AGAINST PRISON
A Contribution to the Struggle Against Prison and its World

From the Inside

Communications from the Belly of Canadian Prisons

January 18th 2013

Alex Hundert speaks about tensions in the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, Ontario.

Yesterday I was found guilty of inciting a disturbance likely to endanger the security of the institution, for my role in the protest and direct action that occurred on January 12 on Unit 5 at the CNCC [Central North Correctional Centre]. Once again I have been labelled as a ringleader. Since the incident I have been on the segregation unit here, in solitary confinement, more commonly known as ‘the hole.’ The protest was against the ongoing degradation of our living conditions here, which was a culmination of dissent after a week where we had been locked down for all or part of every single day. The direct action was to take back half an hour of our day; several months ago our nightly lockup was moved from 8:30 to 6:30 p.m. That extra half hour is valuable to imprisoned people, as after 6 p.m. is the only time that many people can call their families — phone rates can be prohibitively expensive during the day, which is also when many of our family members are at work or at school. The existing policy is one that discriminates against poor people, who are already disproportionately targeted for imprisonment. The action consisted of all of the people on most of the cell blocks on Unit 5 refusing to lock up in their cells at 6:30 p.m. as per the regular routine.

The confrontation occurred on cell block 9A, when the guards were met with defiance from all of the people imprisoned there who refused to move when ordered. The sergeant arrived and the spokesperson informed the white shirt that there were units in lockup in protest of all that has been taken away from us lately — from access to our cells during the day, to the two hours every evening — we were finally taking something back. Even having been informed that our intention was to voluntarily return to our cells at 7 p.m., at 10 to 7, 50 to 60 guards were brought onto the range to force us into our cells. Despite our spokesperson explicitly saying that we were not interested in escalation, ours was to be a peaceful protest, the sergeant decided that it was worth risking the safety of imprisoned people as well as corrections officers in order to ensure that the guards finished their shifts on time. Management had told me that despite appearances, the reason we lost the 2 hours, though having to do with “shift alignment,” was not as a result of the funding cuts causing cutbacks on staffing. While claiming it has nothing to do with austerity, no other explanation has been provided. When the guards stormed the cell block, one imprisoned person was assaulted and taken down to the floor, where he was kneed repeatedly before being handcuffed and taken off the unit. He too is now in the hole, just a few cells down from mine, waiting to be taken to the hospital for x-rays.

Down the hall from me in the other direction is another imprisoned person who is fighting back against the injustice of this institution. David Cedeño, 29, is on day 12 of a hunger strike. While my contact with him has been very limited by the circumstances of the segregation unit, I can say that his demands include proper medical treatment, the opportunity to continue with high school coursework, resolution regarding a complaint he filed against a guard, and consideration for all the time he has spent in segregation as a result of incidents related to those complaints. Cedeño has underlined concerns about the way the jail is run, and emphasizes that his related demands are more important than those concerning himself. He recognizes that the combination of this facility’s size and systematic [inaudible] results in a  pervasive pattern of unaccountability and indifference while coming from a minority of the staff, running unchecked with no available effective grievance process. He has been disregarded by management, by the folks at Offender Issues, also known as the “Client Conflict Resolution Unit” who told him his hunger strike is an internal issue with this facility, and by the always useless provincial Ombudsman’s Office, who said that it isn’t their problem. I heard a sergeant tell him that his concerns can only be addressed by the Deputy Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Why the Superintendent did not address them — I would think that she would at least meet with him — I don’t know. If the way this facility is run is any indication, perhaps it is due to incompetence, or maybe it’s just another instance of institutional indifference.

