Why Are Prisoners More Sick?

Vietnamese prisoners supporting each other.
In being asked by CFRC‘s Canadian Prison Radio to provide “home remedies” for common prison ailments like colds, chronic pain, digestive issues, and high blood pressure, I realized that missing from the list were the insipid and ubiquitous epidemics of anxiety and depression endemic among prisoners due to their environment and their pasts which lay at the root of many of these health problems. The suicide rate among federal prisoners is SEVEN TIMES HIGHER than in the overall Canadian population. So much of a prisoner’s health can be bettered by simply addressing the factors of mood, mindset, and meaningful contact with others.

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A Prison Abolitionist’s Meeting and Open Letter to Hon. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety

Minister of Public Safety
Hon. Ralph Goodale – looks like a grille behind him… Hopefully some day he’ll talk about removing bars and walls and barbed wire, and replacing it with something more human, dignified, and healing.

I recently had the pleasure and honour of a 30 minute audience with Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and the man in charge of the colonial carceral system, Hon. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety, when they toured Sagatay, a transitional house for aboriginal men in Toronto that also provides five Day Parole beds to CSC. It’s not every day a prison abolitionist agenda forwarding alternatives to incarceration gets heard by the highest colonial representatives while they are standing in a model of healing so different from the traumas of prison.

Here is the letter I left them with:  Continue reading

Last Rights III

A Funeral Shroud of Secrecy and Callousness

Sixty-five of us died last year in prison. I’ve said it before, but it needs repeating: leaving this world from behind bars may set the soul free, but in another way, you never really get out. Dying in prison means that whatever length your bit is, it gets instantly changed to a Life Sentence.

As a Prison Abolitionist, I’m against the thought of spending the rest of one’s life in a state of oppressive incarceration. I don’t think that shaming and punishing and the notion of retributive justice gets us anywhere as a society. And now the Office of the Correctional Investigator tells us that the Service does it not only to us prisoners, but to our families as well.  Continue reading

Corrections at Pride

Originally appearing in NOW magazine – https://nowtoronto.com/news/pride-toronto-has-a-prison-problem/

When A Rainbow Flag Obfuscates Oppression

Correction Services Canada Flag at Dyke March Pride 2016
Correction Services Flag at Dyke March Pride 2016

Black Lives Matter stopped Toronto’s Pride parade this year partly to draw attention to the contentious relationship their community has with the police force. The inclusion of booths and floats with uniformed officers in the parade was one of the more obvious disparities in the long adversarial relationship the black and LGBTQ2S communities have had with police.

But one set of uniformed participants at the parade went unnoticed in the uproar. Their institution’s policies and dictates discriminate against people of colour and queers in a secretive, divisive, and systematic way. Continue reading

Hoops – PASAN’s 25th Anniversary

THERE ARE LOTS of hoops you have to jump through in order to use injection drugs in prison. Government drug prohibition policy for prisons has made drug use difficult. You need to find a source, and if the guy is smart, he’ll use runners and all of the people concerned will be hard to find in order to protect their business from rats and security. You will pay up to ten times the street value for product that has been stepped on and cut to the point that you’ll barely recognize it. Dealers can be real assholes, especially if they have habits of their own.

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Faith In Loving Kindly

What does it mean to have a compassionate mind? At first you might think that answering this question would answer all of humanity’s problems. You might think that if only we were a bit more compassionate, a little more loving and kind to each other, then the suffering of the world would lessen. You might think that instilling compassion into the minds of our young would begin a social program to end wars, feed the hungry, and prevent injustice on earth. One would think that if only we could figure out why we don’t have compassionate enough minds we’d be able to ameliorate some of the suffering we see around us every day. But you’d be wrong. Continue reading

For Pete’s Sake!

July 18, 2014, Collins Bay Inst. Minimum Unit (Frontenac), Kingston, ON – It is less than a month away from the annual Prisoner’s Justice Day observances in Canadian Prisons and around the world. We were cruelly reminded this morning why it is that we take time to remember our “fallen” comrades and peers. The elderly, terminally ill man, a lifer here on a Parole Revocation who lived down range from me, succumbed to the inevitable and passed away, imprisoned, on his way to see institutional Health Care. Perhaps it is a good time to examine the inhumanity of this event.  Continue reading