Prisoner Justice Day – Aug. 10

Aug 10, 2017

T.O.D.D Support & Advocacy Foundation (Alberta)

“Somewhere in the human organism there is an ear that will listen, a mind that will open, a heartbeat that will quicken, and a voice that will clamour for the conversation of the border which exalts business as usual over one which honors concern for others. And, when enough people realize this and organize themselves to act upon their convictions, it will change.”

– Claire Culhane

A Flash Mob Round Dance in Honour of Prisoner’s Day on the steps of the Alberta Legislature – An all ages event   5-7PM

A reminder that August 10th is Prisoner Justice Day; a day to honour and remember those who have died of unnatural causes in prison. These injustices affect us all and it is important to recognize that we all need to express our concern and our solidarity to bring about change.

We are aware that there are many cases unreported and that the number of indigenous people who have suffered or lost their lives in our prisons is very high. Though a flash mob round dance was not our original idea, we saw how they demonstrated grassroots power and modeled the strength of indigenous nations, as well as how they promote culture, pride and connection.

– Elizabeth Leenheer

Ottawa Citizen – Elizabeth Payne
‘This is what has given meaning’: From chief of staff to doctor of the homeless

The opioid crisis is prompting some hand wringing and not a little despair.  This article is about one highly successful response to the problem from a doctor who left a prestigious position in the medical community to work with Ottawa’s homeless community.  Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull manages an opioid program around the threat of fentanyl at the Ottawa Inner City Health Clinic that Turnbull founded some 15 years ago.

CBC News – Talia Ricci
Toronto women using literacy to change the lives of men in jail

Robyn Keystone and Martha Jodhan launched Literal Change last August once they saw a need for inmates in maximum security to maintain contact with family by writing.  Close to 60% of federal prisoners have less than a grade 12 education.  The two founders now are in the second year of the 14 week program with four more volunteers in training.

Vancouver Sun – Ian Mulgrew
Efforts to reduce numbers of Aboriginals in jail failing badly

Mark Benton, CEO of the Legal Services Society of B.C., says that efforts by both the Parliament and the Supreme Court are failing badly in preventing growing numbers of Indigenous people in prison.  The number of Indigenous men for 3% of the total population now stands at 28% of the prison population.  The numbers are far worse for Indi9genous women who are now 43% of the prison population.  Says Benton:  ““National standards around the reports (of incarceration rates)  — what are they supposed to be, how are they supposed to get there, what are the judges supposed to do with it, it hasn’t been figured out yet.”  Benton also remarks on the lack of funding for the pre-sentence Gladue reports.

Truth-Out (US) – James Kilgore
Will Altering the 13th Amendment Bring Liberation to the Incarcerated 2.3 Million?

For some time now, prison reform advocates in the US have questioned the practice of using inmate labor at little or no recompense to the inmate.  The prison or the state, private prisons in particular, can reap considerable profits through the use of prison labor.  A prison labor strike in 2016 that started in Holman Prison in Alabama spread to a number of other prisons, estimate at about 29 prisons in 12 states.  At issue, the 13th amendment abolishes slavery; the inmates insist that the practice is gone from everywhere but the prison system.  The amendment allows forced labor (aka involuntary servitude) or slavery for punishment with convicted criminals.  The practice is also in many ICE detention centers but without criminal conviction the immigrants must volunteer for the labor.    Many Black advocates in the US criminal justice system see a direct link between the end of slavery and its substitution with Jim Crow laws (Cf Michelle Alexander  The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness  (The New Press: N.Y., 2012).

CNN (US) – Nadia Kounang
US drug overdose deaths reach new record high

CNN Medical Doctor Sanjay Gupta updates on the use and the effect of opioids in the US population based on a new study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  The discussion includes the over use of prescription opioids.