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Swept under the rug: a message from prison on Prisoners’ Justice Day

To those who are advocating and standing in solidarity with us on Prisoners’ Justice Day and all through this crucial time of need, we greatly appreciate and thank you for your work, time, and energy that you put into everything you do on our behalf.

This day represents the struggle that those before us fought for when it comes to our accessibility to what we now have, and the rights we have been longing for for so long. This day is also for bringing awareness about the misconceptions about incarceration and about the people who are called “criminals.”

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The fight for prisoner justice is the fight for true and real rehabilitating action that will properly help integrate us back into society. That being said, it shows that we have such a long way to go.

On this day we fast to show solidarity for our brothers who died on that day so long ago, and we refuse all amenities given to us from the staff. This is how we show our respect for the [things] that we cherish because of the stance that was taken back then.

At this point, for us who stand in solidarity on this day for those men who literally put their life on the line, we carry the torch for the fight that continues, and we hope and pray the continuation of awareness and outside support encourages the rest of society and educates them on the fact that we need more assistance to raising the bar when it comes to transparency in the justice system, and making sure they are giving us the tools needed to properly rehabilitate.

Keep in mind Canada is a leading country on the world stage but incarcerates some of the most people, and its justice system is a revolving door for those coming from marginalized communities and impoverished environments which leaves some of us forgotten, swept under the rug, and overlooked in life located in the so-called correctional facilities in this land of the free.

Everyone has a release date and at some point will be back in society which will not change where and how we were raised but while incarcerated if we were given the right tools, the facilities could change our mindsets to empower us to deal with it a bit better. As of now, correctional facilities are only perpetuating harm and harbouring us with no improvements in skills to be released with the same mind state instead of dealing with the hardships that may have caused our incarceration in the first place. Rehabilitation should involve us holding jobs and getting the education and skills we need to contribute productively to our families and communities instead of sitting inside and coming out worse than we went in.

Some listeners who may believe that we deserve to be here and that it’s only certain groups of people here, we’re here to tell you that there are people from all walks of life in every corner of society who have fallen victims to life’s poisons. It doesn’t matter where you come from, everybody has vices and we all make mistakes.

Also keep in mind a lot of us are on remand, awaiting trial and possibly innocent, some forced to plead guilty to get out of harsh conditions that are suffered in these facilities.

For the guys that are suffering this unfortunate revolving door, we want to thank you for giving us to platform to speak on behalf of the issues we suffer from inside. Some of these issues are overuse of solitary confinement, the lack of addiction and mental health supports, and over incarceration of Indigenous, black and people of colour.

Once we have a record, in many cases we cannot find jobs when we get out and we are forced to return to the same conditions that put us in jail in the first place. Most of us are poor and cannot get the help we need inside or out.

We are hoping that one day we could leave that door with a different state of mind that what we had coming in.

Thank you.

This message was composed by the inmates who earlier organized the petition against exploitative phone charges in Nova Scotia prisons.

On August 10, Prisoners’ Justice Day, inmates in many prisons in Canada and across the world refuse food and work in remembrance of inmates who died while in custody and in protest to intolerable and inhumane practices such as solitary confinement.

Tonight, Thursday August 10, Books Beyond Bars hosts a prison poetry zine launch, panel discussion and presentation on prison conditions in Canada, at the Halifax Memorial Library, at 6:30 PM.


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