International Prisoners’ Justice Day August 10, marks the anniversary of the 1974 death of Eddie Nalon, a prisoner who bled to death in a solitary confinement unit at Millhaven Maximum Security Prison, Canada, when the emergency call button in his cell failed to work.
An inquest later found that the call button in that unit had been deactivated by the guards. The following year prisoners at Millhaven marked the anniversary of Eddie’s death by fasting and refusing to work. By May, 1976, the call buttons had not yet been repaired. Bobby Landers was the next to die in one of those cells. With no way to call for help, all he could do was scribble a note that described the symptoms of a heart attack.
What started as a one-time event behind the walls of Millhaven Prison has become an international day of solidarity.
August 10 has been the day officially set aside for prisoners and their supporters to honour the memory of those who have died unnatural deaths in prison and express solidarity with the millions of people on the inside of prisons who are demanding changes to a criminal justice system that dehumanizes and brutalizes them.
In 1997 a group celebrating the day handing out balloons and gifts to visitors entering the new MRRC 900 prisoner jail, NSW, Australia were assaulted by prison officers. The officers had two dogs, almost pushed over a man with a 20 month baby and strangled a 17 year old woman with a camera strap. Police refused to charge the officers. However the next year an even larger support group was permitted to remain there without interference.
What’s happening in Canada for International Prisoners’ Justice Day 2011?
International Prisoners’ Justice Day was recognised this year in Trout Lake, Canada, with a rally organized by the Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee. Speakers included ex-prisoners and prisoners’ rights activists.
‘The Word is Out’ is a news service that provides a link between women in prison and the community. It features writing & artwork from women in prison and information pertaining to the changing realities of prison and the community. ‘The Word is Out’ is distributed free of charge to women in prison and by subscription in the community and published by Joint Effort and Strength In Sisterhood. This year ‘The Word is Out’ held an International Prisoners’ Justice Day benefit with musical performances, readings by activists, novelists and film makers.
‘Stark Raven’ is a radio program based in Vancouver which takes a close look at prisons and the Psychiatric Survivor Movement. On International Prisoners’ Justice Day they broadcasted live from the Vancouver Prisoners’ Justice Day Memorial Rally.
You can find out more at www.prisonjustice.ca