Watch the video version of Fran Chaisson’s interview on solitary confinement, prison abolition, memorial and sisterhood.
Three members of the P4W Memorial Collective critique the recent move from segregation to structured intervention, and reflect on ways that people in women’s prisons have helped each other to survive solitary confinement.
This recording includes descriptions of violence, including self-injury, that may be triggering to some listeners.
The main speakers are:
Joey Twins is a Cree Twin Spirit woman from Treaty 6 Territory whose spirit name is Redstone Woman Who Walks With Fire. She is a knowledge keeper, singer and hand drummer, prison advocate, Land Defender, Water Protector, advocate for the homeless, and motivational speaker. She is this year’s recipient of the Ed McIsaac Human Rights Award in Corrections.
Fran Chaisson is a founding member of the P4W Memorial Collective in Kingston, Ontario. She was born and raised in Toronto. She is a volunteer and organizer with the Two Feather Drum Group, Martha’s Table, Kingston Waterwalkers, Ontario Native Women’s Association, HARS (HIV/AIDS Regional Services), Pow Wow Yoga, and the Kingston National Indigenous Peoples’ Day. She was released from P4W in 1989 and has been clean and sober since 1991. She follows the Red Road and tries to live her life by the Seven Grandfathers Teachings. She is the keeper of the Two-Spirit big drum. For Fran, prison is a capitalist system that does violence against womyn every day. The whole system has to come down!
Bobbie Kidd was born and raised in Winnipeg, then moved to BC. She is a member of the P4W Memorial Collective, and she volunteers with EFry as a peer support worker for women coming out of prison. She is also a fundraiser for E Fry and the United Way. Bobbie is an inspirational speaker at Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College, in churches, and with Native students. She is Native, and she follows the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Bobbie has been clean for twenty years, and she received counselling for two years at SACK (Sexual Assault Centre Kingston). She was released from P4W in 1993, after being the first woman to keep her child in a federal prison. Her son has blessed her with three grandkids.
This is the 12th event in a 15 day spotlight on solitary confinement in Canada, organized by Prisoner Legal Services, Schulich School of Law – Dalhousie University, the John Howard Society of Canada, and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
This Prisoners’ Justice Day the P4W Memorial Collective is in conversation with three trans women, Cedar, Moka Dawkins, and Tami Starlight about prison experience, and trans femme decolonial and abolitionist dreams. Each speaker offers an acute analysis of state violence, including anti-Black racism, policing, anti-Indigenous self-determination, and violence against BIPOC trans and two-spirit folks and women and girls. Find our audio interview with Tami Starlight below, followed by our video interviews with Cedar and Moka Dawkins. A permanent link can be found at www.p4wmemorialcollective.com/pjd. All transcripts are as follows (the captions for Moka Dawkins forthcoming):
Alongside these interviews, we are circulating a petition to counter the “Appeal to Repeal Bill C-16: A Canadian Women’s Declaration”, a recent initiative that aims to repeal transgender rights in prisons. While we recognize that appealing to the state for protection for prisoners is not a solution to the problem of prisons, we are advocating for harm reduction as part of prison abolition, to protect trans prisoners who are currently doing time. So that they may have the choice to self-identify their gender. For more detailed information about Bill C-16 and the growing transphobia in CSC, check our the longer letter and sign the petition here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-bill-c-16/
This PJD the P4W Memorial Collective is in conversation with Cedar, Moka Dawkins, and Tami Starlight about trans femme decolonial and abolitionist dreams. We will be broadcasting messages of care, love, rage, and analyses of the relationship between white supremacy, binary gender, and state violence.
Interviews will be posted on our website at 12am August 10, and will also be online and inside from 6-7pm on 101.9 FM in the Kingston region, and online at CFRC.ca.
Kingston Prison Radio reaching:
Collins Bay Institution
Cape Vincent Correctional Facility (Cape Vincent, NY)
This year on Prisoners’ Justice Day the P4W Memorial Collective is teaming up with EPIC and CFRC Prison Radio for a PJD broadcast, August 10th 4-10pm. P4W Memorial Collective will be featured from 6-7pm, in conversation with prison experienced trans women, covering topics from settler colonialism and Indigenous self-determination, to abolition and harm reduction.
Don’t Kill, Bill: Advocates Call on Minister Blair to Act on Releasing Federal Prisoners
Don’t Kill, Bill:
Advocates Call on Minister Blair to Act on Releasing Federal Prisoners
14 April 2020 – Two weeks have passed since media outlets reported that Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair asked the heads of Correctional Service Canada (CSC) and the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) to put together a plan to release federal prisoners for consideration. Today, people from across Canada are calling upon Minister Blair to release as many federally incarcerated people as possible in order to fight COVID-19.
