Tonight we bring you an interview with Jarrod Shook about the latest Federal Court ruling on prison wages.
In 2013, the Conservative Government introduced a 30% pay cut to wages for work done by prisoners and called it a “food and accommodation tax” as well as eliminating incentive pay work done at CORCAN facilities, a government agency that contracts out prison labour to both the public and private sector. Prisoners are forced to purchase items such as stamps and personal hygiene products through government designated suppliers, and wages had already decreased sevenfold in actual purchasing power, as they hadn’t been increased since being established in the 1980s.
After exhausting internal grievance procedures, prisoners at Collins Bay Institution launched a work strike, which spread to federal prisons across Canada. Since 2014, several prisoners were fighting a lawsuit against the Government of Canada challenging the constitutionality of the pay cuts. At the end of January, a Federal Court in Ottawa threw out the case, ruling that prison labour falls under ‘programming’ and that prisoners are not in an employer-employee relationship with the Correctional Service of Canada.
I spoke with Jarrod Shook, an ex-prisoner who was a regular contributor to CPR while incarcerated at Collins Bay. He was a spokesperson for the strike in 2013, an applicant on the lawsuit, and he is now studying criminology at the University of Ottawa where he continues to be involved in prison-related activism. We discussed the history of the Inmate Pay System, resistance to prison pay cuts inside, the four-year lawsuit, and next steps in the struggle for better wages and dignity for prisoner workers.
Calls From Home is a monthly CFRC Prison Radio segment that connects friends and family with their loved ones behind Kingston’s prison walls through the power of community radio.
We want to extend a special thanks to everyone who helped put out the word for this holiday special. The response was overwhelming and heartening for all of us at CPR!
Music: Seasick Steve and the Level Devils – Xmas Prison Blues
Theory of a Dead Man – Santa Monica
Goo Goo Dolls – Iris
The Weeknd & Future – Low Life
Buju Banton – Wanna Be Loved
Leona Lewis – Bleeding Love
Jah Cure – Prison Wall
Kodak Black – Too Many Years
Ennis Sisters – Ennis Rd
Chris Brown – This Christmas
This week we reached Justin Piche by phone to discuss the No On Prison Expansion (#NOPE) campaign against the proposal to build a new provincial jail to replace the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. We also aired an excerpt of a presentation by Justin Piche and Dan Parlow at an event in Algonquin Territory/Ottawa last month called “Colonialism and Carceral Expansion.”