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(en) Canada, LinchPin #16 - a publication of common cause* - End the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) fights prison expansion

Date Wed, 05 Sep 2012 10:17:58 +0300


MEMBERS OF EPIC ---- In recent years, the Conservatives have forced sweeping changes on the way that criminal law and prisons function in Canada. Even though crime rates continue to fall, the Tories have pushed through legislation like the so-called Truth in Sentencing Act that increases minimum prison sentences and criminalizes minor offences. At the same time, they’ve initiated major new prison construction to hold the growing number of prisoners their laws will create. They’ve also shut down many of the already limited programs and services offered to inmates (including the popular prison farm program formally run out of the Frontenac Institution prison in Kingston, Ontario). -- Their agenda means the criminalization of communities of colour, immigrants, queer folks, drug users, and poor people. As they attack marginalized people, the Conservatives funnel public money into the private hands of the prison industrial complex.

End the Prison Industrial Complex
(EPIC) is an abolitionist organization
that does research, educational
campaigns, and demonstrations
against prisons in Kingston. Since
2010, EPIC has been fighting the
Conservative government’s prison
expansion agenda. Our region has the
highest density of prisons in Canada;
the Kingston area is at the forefront
of the Conservative push toward a
system of privatized, American-style
superprisons.

Most recently, the federal
government has announced that the
Kingston Penitentiary – the oldest
active prison in Canada – is going to
be closed. The official line is that the
Penitentiary is out of date and needs
to be shut down. As abolitionists, we
don’t mind seeing prisons closed. The
closure of the Kingston Penitentiary,
however, is not a way of shrinking the
prison industrial complex, but a way
of justifying the prison expansion that
has already triggered resistance and
public outcry.

Blueprints for Prison Expansion

In March 2012, the U.S.-based
leaks website Cryptome published
blueprints for new federal prison units
being built across Canada. We have
reviewed and analysed the blueprints
to try to understand their goals and
plans.

Our analysis has revealed
troubling facts and suggests that –
not surprisingly – the government
lied to the public about the nature of
and justification for these projects.
We focused on two virtually identical
buildings to be constructed at Collins
Bay (medium security) and Millhaven
(maximum security). Officially, each
building will contain 96 prisoners.
But we found the following major
concerns:

Double-bunking

Double-bunking is the practice of
holding two prisoners in a small cell
designed for one – a practice that is
becoming more and more common.
The Conservatives claim behind the
construction of new prisons is that
more space is needed to accommodate
prisoners without the use of double-
bunking. Double-bunking is
widely acknowledged, even by the
government itself, to be a dangerous
practice which increases the risk of
violence within prisons and which is
psychologically harmful to prisoners.

However, the blueprints clearly
show that these new prisons are
designed to use double-bunking. A
typical cell is shown with two bunks,
with details specified for mounting
hardware into the walls. Floor plans
for furniture in the common area
depict seating for twice as many
prisoners as cells; that is, the eating
areas are also designed with double-
bunking in mind.

Construction, not just expansion

Government statements about
these projects have implied that the
construction is minor, and the term
“prison expansion” suggests that a
new wing or two is being built. But
entirely new buildings are being
constructed, each with two stories, and
each story with four wings containing
twelve double-bunked cells. With
this in mind, the total occupancy for
each building will be 192 prisoners,
not 96, as publicly stated. The two
buildings together will hold almost
400 prisoners, which means that the
new construction is something akin to
building an entirely new prison.

Prisons within prisons

These blueprints depict buildings
with maximum-security level security,
in which the prisoners in each range
are separated both from prisoners
in other ranges and from the general
population. These buildings are
prisons within prisons – they permit
a high level of prisoner isolation and
the use of maximum security prisons
within medium-security institutions
(like Collins Bay). This approach will
allow the Conservative government
to bring in super-prisons through
the back door, without any public
consultation or transparency.

Regardless of whether or not
the government’s initial intent is to
put only one prisoner in each cell,
Conservative legislation like the
Truth in Sentencing Act will create an
increase in prison population that will
make double-bunking in these new
buildings inevitable.

Resistance

People in Kingston and across the
country have been fighting back against
the Tory prison agenda. Part of EPIC’s
work is to expose prison profiteers –
private contractors who get rich off of
prison expansion. You can find a list
of prison profiteers on our website,
along with the contracts they’ve been
awarded and how much money they’ve
made.

Stopping prison expansion is a
big job, but we can start small. You
can organize local demonstrations
where you live, and put pressure on
contractors to reject profit from prison
expansion. You can get in touch with us
and other organizers to strategize. And
you can get in touch with prisoners and
prisoner groups to learn first-hand what
is going on.

A noise demo – a raucous
demonstration outside a prison – is a
great way to show opposition to prisons
and solidarity with prisoners. This May
Day a successful noise demo was held
outside the walls of Collins Bay, with
noisemakers and fireworks visible to
the prisoners.

Learn more and get in touch
by visiting
endthepic.wordpress.com There you can find a link to the
prison blueprints and read our zine
Superprisons in Canada: What They
Are, How To Stop Them.
=====================================
* Anarchist organization
_________________________________________
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