Vancouver: Attorney General’s Windows Smashed after Approving Charges for Land Defenders

 Comments Off on Vancouver: Attorney General’s Windows Smashed after Approving Charges for Land Defenders
Jun 082022
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Last Wednesday, David Eby, the Attorney General of BC, fucked up by approving criminal prosecution of contempt charges against Wet’suwet’en land defenders and their supporters. We helped him re-decorate his office in recognition of his poor choices.

Early Tuesday morning, we smashed the glass of his fancy Kitsilano office. We left behind messages demanding that the charges be dropped. Eby and his prosecutors have no jurisdiction in Wet’suwet’en territory. Eby and all “canadian” politicians should understand they are watched and their racist decisions will always have consquences.

#AllOutForWedzinKwa #KillTheDrill

Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages: A Strategy for Stopping Prison Expansion

 Comments Off on Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages: A Strategy for Stopping Prison Expansion
Jun 082022
 

From Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages

Our main goal in writing this text and drawing attention to the issue of prison expansion in Ontario is to stop the projects, so in this final section we would like to offer some ideas about how that could happen. This is just our contribution to what we hope will be a larger conversation, and we certainly aren’t trying to say there is only one way of struggling against prison. That said, we hope that you will resonate with our ideas and feel inspired to push in similar directions.

First though, who is this “we”? We are a group of friends who live in Southern Ontario and who have, separately and together, been doing prisoner solidarity organizing of different kinds for many years. We are anarchists, and although our focus has often been prison, we bring to it a broader critique of power and hierarchy that influences how we choose to organize. Some of us have done time, but all of us know what it’s like to be separated from people we care about by prison walls, and this feeling is a big part of why we don’t want to see the system expand.

In this section, we are speaking to two overlapping groups of people: those who do prisoner support and solidarity, and those who share our politics as anti-capitalists and anti-authoritarians. For those who share our broad politics, we want to encourage you to care about the details of prison expansion in Ontario and put energy into stopping it. For those who already do work around prison, we want to make the case for a certain way of thinking about how and why to oppose prison expansion.

We will talk first about the opportunities we see in building a campaign against prison expansion, and then present some ideas for how to go about it.

Opportunities

Regional organizing

Although each individual construction project is local, the overall process of prison expansion is regional and provincial in scale. The prison system affects all of us, no matter where live, and although there are specific reasons why people in and around Thunder Bay or Kemptville might want to oppose the projects in their communities, every single person in (or near) Ontario has a reason to oppose both the expansion overall and each individual project.

The financial and political interests around the expansion projects certainly aren’t limited to the communities where the prisons are located. Framing the issue as provincial in scale creates opportunities to network more widely and also to take the struggle to the doorstep of every construction company, OPSEU office, politician, or architecture firm that is driving prison expansion forward.

Set our own time frames, prepare for the future

Often, our organizing is reactive and urgent, meaning we are responding to things happening around us as quickly as we can. This is definitely not just true of organizing around prison. In this case though, the expansion project will be happening over at least the next three years. There will be moments where things are urgent, but generally speaking, a campaign against prison expansion could set its own time frame and have control over the pace of struggle.

Working on longer time frames also makes it easier to look beyond the projects currently on the table and prepare for what will come after. The Eastern and Northern Strategies are not the first waves of prison expansion and won’t be the last (see our case study about the Toronto South Detention Centre). Stopping the current projects is not our only goal. How we organize in the present creates the conditions we will fight in next time around.

Deeper Analysis of Prison in Ontario

Anyone who organizes around prison knows that one of the biggest hurdles is how little visibility the issue of prison has. Canadian society as a whole just kinda chooses not to pay any attention. In politicized spaces, although many groups have some general desire for prison abolition, they often don’t know much more than the average person about how prison in Canada actually works.

Ontario’s prison system certainly has similarities to prison systems elsewhere, but it is also specific to this region. One of the best ways to learn about the prison system is to support prisoner organizing, since the tiny routine details of how the system works are the terrain on which that struggle occurs.

Understanding how prison works in our context can help us understand how power functions more generally and help give teeth to an abolitionist politic, since when we struggle against prison, we struggle against state violence at its most bare.

A campaign against expansion is also an opportunity for folks who already do prisoner solidarity work, and here’s the main reason why:

Struggle against recuperation

As we explained in a previous section, recuperation is when the state tries to involve its critics in a process of transforming the institutions they criticize. The best way for the state to undermine prison organizing is to take up a version of our demands and use it to justify expansion and reform.

One of the strengths of the current prisoner solidarity movement in Ontario is also a vulnerability: focusing on our local prisons and amplifying the demands prisoners make about their conditions inside. This is a key part of why this organizing has been so effective in recent years, but it also makes it harder for us to react when the prison system responds to our demands by “improving” itself in a way that goes beyond any individual prison.

We have done a great job rallying people around demands that come from inside prison about conditions there. However, on the inside, a conflict over triple bunking or early lockup can easily escalate to become a fundamental challenge to the prison’s authority. Prisoners in struggle change the balance of power inside. On the outside though, the same demands that are so powerful inside are actually just mild policy disagreements. Therefore, amplifying prisoner demands may not be a sufficient basis for an abolitionist politic on the outside.

