Compiled by Bryan Hill
August 10th is a day set aside to remember all the people who have died unnatural deaths inside Canadian prisons.
The Death of Edward Nalon
On August 10th 1974, prisoner Eddie Nalon bled to death in the segregation unit of Millhaven Maximum Security Prison located in Bath, Ontario.
Eddie was serving a life sentence and had been in and out of segregation from the start of his sentence. He was well familiar with prison procedure and knew the workings of the Segregation Review Board. Even though Eddie took his own life in the early morning hours of August 10th, evidence clearly shows that the hand that held the razor blade belongs solely to the prison system and its apathetic administrators.
In June of that year Eddie was housed in general population in one of the working living units of the prison, and wanted to transfer from this unit to one of the non-working living units. He was told by guards that the only way this might happen is if he refused to work, so he signed a form saying he refused to work in the hope of getting the transfer. Instead he was taken to segregation on June 7th to await a hearing on the institutional charge of refusing to work. On June 14th, he was tried in the Warden´s Court and given the maximum penalty for a lifer, thirty days in solitary confinement (the hole) with restricted diet. On or about the 14th of July, he was released from the hole and sent back to segregation. On the 24th of July the Segregation Review Board dealt with Eddie´s case and recommended that he be left in segregation but added that if he wanted to get out of segregation he should make a request to that effect. On July 28th Eddie sent a note to a classification officer asking to get released back to general population. That note was received on July 29th. The Inmate Training Board dealt with the case on the 31st and recommended this transfer. Releases from segregation in that prison normally took place on a Friday. Between July 31st and August 10th, no one in the institution communicated to Eddie that he had been ordered to be released from segregation. As an experienced prisoner, Eddie was aware that if he was going to be moved from segregation, he would have been moved on August 2nd or August 9th. In the early morning hours of August 10th Eddie slashed his left inner elbow severing all veins and arteries.
August 10th 1975
On the first anniversary of Eddie´s death, August 10th 1975, prisoners at Millhaven (See Side Bar) refused to work, went on a one day hunger strike and held a memorial service, even though it would mean a stint in solitary confinement. Many of the alleged leaders in this one day peaceful protest would still be in segregation a year later. Note: although refusing to eat or refusing to work are among the only options for peaceful protest available to prisoners, both are viewed as disciplinary offences by prison administrations.
Millhaven Maximum was originally built in 1971 to replace the Kingston Penitentiary, both of which are in full operation to this day. It was built with high tech security systems, surveillance cameras in every cell and electronic consoles capable of opening one or all of it’s doors from a control room. It was rumors of the construction of this prison and it’s increased security that incited a four-day prison riot at the Kingston Pen in 1971. Because of this riot, prisoners were prematurely moved into the Millhaven Facility, which had yet to have been completed. Here prisoners were on lockdown for the majority of the time until the prison was completed.)
The Death of Robert Landers
On May 21st, 1976 another prisoner died in the segregation unit of Millhaven Prison. Bobby was very active and outspoken in the struggle for Prisoners Rights. He had been doing his time at Archambault Maximum Security Prison, near Montreal, Quebec. He was on the Inmate Committee at Archambault, where prisoners were in the process of organizing a prisoner strike to better conditions inside(See Side Bar). Bobby was involuntarily transferred to Millhaven just before the strike in January 1976 and thrown into the Hole. On the night before he died Bobby tried to get medical help, however, the panic buttons in the cells had still not been repaired. He wanted to see the nurse, who could be heard laughing and talking with guards out in the office, at the end of the range. He and three other prisoners all called out for her to come on to the range, but were ignored by both the nurse and the guards. In the morning they found Bobby dead and a scribbled note on his bed that requested medical aid and described symptoms that indicated a heart problem. At the inquest into his death it was determined that he died from a heart attack and a heart specialist confirmed that he should have been in an intensive care unit, not in solitary confinement.
