Category Archives: Publication and Launches

New Resource: noprisons.ca

A new website that is serving as a clearing house for all the information you could need about what is going on in Canadian prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cages within Cages: An Essay by Chester Abbotsbury

He’d always had problems on Parole, in handling the newfound freedom and
responsibility, as well as in trying to immediately fit into a society he’d
never really felt a part of. While he has often worked towards enormous
amounts of success in his life by any measure – academic, lengths of
sobriety, social network building, and overall health and wellbeing -  it
only takes a few drinks in a time of stress to start a downward spiral that
lands him back inside.

Our system of incarceration, with it’s multi-billion dollar budget equating
to $550 in taxes for each Canadian, a staff-to-prisoner ratio of about 1:1,
and International award-winning programming, is supposed to help people
like this man sort out their past traumas and learn new skills while it
gives them the space to do so, away from the pressures of late-stage
colonial capitalism.

The fact that 80-90% of men, and 70-80% of women incarcerates make multiple
trips through it tells a different story. Maybe it’s not working.

Few prisoners arrive in a vacuum. Most have histories of economic
marginalization, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and undiagnosed and
untreated mental health and neurodiversity conditions. While clinical
Psychologists are made available and one-size-fits-most programming
encourages prisoners to be open and expressive in talking about and
analysing their past, present, and future selves and circumstances, doing
so while in a cage is not conducive to progress here.

Prisoners fear that health professionals, PO’s, and programming staff will
use admissions against them in Public Safety Risk Assessments, keeping them
in longer. Many of them have understandable reservation about trusting or
working with “the man” and mainstream, colonial social structures and
institutions in general.

Further to that, incarceration and spending time surrounded by others in
crisis, many of whom know only fear, anger, and violence as means of
sorting out their problems (and I do not include only the prisoners who
inhabit the prison in this), is bound to be traumatic.

Normal support structures such as friends and family are kept at arm’s
length, and many forms of meaningful human contact are stigmatized and
shunned within the criminal and prison cultures. So how does one get
through what I’ve described as the most trauma-inducing, as opposed to
reducing, experiences someone can experience during peacetime?

We support each other while we’re inside. And it’s a mostly wonderful,
respectful, and loving phenomenon. The problem, and here I get back around
to the experiences of the gentleman I began to describe to you, is that the
system cuts you off from this vital support network upon parole release.
For many, this is the only true support they have ever known.

You would think that a system predicated on fostering empathy and
pro-social outcomes would not cut you off from those who sympathize with
you, and upon whom you have leaned, and been leaned upon, during a
difficult phase of incarceration.

I know the man I describe. I’ve seen him at his absolute best. I know who
he truly is, and who he can aspire and work to be. I also know that during
his most difficult times, since we were released, I’ve not been allowed
contact with him. And knowing him, I don’t have to wonder if having more
familiar supports, with whom he could be open without fear of judgement,
people who had been in his shoes, would have made a difference, had the
system only allowed it. It’s yet one more injustice inherent in how we
treat the clients of our systems of “justice.”

Interviews about the John Howard Society and ‘Contact’

An interview with Catherine Latimer and Lawrence Da Silva about the launch of a new podcast and more broadly about the need for transparency, information, and assistance for prisoners. If you’re interested in learning more about the project, or contributing, please contact the John Howard Society by writing to them at 809 Blackburn Mews, Kingston, ON K7P 2N6, Canada, e-mailing national@johnhoward.ca or phoning Lawrence at 613 218 7592.

After that, an interview with Andrea Conte about his documentary project dedicated to Contact, the 1990s prison television show that aired right here in Kingston. If you happen to have tapes of Contact, please contact contacttvdocumentary@gmail.com.

Listen here: https://archive.org/details/2019111318

CFRC Prison Radio On TVO!

cfrc2.jpg

Why prisoners are tuning in to this campus radio station

Hey wow! A nice write-up about the show from TVO! Much thanks to David Corrigan for interviewing us and seeing the show in action while we were on the air at CFRC 101.9 FM.

“When people are calling in with all their kids on the line, leaving a message for Daddy, and you can hear all the kids in the background yelling at him with their cute Christmas song request or whatever, those are the things that make it worthwhile.”

Violent History of Benevolence

CFRC rebroadcast on May 1st a March 28 panel in Toronto called “Violent History of Benevolence”. This event was part of the monthly OCAP Speakers Series, where we gather to discuss issues that are critical to the success of poor people’s movements.

This event was sponsored by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

Listen to the archive show here.

“Social work is often considered a noble profession.

But writers A.J. Withers and Chris Chapman argue this idea is not only historically inaccurate, but the fiction also allows decent people to become willing participants in furthering violence against poor and marginalized people.

In their book, A.J. and Chris document many histories usually left out of social work, including communities of Black social workers (who, among other things, never removed children from their homes involuntarily), the role of early social workers in advancing eugenics and mass confinement, and the emergence of colonial education, psychiatry, and penitentiaries.”

Syphon 5.0

To promote the launch of the new issue of Modern Fuel‘s SYPHON publication, on incarceration, CPR is re-broadcasting some of our recordings and interviews with some of the folks featured in this new issue. Featuring a talk with Amina Mohamed, interviews with the P4W Memorial Collective, and a field recording of the memorial the Hogan brothers launched at Catarqui Cemetery for PJD.  Listen here:

Issues of SYPHON are available at Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre.

Here’s an overview of the publication: https://archive.org/details/CPRFeb2019h00

“Pushing back against popular narratives of Kingston’s incarceration histories espoused and circulated by the ‘dark tourism’ of Kingston Pen Tours, Issue 5.0: INCARCERATION aims to (re-)centre the resiliency and creativity of inmates in the face of violence, neglect, experimentation, and isolation, as well as the creative approaches of allies and artists who aim to cultivate awareness and solidarity in their pursuit of prisoner’s justice. While discussions of art’s role within carceral sites often default to problematic notions of art-making as a form of occupational therapy and “rehabilitation,” the artists, filmmakers, poets, and writers featured in this issue re-frame art-making as an act of resistance to and healing from systemic trauma, intergenerational trauma, colonial trauma, and/or the trauma of incarceration.

Contributors: Tings Chak, Molly Goddard/Bidabinokwe, Lisa Guenther, Ann Hansen, Donny Hogan, Jimmy Hogan, Sheena Hoszko, Amina Mohamed, Radiodress, Natasha Stirrett, Cameron Willis, Sara Wylie

Edited by Robin Alex McDonald.”