Canadian territory: New podcast mini-series produced in Montreal called “What Happened to Prisoner Justice Day?”
Originally published by What Happened to Prisoner Justice Day?
This is a mini series about the history of prisons in canada focusing on differences in the prison system in the 1960s-1980s versus today. The podcast features interviews with former and current prisoners, as well as supporters on the outside. For those new to prison history, Prisoner Justice Day, also called PJD, started in 1975 on the one year anniversary of the death of Edward Nalon, an inside organizer who bled to death in a segregation cell in Millhaven Maximum Penitentiary on August 10th, 1974. Prisoners refused to eat and refused to work to commemorate Eddie’s death. In May 1976, Robert Landers, who had been actively organizing in Archambault Pen before being involuntarily transferred to Millhaven, died in a segregation cell in Millhaven after repeated calls for medical help met no response. In June 1976, prisoners in Millhaven launched a call for support for their one day hunger strike in remembrance of all prisoners who had died inside – to take place on August 10th. Word spread across the country and, in the end, thousands of prisoners participated in the one day hunger strike and supporters on the outside organized events on the outside. A lot has changed since the 70s, not just in prison, but outside of prison. While respecting PJD remains important to many on the inside and outside, the numbers of those participating are nowhere near the numbers involved in the 70s and 80s. This podcast mini-series sets out to explore why that change has occurred.
Ep 1: The Backstory of Prisoner Justice Day
This is the first episode of ‘What happened to Prisoner Justice Day?’: a podcast mini series about the history of prisons in canada focusing on differences in the prison system in the 1960s-1980s versus today. The podcast features interviews with former and current prisoners, as well as supporters on the outside. This first episode features Bob Gaucher, a former prisoner and retired professor at the University of Ottawa who talks about his experiences inside in the 1960s and gives some historical context for Prisoner Justice Day.
For more history about Prisoner Justice Day, check out http://www.vcn.bc.ca/august10/politics/1014_history.html
The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons mentioned at the end of the show can be found online at jpp.org.
Ep 2: Prisoner Justice Day on the Inside
This episode features Papi, who spent 29 years in prison in canada. He talks about conditions on the inside in the 1970s and 1980s, including what it was like to be in prison for Prisoner Justice Day back then. He also talks about prisoner resistance and changes implemented by the federal prison system and how they impacted prisoners.
The book mentioned at the end of the episode is ‘Prisons in Canada’ by Luc Gosselin, published by Black Rose Books in 1977.
Ep 3: Prisoner Justice Day, Inmates Committees, and Resistance on the Inside
In the third episode, we talk to Gene, who started doing time in canadian prisons in 1972. Gene talks to us about the early days of PJD on the inside and the role that inmates committees and outside support played in prisoner resistance in the 70s and 80s. He talks a bit about protective custody or PC, and how changes to protective custody policies in federal prisons undermined solidarity.
At the end of the show, we mention the website penalpress.com. The site features a catalogue of newspapers produced in prisons in canada. Check it out for an inside perspective on the canadian prison system from the late 1940s onwards.
Ep 4: Prisoner Justice Day from the Outside
This episode features Marie Beemans, an outside activist and organizer who has been supporting prisoners since she was a teenager. Marie was particularly active with a group called the Office des Droits des Detenues (or ODD), which was affiliated with the Ligue des Droits in Quebec until they were kicked out of the Ligue des Droits for supporting prisoners in the aftermath of the 1982 riot in Archambault Penitentiary. In the interview, Marie talks about what drew her to prisoner support and prison abolition organizing, what that organizing looked like, and the underlying values that drive her organizing.
At the end of the episode, we mention the piece ‘Under New Management: Stories About Resistance to Prisons in Ontario and Quebec’, which is available online at https://north-shore.info/2018/03/11/under-new-management-resistance-to-prisons-in-ontario-quebec/ and paper copes are for sale at leftwingbooks.net.
Ep 5: Prisoner Justice Day in the Prison for Women
This episode features Ann, an anarchist who was arrested in the 1980s for participating in an underground guerilla group called Direct Action. She ended up getting a life sentence and doing 7 years in Kingston’s Prison for Women (P4W), which is now closed. She also got her parole revoked on two separate occasions, once in 2006 and once in 2012. Ann talked to us about the differences between doing time in the Prison for Women in Kingston versus GVI – the Grand Valley Institute (in southern Ontario), one of the regional federal prisons for women that was built after P4W was closed. She also mentions Quinte – which is a provincial prison, where she also did a bit of time.
In 2018, Ann published a book about her time in prison. It’s called ‘Taking the Rap: Women Doing Time for Society’s Crimes’. You should check it out.
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