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Judy Haiven: Why we must support the Burnside prisoners

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Sarah Gillis, spokesperson for Nova Scotia  Correctional Services, dismisses the idea of health concerns in the Burnside jail, and insists that the government  already provides healthy food, and is working on a new air ventilation system.

Gillis also says Burnside “is operating as usual.” How can that be when there was a lockdown of the jail inmates for four days?

Prisoners deserve good health care. 48 out of more than 370 people incarcerated in the Burnside jail are women. Pregnant prisoners do not get help, advice or better conditions. According to prisoner rights advocate and nurse Martha Paynter,  “prisoners in Burnside do not have a grassy ‘yard’ for fresh air and exercise. There is a small, concrete-floor, brick-wall enclosure, with chain-link fence over the top like a cage. Pregnant women are vulnerable to physical and mental punishment that includes solitary confinement (administrative segregation).”

When women prisoners give birth – without support – their babies are taken away – babies are not allowed to live with their mothers in Burnside.

Conditions in Burnside are not humane – and this affects all prisoners. A week ago, prisoners at Burnside started a peaceful protest – in solidarity with a large prisoner strike in the US.  At Burnside prisoners are calling for basic improvements in health care, exercise, visits, food, quality of air and library access.

The public needs to support them. Each prisoner will eventually be released and we want them to be better functioning, better educated, and healthier when they return to live among us.

Judy Haiven is founding member of Equity Watch. She retired from teaching Industrial Relations at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University. 

Join fact witnesses and first voice experts to discuss the conditions at Burnside, prisoners’ demands, and the peaceful protests at Burnside amidst claims from the Department of Justice that “demonstrations or protests of any kind are not taking place”.  When: August 27, 2018 • 6-8pm. Where: Glitterbean Cafe • 5896 Spring Garden Road


  • El Jones, Nancy Chair in Women’s Studies, Mount St. Vincent University 
  • Martha Paynter, RN, Chair of Women’s Wellness Within
  • Ardath Whynacht, Sociology professor, Mount Allison University 
  • + First voice experts!

More information can be found here.


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