Note on Archambault prisoner strike: prisoners stopped work on January 15 1976, only 15 of the 360 prisoners refused to support the strike. The strike lasted 110 days, it ended peacefully and succeeded in providing the prisoners with slightly better living conditions. The Manifesto they presented included sixteen demands: the end to restrictive visits and correspondence, the formation of a Citizens´ Committee with decision making powers, a Prisoners Committee whose constitution be accepted in it´s present form, abolition of segregation, improvements to health care, and others covering recreation, work, parole, food and more. By December 1976 some of the objectives of the Inmate Committee had been met, including contact visits with family and friends.
August 10th 1976
On the 10th of August, the prisoners of Millhaven staged a one-day hunger strike in remembrance of their fallen comrades. Here is a reprint of the statement, which was released by the prisoners:
“On August 10th, 1976, the Prisoners of Millhaven Maximum Security Prison will stage a one day hunger strike in remembrance of our two fallen comrades, EDWARD NALON and ROBERT LANDERS, who died in Millhaven segregation (solitary confinement) on August 10th, 1974 and May 21st, 1976, respectively; and in remembrance of all our fellow comrades and brothers and sisters from prisons across the country who died in the hands of an apathetic prison system and its people.
Furthermore, it is a protest against the Millhaven Administration, the Canadian Penitentiary Service, and the Members of Parliament for their continued indifference to the recommendation of the Inquest Jury made at the inquest into Edward Nalon´s death. The recommendations concerned Emergency First Aid Procedure; medical and psychiatric treatment for solitary confinement prisoners and that the emergency signal systems in the cells and the time clock which assures regularity in range patrols be made functional and that steps be taken to provide that they remain functional. None of these recommendations were enacted by the above mentioned authorities.
We protest against the continuous inhumane use of solitary confinement (segregation) and the repeated whitewashing by spineless individuals in the Government who are forever having inquiries into the use of solitary and its effects on a person´s mental and physical state and then hide the real facts of its use from the people.
We call upon our Brothers and Sisters from all prisons across the country, and upon all concerned peoples of Canada, to give their support to our one day hunger strike in remembrance of our comrades and to UNITE AS ONE VOICE IN OUR STRUGGLE for better understanding…compassion and EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL.
Jack McNeil & Howard Brown
For the Prisoners of Millhaven “
In 1983, Prisoner Justice Day became international when prisoners in France chose to go on hunger strike as an act of solidarity with other prisoners suffering the same conditions. Here is the statement that was read on a Paris radio station Frequence Libre:
“Why not have on August 10th an international day of solidarity with our imprisoned brothers and sisters,
For here or elsewhere, prison kills,
Whether it be Nalon in Ontario, Bader or Meinhoff in West Germany,
Claude or Ivan in Switzerland, Bobby Sands in Ireland,
Mirval, Haadjadj, Onno, Youssef or so many others in France,
Whether they are serving fifty three years like Alexandre Cotte or sixteen years like Youssef,
Whether they are considered political or common prisoners,
Since this time, Prisoner Justice Day has spread and is now entering its 37th year of memory and resistance. In 2010, Anarchist (See Side Bad) and anti-prison activists on the outside began the tradition of holding noise demonstrations outside of prisons, banging drums, pots and shooting off fire works to show prisoners that our struggle is one. This has coincided with a number of actions taken against prison profiteers, architects and construction firms involved in the current super prison restructuring happening across Canada.
On August 10th we are proposing a day of action, a day to show our solidarity in struggle with those on the inside… to destroy the apparatus which put them there.
It is obvious that in order to maintain a struggle for our lives that our efforts should and will surpass one single day, but we also recognize the necessity of action on the part of those on the outside especially in the realm of solidarity with the revolt and struggle of prisoners…
“Power has implemented on its behalf a machine of forgetting, each time more perfect and macabre, in order to maintain actual conditions in its favor. Amnesia only generates an acceptance of imposed reality while observing past struggles or comrades like photographs, severing every connection with reality, achieved by showing how unfeasible every intent to disobey the masters is.
To forget past struggles is to forget who gave their lives and energy to change this reality.”
-Memory As A Weapon