Happy Prisoners’ Justice Day!

Millions of people incarcerated, loss of rights, institutionalized violence and abuse — not much to celebrate, but special events are scheduled in Vancouver and Toronto. August 10, 2007 marks 32 years of Prisoners’ Justice Day.

Today, Mohawk blockader Shawn Brant gets a bail hearing. Shawn turned himself in to RCMP after he helped block a highway and railroad line on the Aboriginal Day of Action on June 29. He’s been in jail in Napanee, ON since July 5.

Oregon forest defender Tre Arrow is fasting and meditating in his cell in Victoria, BC. Tre says informants and FBI agents set him up with false charges of eco-sabotage, and he is fighting extradition to the US. He’s been in maximum security in Canada for over three years without a trial.

John Graham, an American Indian Movement activist, is also fighting extradition to the US. He applied for a final appeal of the extradition order on July 23, and his bail has been revoked while the Supreme Court of Canada considers the appeal application. The FBI wants to charge John Boy with the 1976 murder of fellow AIM activist Anna Mae Aquash. The case relies on “flimsy and trumped-up evidence” and ignores the fact that before her death, an FBI agent threatened to kill Anna Mae for not cooperating with a heavy-handed investigation of AIM.

Raging Granny Betty Krawczyk is raising hell behind bars about prisoners’ living conditions. People in jail are routinely denied basic necessities like food, water, showers, and clothes for extended periods. Betty got ten months for standing in front of a bulldozer at Eagleridge Bluffs in West Vancouver two years ago, a sentence that shocked the community.

Take a moment to remember Harriet Nahanee, the First Nations grandmother who died earlier this year after serving time in jail for the Eagleridge Bluffs protest. The province has so far refused to hold an inquiry to examine if abysmal prison conditions contributed to her death.

Support your favourite prisoner today! They are in there for us. We are out here for them.

What is Prisoners’ Justice Day?

…August 10, the day prisoners have set aside as a day to fast and refuse to work in a show of solidarity to remember those who have died unnecessarily — victims of murder, suicide and neglect.

…the day when organizations and individuals in the community hold demonstrations, vigils, worship services and other events in common resistance with prisoners.

…the day to raise issue with the fact that a very high rate of women are in prison for protecting themselves against their abusers. This makes it obvious that the legal system does not protect women who suffer violence at the hands of their partners.

…is the day to remember that there are a disproportionate number of Natives, African-Canadians and other minorities and marginalized people in prisons. Prisons are the ultimate form of oppression against struggles of recognition and self-determination.

…the day to raise public awareness of the demands made by prisoners to change the criminal justice system and the brutal and inhumane conditions that lead to so many prison deaths.

…the day to oppose prison violence, police violence, and violence against women and children.

…the day to publicize that, in their fight for freedom and equality, the actions of many political prisoners have been criminalized by government. As a result, there are false claims that there are no political prisoners in north american prisons.

…the day to raise public awareness of the economic and social costs of a system of criminal justice which punishes for revenge. If there is ever to be social justice, it will only come about using a model of healing justice, connecting people to the crimes and helping offenders take responsibility for their actions.

…the day to renew the struggle for HIV/AIDS education, prevention and treatment in prison.

…the day to remind people that the criminal justice system and the psychiatric system are mutually reinforcing methods that the state uses to control human beings. There is a lot of brutality by staff committed in the name of treatment. Moreover, many deaths in the psych-prisons remain uninvestigated.

Abolish double bunking!

Abolish 25 year sentences!

Abolish solitary confinement!


Zoe Blunt is a journalism school dropout on Vancouver Island. Read other articles by Zoe.