Hamilton: Update message from Barton Prisoners

From the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project: https://www.facebook.com/bartonsolidarityproject/posts/227969891880307?

The prisoners of Barton Jail continue to feel that they are forgotten. Telling us that ‘No one stands up for prisoners, we don’t have a voice’ and that its a relief to have a number to call to tell the outside about what happening inside.

Lock downs seem to happen intermittently on different ranges at different times for different reasons but all stem from the guards unwillingness to deal with any situation. We have reports that folks are slowly being let out but in an excruciatingly slow and dragged out process. And still, even with the state of the country during this covid crisis new people are being brought into the jail. Many feel as if the guards will just ‘sit back and watch us die’ when the virus makes its way in to the jail.

We have received calls about the ventilation system on some the ranges being shut down or not working properly. This results in inmates with pre-existing breathing issues having a hard time catching their breath. These are conditions unfit for people to live in.

Concessions are being made, there is the possibility of changes to the phone system, where inmates could use their prisoner number to access their canteen account to make calls to family and loved ones instead of relying on the outdated collect call system. The corrections system is using it as a gift to the inmates to help quell their unrest but this is something that could have and should have happened years ago.

We received another message from a prisoner inside Barton with the support of his fellow inmates. It is important that we keep amplifying the voices of those inside, thinning the walls until they’re broken down for good. So here it is:

“First and foremost we want it stated unequivocally, we the prisoners stand with all vulnerable and tyrannized people all over the world. While we hold that some alleged victims are subject to hidden agendas, we take on the cause of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the Uygrhus, the Palestinians, the Rohingya, and every mass incarcerated and politically motivated prosecution from the beginning of time until the end. We support essential workers, the migrants, the mothers who lost children. We respect and honor and cherish the elders who COVID has hit the hardest and demand that all prisoners over 40 be released immediately.

I am writing to you now to address several concerns by inmates/prisoners that feel vulnerable, unadvocated for and out of the loop, out of the conversation, and in a sense awaiting the prevail of death. Prior to the COVID pandemic at Barton Jail where I reside, prisoners presumed innocent are three to a cell and recieve no clean up time for our cells (where we spend the majority of our day). Unless we receive a daily dose of methadone, we go without medical care as physician visits are a rarity.

Already there was a scare when one correctional officer came to work with COVID-19 symptoms. We were not told and only found out through the media, which is a favorite past-time of prison. We were lied to by the management, they told us that he was never in the building. It is a very heightened time in here cause corrections is a corrosive environment in the best of times and now we are left without duly-received truthful answers. We are by and large expendable and awaiting inevitable, imminent death. We are at a standstill because the courts – our only means of getting out and moving on – was snatched away before repurcussions could even be considered. All trials have been halted until an undetermined date, this despite some unlucky folks already having waited on the judicial process for months (and let’s be honest, sometimes years) to clear their name. In an article in the Canadian press, it claimed that since March 16th jails cut the number of inmates from 8,344 to 6,148. For arguments sake, let’s for now not dispute these figures. This is skewering the data because a large percentage of these folks would have been let go on some type of release anyway.

The courts have time and time again reiterated everyone has the right to bail (I believe it is 11E of the Charter). It is wrong to pat the government on the back during for doing what they get paid very handsomely (yet perform very poorly) to do. Since COVID hit, we the oppressed, incarcerated have experienced increased fears, heightened lockdowns, constant uncertainty, perpetual disinformation and systemic indifference. Not to mention the abandonment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the deprivation of our visits, and the discontinuation of cleaning equipment. Now I’m not disputing the numbers have dropped, but people are still being admitted to the jails in large numbers and for frivilous reasons. And for the long-term prisoners, what kind of message do you suppose that sends? Everyone else is being released while I sit tight. Picture a sitting duck.”