Incarcerating people during a pandemic is a threat to public health and community safety. Doctors, public health experts, lawyers, prison scholars and the United Nations have all made clear that release is the best way to prevent spread of COVID-19 both behind and beyond prison walls. Beginning later this morning, tweets and images shared on social media with taglines such as “Don’t Kill, Bill” and “Don’t wash your hands of prisoners” (see above) will be used to draw attention to the dangers of incarceration during this pandemic.
Justin Piché from the Abolition Coalition, a collective of organizations working together to secure the release of prisoners during COVID-19 pandemic, is one of the organizers of Tuesday’s tweet storm. Piché states: “What’s Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Blair’s plan to flatten the curve in federal penitentiaries? If they continue to batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to pass – which is clearly failing in Port-Cartier, Joliette, Grand Valley and Mission institutions – the only depopulation of penitentiaries that’ll occur under their watch will be through hospitalizations and deaths in custody. If they’re in favour of retroactive death penalties, they should be up front with the public. If they want to save lives, they need to get on with the business of safely releasing human beings from prison”.
At this time, a robust health response requires releasing people from locked institutions such as prisons, immigration detention centres, psychiatric facilities and youth facilities to the extent possible. To support community transitions advocates are calling upon Minister Blair to put in place adequate supports including housing, access to medication, and other resources. The lack of action by Minister Blair, CSC, institutional heads, the PBC and the Trudeau government is not only a public health concern, but a human rights issue.
Souheil Benslimane, Coordinator of the Jail Accountability & Information Line and former federal prisoner, points to the role penitentiary staff can play in this crisis: “The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers is opposing the release of prisoners during this pandemic. This is appalling, regressive, and harms the most marginalized members of our communities. The union needs to stop promoting prison policies that injure and kill people. COVID-19 presents them with the opportunity to break the cycle of violence against prisoners. We’re demanding that CSC staff, who could potentially be the main carriers of the virus into penitentiaries, live by their titles and make the correct choice”.
Following the tweet storm, advocates and people across Canada will continue to pressure Minister Blair to do his job. Poet, activist and scholar El Jones states: “Minister Blair says he’s asking prison authorities to consider release. He can and must do more than request consideration. He can, for example, use his authority to examine regulatory adjustments and provide resources to the parole board to undertake more hearings. There’s no death penalty in this country. Pandemic isn’t punishment. We fear if Bill Blair doesn’t act, and act immediately, he’ll have to wash his hands because they’ll have the blood of prisoners on them.
The Abolition Coalition’s message is, unlike Minister Blair’s approach to federal imprisonment during the pandemic, unambiguous – #DontKillBill, #ReleaseSavesLives, #CleanOutPrisons now!”
For more information contact:
Atlantic: El Jones
Poet, journalist and community activist / Department of Social Justice and Community Studies, Saint Mary’s University
email@example.com / (902) 401-6325 (calls only / no texts)
Quebec: Ted Thomas
Member, Anti-carceral Group
Ontario: Justin Piché, Associate Professor – Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa / Member, Criminalization and Punishment Education Project
firstname.lastname@example.org / (613) 793-1093
Prairies: Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land
Assistant Professor – Department of Criminology Justice, University of Winnipeg / Member, Bar None
email@example.com / (204) 998-1964
Pacific: Meenakshi Mannoe
Member, Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee
firstname.lastname@example.org / (778) 929-4491
Noprisons is a new website being updated weekly with prisoner voices from the inside during the pandemic. There are also information about tools and resources, as well as updates on various campaigns happening across Canada.
Organized through the Prisoner Rights Project Emergency Prisoner Support Fund and Email ZAPS:
A new journal article was published in the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons this month on our work. Here is an excerpt:
“What does it mean to create a memorial on the grounds of a prison that has already shut down? The Prison for Women (P4W) in Kingston, Ontario, Canada closed its doors in 2000 (CSC, 2000), but the prison building and surrounding grounds have not shed their meaning for many. It is a site with social history and memory, which institutional closure does not erase, especially for those who have direct experiences in P4W as prisoners. As a woman at P4W described, “You may think that everything is alright now that P4W is being shut down, but what did it take to do that?” (Horii, 1994, p. 12). Creating a memorial on the grounds of a prison that has closed means seeking to build healing, awareness, and memory regarding the effects of the prison which once was, and the ongoing effects of prisons still open.”
Here is the journal link to download the pdf and read more: https://uottawa.scholarsportal.info/ottawa/index.php/jpp/article/view/4354
Hope to see you all there!