserve breathable air because if you “do the crime, you do the time,” three new people came onto our range without clothes, shoes or a towel to even take a shower. People have been assigned to this range without a change of underwear, or a mattress and without even a radio to pass the time.

It’s hard to even get a Tylenol, never mind medical treatment. I’ve seen people with diabetes and asthma not get the medication they need. If you don’t believe us about the conditions in here, you should believe the auditor general’s reports, or even what staff who work here have been saying.

There hasn’t been any programing for months, and we’ve been locked down for 23 hours per day. We are guaranteed time outside in accordance with the Corrections Act, but it only seems to matter to people that you get punished for breaking the rules when it’s our rights that are being violated.

We must also keep in mind that the majority (around two-thirds) at Burnside are here on remand. They, in the eyes of the law, are innocent until proven guilty. And those who are here who have been sentenced, well, they then have been sent to Burnside as punishment, not for punishment.

Our children are certainly innocent, and yet they can go years without even touching us, because they have to visit us behind glass. Most people don’t let their children go through that.

We are still human beings.

This is why we at Burnside are engaged in a peaceful protest. Through it, we hope to spread awareness of our plight, and raise the voices of the voiceless through solidarity with the communities we’ve come from, as well as activists who hear our call for dignity and constitutionally appropriate treatment.

We are making sure that nobody is confrontational with the guards because we want this to remain peaceful. Since August 19, when we released our statement, no one on the range has received a single disciplinary infraction. We are keeping ourselves calm and ordered because we want our non-violent message to be carried by those outside in solidarity with us.

Getting eyes on Burnside

The old ways of conversation, complaints, petitions and negotiations no longer work, and we want to avoid the violence of past protests. In those cases, people might refuse lock up, or damage property, but our protest is principled.

Through our outside support network, we decided to take a different approach, which has gained national and global attention. Right now, across the country, a lot of eyes are on Burnside — perhaps more than ever before — and so before the next “hot” news hits the papers, and the attention shifts to the next “hot” story, we hope to gain some traction in addressing some of the serious issues of our current situation.

We strikers want to send a big token of appreciation to all those who are in solidarity with us. Those who have spoken on our behalf, and shared our story. And for those still on the fence, it’s important to remember the words of Nelson Mandela: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

– “I’m a Burnside jail inmate, and also a human being. Here’s why you should care about our protest,” CBC News. September 4, 2018.

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“PHILADELPHIA – On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) continued its near-total lockdown of state prisons, confining most people in the department’s facilities to their cells 24 hours per day and prohibiting mail and visitation. According to the DOC, some facilities had some restrictions lifted over the weekend, and more facilities will lift restrictions throughout this week.

As the lockdown entered its seventh day, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania responded to the ongoing situation. The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:

“The continuing lockdown at the Department of Corrections is gravely serious. We share the department’s concern about the health of the staff. The health of the people who are incarcerated is also of utmost priority.

“Unfortunately, the DOC has failed to provide meaningful transparency in this situation, leaving loved ones of people who are incarcerated uninformed and anxious about what is happening. And the public statements on the DOC’s own website talk only about the health of staff, with no mention of how many prisoners have become ill. If staff have been ill, it’s reasonable to conclude that prisoners have been sick, too, although the lack of information makes that impossible to confirm. Either way, the department has left prisoners’ families and the public in the dark on the health of the people who are incarcerated.

“The DOC should immediately provide public information about how many prisoners, if any, have become ill and how families can check on the status of their loved ones.

“The department must also reinstate mail and visitation privileges as soon as possible, as mail and visitation are constitutionally protected rights for people who are incarcerated.

“In a radio interview today, Secretary Wetzel stated that facilities will be back to normal operations by next week if there are no more illnesses. If there are more illnesses, he simply stated that the department will ‘revisit’ the situation. That response is inadequate. We do not accept the notion that the DOC can hold prisoners in their cells 24 hours per day, stop mail, and end visitations and phone calls in every state facility every time a staff person becomes ill. The health of the DOC staff is certainly critical, as is the health and well-being of prisoners. A statewide lockdown is a heavy-handed response that is detrimental to the long-term health of people who are incarcerated.”

– 

ACLU-PA Statement on Continuing Lockdown of Pennsylvania Prisons, September 4, 2018.

