August Barton Jail Hunger Strike: Post Updated for Day 2

Starting this morning, August 5th, prisoners on range 4B in the Barton Jail initiated a hunger strike, their third in the past two months. Their most recent strike in late July ended quickly when the administration agreed to meet their core demands: Access to books from outside and more items available from the canteen. (The full list of demands is below). However it seems that these were empty words, as more than a week later there has been no follow through.

Hunger strikes are a dangerous tactic and the 4B prisoners are prepared to go further with it this time, since it is clear that the administration will make empty promises to undermine collective action. They need outside solidarity to both help them meet their goals and to protect them from reprisals. Prison is set up to be free of scrutiny, but by paying attention to the voices of prisoners and showing them that they will never struggle alone, we can take a powerful step in breaking down the walls. Read More …

Collective Action For The Win! Hunger Strike in Barton Quickly Forces Concessions from the Admin

Today at noon, we learned that four ranges on the Barton Jail’s fourth floor had resumed a hunger strike, with at least 60 prisoners confirmed to be participating . One prisoner presented the action like this: “We have to starve ourselves to get out a message that is barely heard. We have a voice and aren’t just faceless inmates. Our concerns, our families’ concerns, are valid. We face violence for speaking out in here, but we are doing it for the ones that come after us.” Then, before we even had time to publish the demands, we got called back just before 5 with the news that the administration was moving to meet the strikers’ demands. This is amazing news and shows the power of collective action in materially improving the conditions inside. Read More …

Female Keep Separate: Prisons, Gender, and the Violence of Inclusion

When finally the cell door closes, when the jangling keys recede, you’ve arrived as far as you’re going that day. Then you can exhale alone with your mattress and be in your own body again, your body no longer a problem to be solved or a question to be answered. Just your own familiar weight under the blanket, where you can just shake and shake and try to sleep and get ready for whatever happens next.

I’ve done time in both men and women’s prisons, and from this I’ve learned a lot of things about the world we live in. About gender and how the state perceives it, about how gender is a form of control. Here in the territory called Canada, the state changed its rules about how its institutions engage with gender a few years ago by listing “gender identity” as a charter-protected category, like race or sex, in Bill C-16i. This meant that all the arms of the state have been required to figure out what it means to respect self-identification around gender. Read More …

Hamilton: Statement from a Striking Prisoner and Solidarity Demo Reportback

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.

Also included is a short reportback on the emergency prisoner solidarity demo held this week to show striking prisoner they are not alone. Read More …

Hamilton: A Second Range Starts a Hunger Strike! Call-in Campaign on Monday the 22nd

Yesterday we announced a hunger strike on 4B with a list of demands. Later that day we stood outside the jail with a banner reading “Hunger Strike on 4B”, since it’s very difficult for prisoners to communicate between different section. Our phone line immediately lit with calls from people inside wanting to know more and to vent their own frustration. Today, we got a call from a prisoner on 3B letting us know that a whole range there is on hunger strike now as well — all 20 prisoners refused breakfast this morning. Read More …

Hamilton: Hunger Strike in the Barton Jail

At about 4:30pm on June 19th, 2020, all prisoners of the 4B range, in the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Center (aka Barton Jail), sent back their trays and announced a hunger strike. Since COVID-19 measures hit jails some months back, the quality of food has greatly declined. Prisoners have been getting the same meals back-to-back, are being served meals still frozen, and have recieved sandwiches with soaking wet bread. Healthy food is a necessity for those inside at any time, let alone during a pandemic. Today they decided that until they are given a diverse range of healthy food, they will collectively refuse to eat. Read More …

Hamilton: Recent Updates from the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project

There have been a number of updates from the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project about conditions in the facility over the past month, and we compile them here.

Covid in the Courts is a Guilty Plea Machine

May 15, 2020: “They say they’re letting people out, but they’re not. They’re just doing it like in Mission”, a Barton prisoner told us yesterday, referring to the federal prison in Mission, BC where a prisoner died from coronavirus this week and at least seven have been hospitalised. The prison there has been on lockdown to deal with the outbreak and people in Barton see the similarities with the lockdown they are facing here. It claims to be a health measure, but for many, the consequences are mostly legal. Read More …

May Day noise demo at Toronto South Detention Centre

For May Day this year, despite the current limitations on some of our traditional activities, we wanted to safely take to the streets. It was a perfect opportunity to do a demonstration we’d been thinking about at Toronto South Detention Centre. Toronto South, nicknamed “Guantanamo South”, is a horrific place, and an especially dangerous place to be during a pandemic.

Just as dark fell on May 1st, we gathered in a parking lot nearby to go over the plan, and one person gave this statement:

“It’s May Day, or International Workers Day, a day to celebrate anti-capitalist struggles and fight for our collective freedom. The struggle against prisons is tied to so many other fights we’re engaged in, as a threat and punishment that keeps us trapped in the current system. […]” Read More …

Prisoner Solidarity Car Caravan in Kingston

On Sunday afternoon a caravan of about a dozen vehicles drove to Collins Bay Institution, a federal prison in Kingston, ON to hold a noisy demonstration in solidarity with prisoners demanding to be released in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This demo was organized in response to a call from Solidarity Across Borders for caravan actions against imprisonment and for status for all.

We stayed in our cars for the duration of the event and took care to maintain physical distancing among ourselves, as we felt it was important to avoid contributing to the spread of this deadly virus. This spirit of care is the same reason it felt important to take action to help free those imprisoned by the state in prisons, jails and migrant detention centres, where COVID-19 is a disaster waiting to happen. Read More …

Hamilton: Update message from Barton Prisoners

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.

Audio file in post Read More …