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Prisoners’ Justice Day

August 5, 2004

How did Prisoners’ Justice Day (PJD) begin?

On August 10th, 1974, Eddie Nalon bled to death in a solitary confinement unit at Millhaven Maximum Security Prison near Kingston, Ontario when the emergency call button in his cell failed to work. An inquest later found that the call buttons in that unit had been deactivated by the guards. Prisoners at Millhaven marked the anniversary of Eddie’s death by fasting and refusing to work. By May, 1976, the call buttons had not yet been repaired. Bobby Landers was the next to die in one of those cells. With no way to call for help, all he could do was scribble a note that described the symptoms of a heart attack. The call for national support went out and Prisoners’ Justice Day began.

What started as a one-time event behind the walls of Millhaven Prison has become an international day of solidarity. On this day, prisoners around the world fast, refuse to work, and remain in their cells while supporters organise community events to draw public attention to the conditions inside prisons.

Prisoners’ Justice Day is…

the day prisoners have set aside as a day to fast and refuse to work in a show of solidarity to remember those who have died unnecessarily — victims of murder, suicide and neglect.

… the day when organizations and individuals in the community hold demonstrations, vigils, worship services and other events in common resistance with prisoners.

… the day to raise issue with the fact that a very high rate of women are in prison for protecting themselves against their abusers. This makes it obvious that the legal system does not protect women who suffer violence at the hands of their partners.

… the day to remember that there are a disproportionate number of Natives, African-Canadians and other minorities and marginalized people in prisons. Prisons are the ultimate form of repression against struggles for recognition and self-determination.

… the day to remember that Canada imprisons hundreds of refugees and immigrants, including minors, in prisons, jails and detention centres, simply because they lack the proper identity papers. This situation has been aggravated by the racist and repressive hysteria that followed the September 11th in 2001.

… the day to oppose prison violence, police violence, and violence against women and children.

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