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fuckyeahiww:

In honor of this week’s prison strike. Go to incarceratedworkers.org to find out how to help.

Printed in the Industrial Worker, April 21st, 1923.

Taken from https://www.instagram.com/iwwarchive/

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Strike Statement to the Press; August 22, 2018

Statement regarding the ongoing Nationwide Prison Strike, 
issued August 22, 2018, Day 2 of the strike.

Issued by the Prison Strike Media Team

Amani Sawari
official outside media representative of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak
prisonstrikemedia@gmail.com

Jared Ware
Freelance Journalist covering prisoner movements
jaybeware@gmail.com
@jaybeware on Twitter

Brooke Terpstra
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC)
National Media Committee
brooke@incarceratedworkers.org
@IWW_IWOC on twitter

Statement
August 22, 2018

So the prisoner strike has been underway for more than 24 hours now. In the first day we got word of actions coming out from the prisons from Halifax, Nova Scotia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington and Folsom Prison in California reported strike action.

We saw outside solidarity actions in at least 21 cities around the US and as far abroad as Leipzig, Germany. We saw Palestinian political prisoners give a statement of solidarity from their prisons in occupied Palestine.

We called this conference call because those of us who have been coordinating media relations on the outside have been overwhelmed by the number of reporters and outlets who are covering the strike. Some of us who were involved with media relations in 2016 can say that the difference is dramatic and we thank you for your interest in this prisoner-led movement. Many of you have the same questions and so we want to give you all an opportunity to hear our responses in one place.

We want to note that although there aren’t widespread reports of actions coming out of prisons that people need to understand that the tactics being used in this strike are not always visible. Prisoners are boycotting commissaries, they are engaging in hunger strikes which can take days for the state to acknowledge, and they will be engaging in sit-ins and work strikes which are not always reported to the outside. As we saw in 2016, Departments of Corrections are not reliable sources of information for these actions and will deny them and seek to repress those who are engaged in them.

We have spoken with family members who have suggested that cell phone lines may be being jammed at multiple prisons in South Carolina, New Mexico had a statewide lockdown yesterday. The Departments of Corrections in this country are working overtime to try and prevent strike action and to try and prevent word from getting out about actions that are taking place.

As you report the strike, we encourage you to uplift the actions that we do know about, but also acknowledge that strikers may be resisting in ways that are tougher to quantify and view. We encourage outlets to issue FOIA requests to prisons that we believe will show attempts to quell the strike and also evidence of boycotts and other strike activity.

We also really want to remind the media that this strike is about ten different demands. While prison slavery has become a galvanizing force in the public eye, and it is a key element that prisoners are protesting against, they have given you ten specific demands and it is important to talk about all of them or report on them individually. People need to understand how truth in sentencing laws function, how gang enhancement laws function, and how the prison litigation reform act works and why these are things that prisoners are targeting their protest around. We need to be talking about the lack of rehabilitation programs, mental health care, and the lack of education programs and how this undermines the ostensibly rehabilitative nature of the prison system itself.

Prisoners crafted these demands carefully through national organizing, based on the circumstances of the Lee Prison violence that occurred earlier this year, in an understanding of how the state brings about the conditions of violence like that, and the types of changes that are necessary to prevent that sort of violence from recurring. This is a human rights campaign and each of these demands should be understood through a human rights lens.

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  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any
    place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the
    prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing
    imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations
    of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be
    rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation
    and parole. No human
    shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and
    parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer
    be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a
    particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation
    programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent
    offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences,
    pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted.
    Representation is demanded. All voices count.

– Demands of Prison Strike 2018, from the
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

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We, the prisoners of Burnside, have united to fight for change. We are unified across the population in non-violent, peaceful protest.

We are calling for support from the outside in solidarity with us. We believe that it is only through collective action that change will be made.

We recognize that the staff in the jail are workers who are also facing injustice. We are asking for a more productive rehabilitative environment that supports the wellbeing of everyone in the system. These policy changes will also benefit the workers in the jail.

Our voices should be considered in the programming and policies for this jail. The changes we are demanding to our conditions are reasonable, and must happen to support our human rights.

The organizers of this protest assert that we are being warehoused as inmates, not treated as human beings. We have tried through other means including complaint, conversation, negotiation, petitions, and other official and non-official means to improve our conditions. We now call upon our supporters outside these walls to stand with us in protesting our treatment.

