Friday, December 20, 2013

Laws Surrounding Sex Work - Abolished!

supreme court prostitution 
..........and this with several Conservative judges sitting on the Supreme Court Bench!  All 3 of the criminal code sections before the courts were shot down/overturned.  Without question this will make Sex Work safer for all involved.  Not only safer from the violence of individual perpetuators who approach Workers in the guise of purchasing their services, but also safer from the violence meted out at the hands of the state through police, prisons, stigma and discrimination!
Maggies for a critical look at the Anti Sex Worker laws  

What on earth is going on with our ultra conservative Canada?  Perhaps now is a good time to eliminate all drug charges from the law books too? 


                           BUT ALL DRUGS...............



Finally someone is doing the right thing where 19 year old Ashley Smith is concerned.  The next step is to bring to justice the management officials who ordered front line guards not to intervene until Ashley was no longer breathing! The only people who have so far faced any kind of accountability (however limited) have been those front line guards.  Charges against the management were laid and almost immediately dropped.

Ashley Smiths Death Ruled a Homocide


Thursday, July 18, 2013


Faith is asking that we spread the word about this project.  She is attempting to raise 3500.00 dollars to package and distribute songs written by female, Canadian prisoners.  The money raised from sales of these CD's will be used to provide housing for women released from prison with no where to go -as is too often the case.

Please donate generously if you can!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Please pass this link to all your networks and think about planning an action in support of hunger strikers demands to end long term solitary confinement and other forms of torture - forced feeding, gang snitch protocols, among others.

Yesterday, Monday, July 8, 2013 prisoners resumed their hunger strike.  Conditions in prison generally amount to torture in some form.  USA prisons ramp methods of torture up several notches compared to most Canadian prisons (which are themselves horrendous human rights violations to be sure!).  SHU units throughout the USA and particularly in California which hold prisoners indefinitely (often meaning -life) are some of the most inhumane, torture chambers in existence in western nations!  Speak up, Speak loud!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

OISE Project Supporting Safer Injection Facilities

Wanted to share our project, Safer, with you all - a docku-art piece (using projection art) advocating for safer consumption services in Toronto, drawing from the TOCSA report and excellently contributed to by some of the THRA members. We are very much open to input, and will be reshooting a couple 'scenes'. Put together by myself, and four other students from OISE.

Click on below link;

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reflections of a Female Prisoner on our Jail and Prison Systems

A former prisoner (Petey) who was incarcerated at the Grande Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario during an overlapping time frame with Ashley Smith, refers to the tragic manner in which Ashley died.  She uses the horror of what happened to Ashley to illustrate some important points about the need for transparency and an effective prisoner complaints system.  What goes on behind prison walls is invisible to the public and indeed in many cases, largely invisible even to those closest to someone inside.  The current direction being taken by our federal government, in pushing for ever greater secrecy and fewer transparent avenues to deal with prisoner complaints and human rights violations inside, will without question lead to more horrific and entirely preventable tragedies.  Such as the succession of "mistakes", and callous decision making which led to the end of Ashley's young life.  Read on for Petey's reflections on this situation.  
Also I would highly recommend following the links within Petey's statement for other written pieces by Petey on her experiences in our prison and jail systems.

Statement from "Petey" at the Demonstration and Vigil for the Death of Ashley Smith

* Read by Jennifer Kilty at the event.

My name is Petey. I am one year older than Ashley would have been, had she not died at the hands of the prison system. I was transferred to Grand Valley Institution for Women two weeks before Ashley Smith’s tragic death took place. 

The Fifth Estate documentary of Ashley Smith’s unfortunate journey through the penal system was given the very appropriate title, “Out of Control”. This is a succinct and precise description of the Corrections Service of Canada. I have been a prisoner in the youth, provincial, and federal systems, and witnessed firsthand the mistreatment of girls as young as twelve to women in their sixties. With them, I experienced oppression and abuse at the hands of prison guards, and felt powerless because it was my word against that of prison personnel. 

One such example is that I spent five illegal months in maximum security at Grand Valley the age of twenty, due to an oversight of the policies that blatantly stated I should not have been there. However, CSC was not interested in informing me about my rights or about policies that would be inconvenient for them to follow. Instead, they hoped I would never notice, and told me that it was “water under the bridge” when I raised objections. This, and many other complaints and grievances that I filed throughout my imprisonment, were strongly discouraged by CSC officials. Asking CSC to follow their own policies is seen as unruliness and noncompliance. Fighting for basic human rights meant that I was labelled as a troublemaker. 

It was a struggle to obtain copies of CSC’s policies and directives, which the public is told are freely available to all prisoners. If successful in obtaining a copy, every single woman in prison would inevitably find sections where the policies were not followed, and where her rights have been trampled. Should she find the courage, and have the skills to fill out a complaint or grievance form, she is seen as Enemy Number One by CSC, and all efforts are put into place to convince her to withdraw the complaint. If the complaint is handled informally or withdrawn, there is no documentation of the transgression, and the public is told that everything is fine; the prison is doing its job, because there is no record of prisoners complaining. 

Unfortunately, these tactics to silence injustice lead to severe breaches of human rights. Ashley Smith’s complaints about her indefinite segregation and excessive number of transfers between prisons and mental health facilities in Canada were left in the complaints box until long after she had died. They were filled out by other people because she was not permitted a pen. It took her death for the public to be made aware that someone at the age of nineteen was being held indefinitely in isolated segregation in a federal prison for women. This is unacceptable. 

It is my sincere hope that this inquest leads to some form of external oversight of CSC, because they are currently not accountable to any authority. They can and do commit any atrocities they deem appropriate, such as transferring someone seventeen times within eleven months, or involuntary injections, under the guise of public safety. This protest is the beginning of a new direction for Corrections, one where the public demands that justice is not synonymous with punishment, and where basic human rights are guaranteed to all Canadians, even the ones in prison.

- "Petey"
  Reflections on My First Free Prisoner Justice Day

 After nally escaping from the clutches of maximum security, I was bunked with a young girl who slashed herself up something erce two weeks later. I was woken up at one in the morning and instructed to leaveour cell so it could be sealed for investigation. My cellmate was shipped toa psychiatric hospital and my nightmares got worse.I asked to please be moved to a single cell, but instead got another cellmate, who I was told was more “stable”. Ten days later, I came back to nd she was gone. When I asked what happened, it turned out she wasin segregation on suicide watch. I was starting to think that there was something wrong with me because everyone around me was sick of living. I had no idea how to handle this kind of guilt. Guards in the prison treated these situations as normal and that I should just get used to it. I could not wrap my head around that kind of thinking, so I was left alone, hurt and confused. Several women died while I was at GVI and the injustice of them dying away from their families really weighed heavily on me.Here is a quote from Correctional Service of Canada. by Petey scribd-Reflections on First "Free" Prisoner Justice Day

Monday, December 17, 2012

Former Prisoners Denied Re-integration Through Discrimination

An American blog providing advice to former prisoners who are trying (against all odds) to find work and move on with their lives.  I really like the idea of allowing people to write in directly and get a response directly on specific situations encountered.  These sorts of services are few and far between.  

Making this blog an especially important service is the fact that employment or rather lack of it, is the number one factor preventing people from escaping the revolving door of the legal system.  In fact, given the enormous barriers to escaping the prison system, one can reason that the powers that be, prefer to keep the powerless right where they are.  Without marketable skills, without close family ties, without hope.  Marcs referred to these folks and others  similar to them as surplus labour.  Their existence goes a long way to driving down labour market wages, benefits and to discouraging people from organising, forming unions, and demanding improved working conditions.

How does that work some of you are asking.  People working in lower paying, precarious forms of employment, or people who dont yet have permanent resident status, etc are afraid that the retributive hand of the government will come down on them next.  And there are plenty of examples.  Immigration programmes are designed to ensure workers are kept in the most precarious of working conditions with the ever present threat of separation from families, incarceration and deportation.

The USA and Canada less so (so far) have found ways to make prisoners themselves a commodity to be used for the express benefit of corporate America.  Prisoners are contracted out to the lowest bidder on construction or materials production contracts.  And prisoners are paid no more than 5.00 a day and often nothing at all.  They are forced to participate in some of the most dangerous forms of work, iwthout proper safety training or even adequate safety equipment (similar trials faced by immigrant, and trafficked women and children) Think the BP oil spill.  Prisoners who refused to work lost good time, yard time, reduced shower, phone, and visitation "privileges".
Trading in the bodies of those deemed as less than "worthy" is but one form of prison comodification which has come to be known as the prison industrial complex

I have a personal quip however with the usage of the word "Felon" in the title.  Or the words "offender" and "ex offender" throughout the content.  I'm not sure what the thought process has been around this - perhaps a reclaiming of the language the criminal legal system uses?  In any case I'm completely against using the language of the oppressor.  Its something we've been tuaght to do and without question.  As though this type of language is based within the fact of the situation and it simply has nothing to do with fact based language, and everything to do with "othering" those outside the status quo.

Forgive me if I'm coming across in a judgmental fashion.  My intention is simply to speak my mind and get others thinking about this issue - how and why we use language.  When I first started doing writing around criminal legal issues, I found that i was continuously coming across language that made me cringe, but did'nt have alternatives in my immediate repertoire.  

So I decided to ask my self, "what is the truth of the topic/situation I'm talking about?"

For instance 'criminal justice system"  Never does this system render justice for anyone.  I saw some people using "injustice" system.  This was the truth but didn't fit for professional writing.  So what is really happening here, what is the truth of this situation?  Its not a criminal justice system - It is a criminal legal system.
The criminal, offender, felon (this last is a word we dont really use in Canadian context anyways)..What do these words mean?  If we consider the fact that crime is a social constuct, then it seems inappropriate and even detrimental to refer to a person this way.  Who are we to decide if something is "criminal"?  And "offender" is intended to dehumanise, to render other, less than, different from "us".

So this brings us back to my original critical questions on language in the criminal legal complex.
"what is the truth of the topic/situation I'm talking about?"

What is really happening here?  What do we mean when stating that someone is a criminal, has committed a crime?  How can I phrase this situation honestly in my writing without needing to use a paragraph or more to explain/be honest?  I chose to use "lawbreaker", "person who has broken the law, person who the law has come into conflict with.

Inmate is another no-no.  People who are forcibly confined against their wills in jails and prisons are prisoners.  But that is not all they are.  None of us can be defined so narrowly.  So what about "person in prison".  Try to think from an anti-oppression, anti-racist theoretical framework.  Person living with a disability.  Person of colour.  Woman who stays at home/works at home. etc.

Now I've gotten completely of topic.  I think 

How felons can get jobs 

is a blog well worth looking at, even from Canada.  Many of the issues to overcome in seeking work with a criminal record are similar here in Canada as in the USA.  And where issues differ, perhaps this is an opeing for someone to take on a project such as this from the canadian perspective!