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Apr 8, 20

Lambs to the Slaughter: An Ontario Prisoner on COVID-19 Behind Bars

Report from inside the walls of the Hamilton-Wentworth detention center about the spread of COV19. Originally published to Northshore Counter-Info from Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project.

For the past two weeks, we have heard from dozens of prisoners locked up behind the walls of the Hamilton-Wentworth detention centre. People are feeling scared about catching the virus, concerned for their families, and angry about the myths that are being reported about the conditions that they’re living in.

Some prisoners, despite fear of reprisals from guards, have decided that it’s worth risking their own safety to get their stories out. As one put it, “this is bigger than me.”

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This is an open letter to the masses, the judiciary, the so-called justice officials and the state actors in positions of authority in what is erroneously labelled one of the best criminal justice systems in the world – in Canada. Let us be frank and clear: what state actors, some in this hap hazard business of a career of thirty-plus years have created is a legal system, and not in the tiniest fraction a just one. Rather it is a mockery of justice. Anybody familiar with what is more aptly termed the criminal system of injustice in Canada is woefully inadequate, deeply biased, highly unfair, and targets against the Indigenous people of the land, Blacks, mentally challenged, and a host of other minorities. We as prisoners do not receive services such as yard, regular clothing change, weekly chapel services, adequate books to read, functioning justifiable numbers (known as counts) or anything closely related to viable advocacy or decent treatment.

And that is pre-so-called pandemic Covid-19.

I challenge anyone in the justice world to rebut those allegations.

We are three to a cell, one man on the floor, defunct of yard (which is a right guaranteed by correctional services act – 30 minutes per day minimum), arbitrarily segregated, body scanned, forced into clothes that habitually don’t fit, and are pilloried, persecuted, punked off and punished. Care to differ? Look up the access to justice reports. Look up the ombudsmen complaints or the inquiry “The Blue Code” by Andre Martin. Or ask any justice official in the know. This is the norm not the exception.

Me myself have been dealing with this inadequacy ever since I was a young man, unadvocated for before the family courts as a crown warden in the children’s aid society. We as non-convicted prisoners are continually locked down because guards, who for anyone paying attention annually top the sunshine list at a hundred thousand, can routinely make a career of applying for government jobs as a C.O. (correction’s officer), and face no scrutiny for not coming to work.
All around the world governments are taking pandemic seriously and admitting that they are incapable of meeting prisoners needs and releasing them. England just released 4000 yesterday. Canadian politicians and actors in the judiciary drag their feet, as the Premier and Chrystia Freeland call each other their therapist. I wish I had a therapist right now. Or adequate health care or guards that take my hygiene or cleanliness seriously, or a justice system that showed through concrete actions and not just words that they are committed to decency and care about the hapless, the oppressed and the maligned.

Just last year the Prime Ministers office fired the first indigenous justice minister. Police are taking bribes. That colonel Russell Williams was stealing women’s clothes and the sexual […] that are rampant in RCMP, corrections and police forces all across the country, etc.

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee and admit it is not just so called criminals doing crime.

Stop being hypocrites and wilfully blind. The system itself is corrupt.

When are we going to demand our leaders get helpful count and stop dragging their feet. People’s lives hang in the balance. Even though I am in no position to demand, WE DEMAND TO BE RELEASED. Recently after Covid hit an inmate that was here sat out his entire 30 day sentence without getting released. Something doesn’t add up. We’re a very vulnerable population full of weak immune systems, deficient mental health, sub-par health care, and highly inadequate resources, and we’re duly under intense stress and anxiety.

Other countries are dealing with this much more humanely than the people in charge while we wait in the highest risk month yet predicted, April. No trials, they’ve been suspended. I finally know what a lamb going to slaughter feels like: impending death.

So that’s what we’re saying.

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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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