Cedeño’s demands for the broader facility include better quality food, better air filtration, the ability for imprisoned people to purchase and use phone calling cards which might make calls affordable, access to existing facilities such as the gym and library, and improvements to the conditions in segregation. He has not eaten a thing in 10 days. The institution’s negligence in this case, I would think, is verging on criminal. Cedeño lives with sleep apnea and requires a machine to breathe at night. The jail’s unwillingness to responsibly accommodate his life-threatening condition is what led to conflict with the guards in the first place, and in turn the circumstances he now finds himself in. Given that, perhaps he’s being naive in thinking that even a hunger strike is capable of breaking through such systemic injustice. I would prefer to think of him as courageous and principled. To the extent that I have been able to speak with him, he wanted to make it clear that the stand he is taking is not just for himself but for all imprisoned people in here. Rarely have I witnessed such a spirit of resistance here in the state’s darkest of dungeons.

I am inspired and honoured to be imprisoned alongside people like David Cedeño, my friend from Fort Hope, and many others who are constantly smashing their cages with unrelenting rage against this unjust institution…

For the entire communication or to cantact Alex, visit his blog at: [http://alexhundert.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/live-from-the-hole/]. As of January 30th, David Cedeno is on Day 24 of his hunger strike. Alex is back in the hole. The provincial adjudication from a few days ago was overruled and he was declared a ‘security threat’. It is unclear when they will release him from solitary confinement, it could be up to 9 weeks (the remaining time left on his sentence).

October 7th 2010

Here is a letter received by a recently released prisoner at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre. Some sections are removed; some grammar was changed along with spelling mistakes. Most edits are in square brackets. T- writes to us about prison, its world, the hunger strike on August 10th, and makes reference to the noise demonstration outside the jail.

…[I] believe very strongly that the only way to change things – people have to become awake of the strangle hold that elite have on us – and to break the myth that in our society we are all equals, and have the same opportunities.

We give billions in foreign aid but all you have to do is walk through some of our neighbourhoods to see the decay in the actual structures & to see the vacant stares of people who have given up.

People have to start thinking more for themselves & not accepting things as the way they are because that’s the way it’s always been.

A media that feeds on our fears in order to justify a heavier hand by our government or to [be] more intrusive in the places we go, who we see, time & dated. What are we to become, like Britain were 70% of their cop budget goes to surveillance? How much is out there that we have no idea about?

Satellites, wiretaps, nabbing cell phone messages… Mass security & all that other shit.

So in saying that, where does that leave us as a people [;] when we are controlled, harassed, made to believe that the morals [and morality] of our parents & grandparents make us who we are – or who the controlling, or more to the point, the controllers are?

Billions of dollars for what the government believes to be important – while so many social programs are slashed – money for programs in jails are cut, schools, hospitals – it’s absurd. But the only thing I can think of is that we are force fed an image of what & who we should be as Canadians. We accept this – or let the myth become fact, if only in the minds of the general society – easier to accept that people in dire straits are there by choice; when I know people respond to being shown a better way – or given tools to rise above.

Are they fucking scared that if people were to see for themselves – that we are controlled to such a great extent, that they would turn as a person & a people, to say “we will not be molded, formed in any way to fit into big government / business.” As what people are & how they should be… part of this [refusal] as a collective & more importantly to be viewed as a person, not some cog in the collective wheel of a forced society.

Prison as a whole breeds contempt & hatred. To stifle a man’s soul & conscience is deplorable. Believe me when I say this, I’ve met more than a few people who should be locked up – or wiped out. As they stand for nothing but their greed & lust. Or just plain old getting off on hurting & causing damage to people who want to live…

You know I never thought about the treatment of animals & how we can be compared to them – captivity is captivity… People are not people in captivity or warehoused. Elephants are known to live upwards of 65 years, while in captivity it’s 25!

I’ll be bringing a [law] suit against Hamilton Police – they arrested me, fingerprinted [me] – no complaints, I made the [news] paper – where he referred a convicted of the charges when in fact no one laid any

2 people on my range didn’t eat – Dorm (12) I didn’t, it wasn’t my first [Prisoner Justice Day] – there was a lot of support in here for August 10…

Rage & Love,

T-

%d bloggers like this: