August 10, Prisoners’ Justice Day, was initiated by prisoners at Millhaven Maximum Security Penitentiary in 1976 as a day to remember all of the men, women and youth who have died inside Canadian prisons, and to draw attention to the conditions that contribute to prisoner deaths. Thousands of prisoners across Canada went on a one day hunger strike to protest the deaths of prisoners and, in particular, the use of solitary confinement, and supporters outside held vigils and fasts outside prisons across the country. In the ensuing years, prisoners in the US and Europe also joined in 24 hour fasts on August 10 for justice, dignity and against solitary confinement and repression.
36 years later, on Prison Justice Day 2012, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network stands in solidarity with prisoners in Canada and around the world struggling for justice on this day. We note in particular that the prison system disproportionately affects Indigenous people and communities, and has been a weapon of colonialism and destruction further uprooting Indigenous nations from their land. Prisons continue to reflect the horrors of the residential schools, as people, families and communities affected by residential schools continue to be frequently criminalized today.
Refugee claimants, migrants, asylum seekers, racialized and oppressed communities are subject to detention and imprisonment, and heavily criminalized physically in prisons and through government rhetoric in Canada. The creation of security certificate regimes and other forms of “anti-terror” imprisonment particularly target Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities, and highlight the ways in which political imprisonment, criminalization and racism go hand in hand for all prisoners. And while the government denies refugees access to health care, defunds programs and supports for migrants, refugees and communities, it pursues the building of ever more prisons across the country.
Palestinian prisoners in occupation prisons struggle daily against solitary confinement, racism, and a mass imprisonment system that targets Palestinians as a whole for criminalization and subjugation. Yet Palestinian prisoners have been a beacon of resistance and steadfastness, leaders of the Palestinian movement for liberation. Today, at least 4 Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike – Samer al-Barq (81 days), Hassan Safadi (51 days), Ayman Sharawna (41 days), and Samer al-Issawi (10 days) – demanding freedom and an end to their unjust imprisonment without charge or trial.
Samidoun expresses its solidarity with all those in prisons struggling against solitary confinement, racism and oppression, and longs for a day of freedom, justice and liberation for all.
Statement on Prisoners Justice Day: http://alexhundert.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/prisoners-statement-on-prisoners-justice-day/
Prison Justice: http://prisonjustice.ca
Prisoners Justice Day events across Canada: http://g20.torontomobilize.org/node/783/