A Letter in Support of Prisoners in the US who are striking against prison slavery
First, we want to tell you that you are not alone! We are keeping our eyes on your struggles. We support you!
In your call for a strike on September 9th you evoke the uprising in Attica that began on September 9, 1971. You write about ending prison slavery by ceasing to be slaves yourselves. We see you. We hear you. We support you.
We are a group of people, some in prison, some not in prison, and some who are in between. We are critical of the prison system and all its trappings. We would like to share with you some stories of our struggles.
Where we are, there is a traditional work stoppage inside federal prisons on August 10th. Though stronger in years past, Prisoners Justice Day is a day when prisoners here refuse to eat, refuse to work, refuse to leave our cells. We commemorate those who have died in prison. When the tradition started in 1974, prison officials would punish us for it, write us up, lock us up, dock our pay. One day in Collins Bay Penitentiary, a federal prison in Ontario, the kitchen decided to not cook breakfast on August 10th. They knew we were not planning to eat, but we knew that this day is about more than fasting. We lined up in their kitchen demanding breakfast and one by one disposed of it in the garbage.
Federal prisoners in Canada pay room and board. In 2013, our pay was docked and half of that was justified by an increase in room and board payments. In February of 2016, we wrote a list of demands to the federal government. We excerpt the section on work and pay here:
“We protest the cuts to our wages. We should have access to real wages, not pennies. CorCan (Corrections Canada Industries) is a separate entity of Correctional Services Canada (CSC). Its mission was to provide meaningful employment and skills. It was a way for long term prisoners to keep their families together and short-termers to build some money for release. In fall 2013, prisoners’ pay was cut. The bonuses/incentives that prisoners used to receive for working at CorCan were taken away… Currently, the maximum wage we make in 10 days is $69. Of that sum, we must pay $15.18 to kitchen services, $5.52 to telephone services and maintenance, $11 to television fees and maintenance, and $3.73 to savings. Only $33.57 remains. Our pay rates have not been indexed to inflation since 1982.”
We went on to demand access to the provincial minimum wage, access to the Canadian Pension Plan, and real workplace insurance. We demanded access to trades and training while in prison that have an accreditation that is recognized on the outside. We have, thus far, received no concrete response to our demands.
The complete list of demands to the federal government is included with this letter. (As this is an email, here is a link to the entire list of demands: www.demandprisonschange.wordpress.com).
If you want to write to us, for whatever reason, you can reach us here:
PO Box 55051
In commemoration of all those who have died inside, including the prisoners who died in the uprising at Attica, when state troopers stormed the prison with shotguns and teargas, we connect our struggle to yours. We will be watching.
the Termite Collective