August 10th is internationally recognized as Prisoners’ Justice Day (PJD). PJD is a day to remember people who have died preventable deaths in prison. It is also a day to show solidarity with those who organize against inhumane conditions in prison.
In August 10, 1974, Eddie Nalon took his own life in the segregation unit of Millhaven Maximum Security Prison in Bath, Ontario – a victim of solitary confinement and neglect.
August 10 would come to mark International Prisoners’ Justice Day, which prisoners chose to fast, pray, and refuse work in remembrance of Eddie and all those who have suffered and died behind bars.
Prisoners’ Justice Day was founded in a climate of struggle and oppression in the prison system during the 1970s. We remember and honour the legacy of direct action by prisoners who protested to improve conditions despite the constant threat of violence from prison administration.
Today, Prisoners’ Justice Day Committees and community groups raise awareness about past and present injustices in Canadian correctional institutions. This includes discriminatory practices that see racialized people, members of LGBTQ2S communities, and people with mental health problems overrepresented and mistreated behind bars.
Black Canadians are overrepresented in federal prison by more than 300% and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit are overrepresented by nearly 500%. Black and Indigenous people, as well as homeless and unemployed people, are disproportionately refused bail and imprisoned on remand. While in jail, members of these communities are more likely to be disciplined and less likely to be paroled.