We join in this protest in solidarity with our brothers in prison in the United States who are calling for a prison strike from August 21st to September 9th. We support the demands of our comrades in the United States, and we join their call for justice.

Our demands in Nova Scotia are different, and we note that they are comparatively more modest. We are part of an international call for justice and we recognize the roots of this struggle in a common history of struggle and liberation.

We are not the first, and we will not be the last.

We recognize that the injustices we face in prison are rooted in colonialism, racism and capitalism. August is a month rich with the history of Black struggle in the Americas.

In 1619, the first ship carrying forcibly enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. More than two hundred years ago, the first successful slave revolt created the first independent Black nation, Haiti. In the early nineteenth century, Gabriel Prosser and Nat Turner launched their rebellions, and in 1850, after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, Harriet Tubman began an Underground Railroad to Canada. A century later, the March on Washington, the Watts uprising, and the police bombing of MOVE have marked August as a time of great possibility and great pain.

In Canada, we recognize Prisoner Justice Day on August 10th as a time to remember all those who have died in custody in this country.

We also acknowledge the sacrifices made by our forebears, those who have fought to end the inhumane, racist treatment accorded prisoners. George Jackson, one of America’s prominent prisoner activists, was assassinated in San Quentin in August 1971, and his name is joined by others — Jonathan Jackson, William Christmas, James McClain, WL Nolen, and others.

In August 1978 in San Quentin, activist Khatari Gaulden died after being refused adequate health care for an injury suffered under mysterious circumstances. To honour his name and to fight for prison justice, a coalition of activists, inside and outside the prison walls, formed the Black August Organizing Committee. Starting in the “concentration camps” of California, Black August strikes swept through prisons across America.

In this tradition and together with those imprisoned south of the border, we, the prisoners of Burnside continue this legacy. We are not violent, we are standing up for simple issues of human justice.

We are organized together because conditions must change. Our demands are as follows:

1. Better Health Care

The province has a duty to provide adequate and ethical health care to everyone. Some of the issues we are facing in our health care include: having medication cut off or delays in providing necessary medication; long waits for x-rays and other medical services; lack of care for chronic and serious illnesses; access to specialist appointments; having our medical complaints dismissed; not enough medical staff; not receiving compassionate care.

Many prisoners face serious mental health issues, addictions, and chronic illnesses caused by poverty. We also know the prison environment causes many health problems. Medical treatment is a right: being deprived of health care is not part of our sentences.

2. Rehabilitation Programs

We are told that the purpose of jail is to rehabilitate us. We want to ask: How are we being rehabilitated if there are little to no programs helping us to get the work, education, and life skills we need to become productive members of society?

We need programs that address mental health and addiction problems; that teach us employable skills; that help us to learn financial management and other life skills; that help us build healthy relationships with our families; that help us reintegrate into society.

What is the point of jail if we are coming out with nothing changed or worse from when we went in?

3. Exercise Equipment

Exercise is necessary for our physical and mental health. We remind the province that we live in a province with winter. We require equipment so we can work out indoors. Exercise helps reduce stress, keeps us occupied in healthy ways, and helps us deal with the prison environment.

We often do not receive the yard time we are entitled to under the Corrections Act. This is a violation of the rights we already have. We call for adequate time for fresh air, exercise, and sunlight.

4. Contact Visits

If we are being scanned for drugs and other contraband, we want to ask the province: Why are we prevented from having contact visits with our families? If the body scanners eliminate contraband from entering the prison, then there is no safety or security reason why we can’t receive contact visits with our families and friends.

Many of us are parents. We call for contact visits that allow our children to see us not behind glass.

5. Personal Clothing and Shoes

If we are being scanned for drugs and other contraband, then we should be able to wear clothing from outside the institution.

The clothing and shoes provided by the jail is often inadequate. We have been provided with shoes of different sizes, shoes that do not fit, and we are not provided with winter clothing like gloves that allow us to go outside.

Wearing our own clothing helps prevent institutionalization, allows us to have appropriate clothing, and helps us feel like human beings.

6. Same Quality Food As Every Other Jail

We call for nutritious food in every jail that meets the needs of prisoners from all religious and cultural backgrounds. We do not understand why menu items can be provided in one institution but not in others. If menu items can be provided in other provinces, or in other facilities in this province, there should be no reason why they cannot be provided here.

