On August 10, 1975, a prisoner-led hunger strike was organized at Millhaven Maximum Security Prison in Bath, Ontario to mourn the suicide of Edward Nalon, an inmate who had bled to death in solitary confinement one year earlier, on August 10, 1974. The first anniversary of Eddie’s death was commemorated by this one-day hunger strike wherein inmates refused to work and use the prison’s services; instead, they held a memorial service. August 10 then became known as Prisoners’ Justice Day in Canada, catalyzing similar prisoner-led protests in the USA, France, England, and Germany, and prompting the creation of the International Prisoners’ Justice Day, which is now celebrated around the world. Although refusing to work or eat are some of a small number of ways to peacefully protest abhorrent prison conditions, both acts are often deemed punishable by prison administrations.
It is hoped that this syllabus will help abolition-minded instructors, students, community organizers, and advocates alike learn from and honour the vital organizing, research, resource development, and community building that both prisoners and their advocates have been doing since the inception of prisons. We were inspired to create the syllabus following the 2018 release of the Abolition Syllabus 2.0 (https://www.aaihs.org/prison-abolition-syllabus-2-0/), which focuses mainly on the carceral landscape of the United States in the context of the theories and origins of punishment more generally. Recognizing the need for a resource specific to the Canadian context, we aspire for the present syllabus to support the work of abolitionists in Canada as well as elsewhere, recognizing that our struggles are interconnected with others throughout the globe, and yet specific to the lands and settler colonial states in which we live.
The resources collected here were suggested by members of the Abolition in Canada Network listserv, an online forum for people engaged in prisoners’ struggles and penal/carceral abolition across the land colonized as Canada and elsewhere. To join the network, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Subscribe Your Name” in the subject heading. More information about the network can be found here: https://justiceexchange.ca/abolition/
To add to this syllabus, please contact the listserv at email@example.com, and it will be updated and republished each year on August 10.