From Earth First! Journal:
By Panagioti / Prison Ecology Project
August 10 is a day that prisoners have declared Prisoners’ Justice Day. It’s a day to demonstrate solidarity in remembrance of those who have died unnecessarily behind bars—victims of murder, suicide and neglect—at the hands of the police state.
It started in Canada in 1975 following the death of prisoner Edward Nalon in a solitary unit of Millhaven Maximum Security Prison located in Ontario, and it has remained most recognized in that country. While there has been some success in calling to use this day as a way to bring awareness to the plights of incarcerated people who suffer injustice worldwide, it still hasn’t quite caught on in the U.S. … yet.
[Check out a collection of reflections from Prisoner Justice Day in recent years here, specifically this “open letter to construction workers at prisons” released in tandem with a 2012 call for blockades of work aimed at expanding the Collins Bay and Frontenac prisons.]
But anti-prison activists in the U.S. and abroad, particularly those with an interest in environmental justice, should note that this year’s August 10 is marked by the proposal to build a new federal maximum security prison in the Appalachian mountains of Letcher County in eastern Kentucky, on top of a former mountaintop removal coal mine.
Just this week, after several years of local debate about the economic failures of building prisons on low-income rural areas, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has announced plans to move forward with another prison in a region that has been dubbed Appalachia’s Gulag Archipelago.
Despite the area’s long history of pollution from decades of blasting for coal, politicians like U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers have insisted on piling prisoners into this remote location which is likely to poison prisoners with tainted water. It also happens to be far from any reasonable transit options for family visitation, not to mention being planned on threatened and endangered species habitat of the incredibly biodiverse region.
What to do about the BOP’s Letcher County plan this Aug 10?
Prisoners’ Justice Day is fast-approaching, but it’s not too late to plan for action. A quick place to start is sending over a letter to the BOP within this 30-day window telling them that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS )is insufficient, as it does not recognize the civil rights that prisoners have to receive environmental justice protections. This is, of course, in addition to the myriad concerns related to perpetuating the racist and classist mass incarceration system by building more prisons to extract poor people from their communities and warehouse them in toxic places.
Also worth noting is that there is a major PR firm called Cardno who is contracted by the BOP to conduct the EIS study. They are likely representing many more of your corporate and state enemies as well. According to their website, “Cardno now has about 8,200 staff working in 300 offices, on projects across more than 100 countries around the world.” Their corporate offices are located within the following regions:
Australasia Middle East UK/Europe
North America Africa Asia
The following text provides some additional history on Prisoners Justice Day becoming international day of solidarity with prisoners:
In 1983, prisoners in France refused to eat in recognition of August 10th, the following statement would be read on the Paris radio station Frequence-Libre:
Why not have on August 10 an international day of solidarity with our imprisoned brothers and sisters,
For here or elsewhere, prison kills,
Whether it be Nalon in Ontario, Bader or Meinhoff in West Germany,
Claude or Ivan in Switzerland, Bobby Sands in Ireland,
Mirval, Haadjadj, Onno, Youssef or so many others in France,
Whether they are serving 53 years like Alexandre Cotte or 16 years like Youssef,
Whether they are considered political or common prisoners,
By the mid 1990´s prisoners in parts of Germany, England and the United States would join this day of protest.
The number of issues focused on over twenty-five years has been extensive:
Safe Tattooing Inside
Special Handling Units
The Wrongfully Convicted
Twenty-five Year Sentences
The Right to Freedom of Speech
The Women Self-defense Review
Abolition of National Parole Board
The Right to Vote in Federal Elections
Decriminalization of Victimless Crime
Health Care Needs of Prisoners With HIV & AIDS
Return to Shorter Sentences with 1/3 Time Off For Good Behaviour
Medical Care and the Same Options for Treatment as Outside Prison
The Integration of Protective Custody prisoners into General Population
Decarceration – Release of Prisoners Who Already Served Their Sentence
Alternatives to Incarceration – the Eventual Abolition of Prisons
The Recognition of Political Prisoners in Canada
Early Intervention Programs for At-Risk Youth
Moratorium on the Building of New Prisons
The Incarceration of Refugee Claimants
The Prisoners´ Right to Unionize
Privatization of Food Services
Needle Exchange Programs
Privatization of Prisons
Gating of Prisoners
The Right to Recognize August 10th Without Reprisals
PRISONERS’ JUSTICE DAY IS…
…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.
Info on Prisoners’ Justice Day courtesy of PrisonJustice.ca.
Filed under: Announcement, Earth Liberation, History, Solitary Confinement, Uncategorized Tagged: | 1975, Africa, anti-prison activists, Appalachia’s Gulag Archipelago, Appalachian mountains, Asia, August 10, Australasia, Bader, Bobby Sands, Bureau of Prisons, Canada, Cardno, Claude, Collins Bay, Decarceration, Earth First!, Earth First! Journal, Edward Nalon, environmental justice, Final Environmental Impact Statement, Frontenac prisons, Haadjadj, incarcerated people, Ivan, Latin America, Letcher County, Mass Incarceration, Meinhoff, Middle East, Millhaven Maximum Security Prison, Mirval, North America, Onno, Prison Ecology Project, Prisoners’ Justice Day, solitary unit, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, UK/Europe, Youssef