We call for the province to respect the dietary needs of prisoners from different cultures. We have struggled in getting menus for religious prisoners. Prisoners have become ill including suffering serious nutritional deficits, and health damage. This is unacceptable and a violation of our religious rights.

7. Air Circulation

We call upon the province to improve the conditions in the jail. In the recent heat wave, the health of prisoners was endangered, particularly prisoners with existing or chronic health issues.

8. Healthier Canteen

We call for healthy items to be added to the canteen. Prisoners supplement the meals provided by the prison with these items that we purchase using our own money or money given us by our families. We do not believe that providing us only with items filled with sugar and chemicals helps promote our health. Junk food is being eliminated from schools, hospitals, and other institutions, so why are people in prison limited to these unhealthy options?

9. No Limits to Visits

Visits with our families and friends help promote our reintegration into society and keep us connected to our support systems. Our families are called upon to put resources into the system through paying for phones and canteen. If the jail can profit off our families, why do we face limitations in seeing them?

10. Access To Library

We call upon the province to immediately allow us to access the library. Legal materials in the library are necessary for us to access our legal rights in court.

We should not be limited in our attempts to educate ourselves.

***

Let us restate. All of these demands are reasonable, and promote our basic well-being. We recognize that the prison industrial complex is intended to divide us. We are unified in our purpose. They cannot segregate us all.

We call upon all people with a conscience beyond the bars to join us in sharing this statement, in writing the Minister of Justice, your MLA, and the Department of Justice to support our demands, to commit to learning more about the conditions in this province’s jails, and in taking actions in solidarity with our struggle.

We send a message of hope to our comrades in prisons all across this country and the world.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
—Nelson Mandela

– El Jones, “The prisoners at the Burnside jail are engaged in a non-violent protest; here is their statement.The Halifax Examiner, August 19, 2018.

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“Outside: A prison protest; Inside: No fuss says guard,” Montreal Gazette. August 11, 1980. Page 03.

By DAVID JOHNSTON
of The Gazette

About 15 supporters of prison reform demonstrated yesterday outside the maximum-security federal penitentiary in Laval, as did hundreds across Canada on what has become a sort of national prisoner’s day.

Six years ago, a prisoner named Eddy Nalon killed himself in Ontario’s Millhaven penitentiary to protest living conditions inside federal prisons. Every Aug. 10 since, federal prisoners – including the 1,000 in the five prisons which make up the St. Vincent de Paul complex in Laval – have staged hunger and work strikes.

Officially, that is. Prison reform groups maintain that they have, but a prison guard at Laval yesterday told The Gazette it was more a case of business-as-usual on the inside.

‘This isn’t a day that is respected,’ said G. D. Morrette, 24, a guard of three years’ service patrolling outside the penitentiary gates in a truck.

‘Nothing changed today,’ he said. ‘Everyone’s eating.’

Prisoners normally don’t work on Sundays. A Gazette reporter was not allowed inside the prison to verify whether the prisoners were on a hunger strike. 

Members of the Prisoners’ Rights Office (PRO), an arm of the Montreal Civil Liberties Union, made up the majority of the demonstrators yesterday at Laval. A PRO official said a federal prisoner is paid $1 a day for eight hours of work, five days a week – work which can range from cleaning the prison kitchen to repairing faulty electrical systems.

The PRO says prisoners pay about 50 cents for a pack of cigarettes (they aren’t charged federal tax) and pay for their own stamps, paper and pencils. Some buy their own soap because they don’t like to use what is supplied by the prison, according to the PRO members.

Prison officials were not available to verify the claims.

Of the five St. Vincent de Paul prisons, two are maximum security – Laval and the Correctional Development Centre. Two others are medium security – the Federal Training Centre and the Leclerc Institute. The fifth prison, Monte St. Francois Institute, is minimum security.

About 86 of 130 inmates at Montee St. Francois have signed a petition to protest medical facilities.

One of the prisoners who signed it told The Gazette that there isn’t any first-aid equipment at Montee St. Francois. Officials were not available for comment yesterday.

Earlier this month, Maurice Pelletier, a 55-year-old prisoner there, died after he suffered a heart attack in his cell and had to be transported to a hospital outside the prison.

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