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Jul 3, 20

Hamilton, ON: Statement from a Striking Prisoner and Solidarity Demo Reportback

Two recent updates from the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project, originally posted to North Shore Counter-Info.

Below is an audio statement from a prisoner on his sixth day of hunger strike from June 28 2020. He ended it today, on his seventh day, following threats from the guards to move him to solitary confinement. We also include our notes from that day about concessions the institution has made in response to the coordinated prisoner protests.

Today we heard from one prisoner inside Barton Jail who is going into his sixth day of hunger strike. He is demanding better conditions in the jail, including access to mail, healthcare, programs, edible food, and an end to the hyper-inflated prices of phone and canteen services.

He recorded an audio statement which is linked here.

He has asked that people please make calls to both the Barton Jail and the Ontario Solicitor General (in charge of Ontario Corrections) to demand immediate changes.

Sylvia Jones (Solicitor General): 416 326-5000

Barton Jail (Ask for Superintendents Office): 905-523-8800

We also heard from several other prisoners who have ended their hunger strikes after having their demands partially met. It seems that the prison administration responded quickly to the hunger strike and the solidarity actions from people outside, scrambling to make certain concessions. Some of the inedible frozen meals that have been served during the pandemic will be removed from the menu, and most importantly visits will be reinstated!

Re-starting visits is a huge win for prisoners as they haven’t been able to visit loved ones for over three months. However with this win comes a new, more restricted visiting process. The prisoners were told they have to choose three people who they can potentially visit with, the visitors have to call to book an appointment. There will now be only one visitor allowed in at a time. Previously prisoners could have multiple visitors at a time and there was no need to book a visit time in advance or have them approved. Anyone could just stop in and visit during daily visiting hours. Any bureaucracy at Barton Jail takes a notoriously long time and these new restrictions will inevitably be a massive barrier for prisoners to see their loved ones.

These restrictions to visits (like most of the changes coming during the pandemic) will make life more miserable for prisoners. Though surely these changes to visits are under the guise of reducing risk of COVID-19 it is clear that the jail is using the pandemic as an excuse to unnecessarily and permanently tighten control over prisoners lives. Forcing prisoners to choose three potential visitors and making visitors book ahead does nothing to create a more sanitary environment. Meanwhile the staff neglect to enact simple changes like consistent access to soap, sanitation, an end to overcrowding and repairs to the ventilation system.

Luckily prisoners and supporters alike have proven we can and will fight unlivable conditions inside the jail. These small wins are proof that resistance inside the prison and out is working. Keep an eye on our social media for updates on the ongoing hunger strike, and on whether or not the administration follows through on their promises for change.

1) We want a diverse range of healthy, cooked food — no more pre-made trays.
2) We want an end to the rotating lock-downs.
3) We want visits reinstated — as they were .
4) We want our mail delivered quickly and in full.
5) We want consistent access to soap
6) We want speedy repairs to necessary infrastructure to function
7) We want an end to unaffordable canteen and phone services

This statement was released following an emergency solidarity demo on June 23 in support of the hunger striking prisoners’ demands.

THANK YOU to all that came out in support of the prisoners on hunger strike at Barton Jail yesterday. This emergency solidarity demo was planned last minute in response to the collective refusal of prisoners to submit to the removal of their freedoms.

Since COVID, the admin and guards have made many changes in the jail in the name of health and safety that do little to stop the spread of COVID but make much less work for themselves.

The prisoners are expected to eat half frozen meals, accept clean sheets once a month, be denied soap, and have no visits with loved ones – all important for physical And emotional health. The guards have them on rotating lockdown (with no access to fresh air) supposedly to help with physical distancing when they are still 2 to a cell in small, indoor spaces.

A big thank you to all of the youth who heard about the demo at the action to kick cops out of Hamilton schools the night before and showed up for prisoners. So inspired to have our paths cross.

We will continue to do what we can from outside to support those inside, to break down the walls between us. We will continue to demand the release of all prisoners of the state and fight for a future without cages

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North Shore Counter-Info is a platform for sharing news, analysis, and events, as well as facilitating discussion and encouraging collaboration. We aspire to provide a space for strategic reflection, engaged critique, and thoughtful debate from an anarchist and anti-authoritarian perspective in Southern Ontario.

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