A specific campaign against Ontario prison expansion can happen in parallel with support for inside organizing. It can help to broaden the issue and give us space to argue against the existence of prisons, and it also allows us to push back against the prison system’s attempts at undermining prison struggle through recuperation.

Strategy

We want to propose a two-pronged strategy for stopping this wave of prison expansion: direct action targeting the construction process, and undercutting its social and political support.

Obviously we aren’t inventing anything here. These dual approaches are commonly used in other campaigns. For instance, in campaigns against pipelines in Ontario, people occupied construction sites and also undermined pro-pipeline advocacy in order to deprive the project of support. Around encampment defense, people helped to physically prevent evictions while also targeting politicians and lobby groups who supported evictions.

Although these two approaches are distinct, it is important to think of them as part of a single strategy. Different crews may do different kinds of work, but we should emphasize the way those kinds of work complement each other. We will look at each approach separately, but first we want to propose a general principle:

Decentralization means encouraging organizing within many different, autonomous groups, whether ones that already exist or ones formed for this purpose. Decentralization is an alternative to centralization, which would look like trying to funnel everyone who wants to oppose prison expansion into one big organization.

Decentralization allows for a wider diversity of approaches and messaging, making the campaign more creative and wide-reaching, and it makes it easier to scale up across different regions. It definitely comes with challenges, like for instance, coordinating between different groups can take more work and it can be harder to build momentum in some cases. But for us, the advantages outweigh the inconveniences.

We aren’t going to be trying to get anyone to join anything — rather, we will be encouraging folks to self-organize within as many different groups as possible. Coordination is still important, so we encourage you to send content about the expansion to (name of website) and action reports to North Shore Counter-Info, which is a secure, autonomous media platform.

OK, on to the two approaches:

Undercutting Support for Expansion

Right now, there is a whole network of support for prison expansion. This often looks like support for prison reform, notably around mental health, addiction services, and programming for Indigenous prisoners. Many of the groups and individuals doing this are not our enemies, but they are participating in the province’s recuperation strategy, and not all the groups support it to the same degree.

Undercutting support for the expansion looks like like:

  1. Dramatize the issue of expansion. Push the conflict into the open – break social peace and make it clear that there are sides in this struggle;
  2. Giving the less supportive groups the chance to step away from the project and withdraw their support;
  3. Isolating the most hardened groups that are unlikely to step away and reveal them as enemies. The activities of these hardened groups can then be targeted for disruption.

Below is an incomplete list of some groups that currently support this project. They are approximately listed in order of how supportive they are of the prison system, from less supportive to more. Those at the top can be asked (or pressured) to drop their support in order to isolate those at the bottom.

  • Various mental health organizations (Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, CMHA)
  • The Assembly of First Nations
    Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler: “These are much-needed improvements and we acknowledge the Solicitor General’s commitment to improving living conditions and providing more culturally relevant and inclusive supports for inmates,”
  • The John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies
  • Colleges that offer training for prison guards
    Mohawk and Niagara Colleges, for example
  • Construction companies and closed-shop construction unions who will be hired by the big companies that win the contracts
    It is good to pressure companies before contracts are awarded, since there are often costly penalties for withdrawing.
  • Architects, environmental assessment firms, consulting companies, lawyers and other professionals who will be hired by the companies that win the contracts
    It can be hard to figure out exactly who is involved in this work, but it seems like Ernst & Young LLP has been involved in consulting around the Thunder Bay Correctional Complex, presumably hired by Bird Construction. It is much easier to access this information if you are a member of a construction association or a trade union.
  • The Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) and other construction lobby groups
  • Construction companies who are submitting proposals during the RFQ stage
  • The Ontario Liberal and NDP parties
  • Construction companies that are awarded contracts
    Ellis Don
    Bird Construction
  • The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU)
    Warren Thomas: “This announcement puts yet more resources in the corrections system. I’m particularly happy to see the new infrastructure improvements. But the proof is in the pudding, and I’ll be even happier when I see shovels in the ground. These projects can’t be completed soon enough.”
  • The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party
    Premier Doug Ford: “By making these important investments in Eastern Ontario, we will upgrade our corrections infrastructure, better protect our correctional officers, and contribute to our economic recovery through these new construction projects.”
  • OPSEU’s Corrections Division
  • The Ministry of the Solicitor General
Direct Action Targeting the Construction Process

The Northern and Eastern prison expansion strategies involve work on five sites spread across a large area over many years. Each of these projects will go through phases of planning, consultation, environmental assessment, and bidding before construction actually begins. The construction of each site will involve many different contractors and trades working together.

Most of these steps have to happen in a particular order, meaning a delay to one has a knock on effect, delaying all the others. A construction permit won’t be issued until the environmental assessment is done, and foundations will have to be poured before modular units can be brought in. As well, many of the same companies will be involved in each project, meaning a delay to one is likely to create a delay to others.

Rather than trying to stop the project with one big push, we suggest creating many delays throughout the process. In particular, look for steps in the process that are chokepoints, such as mandatory site visits or concrete pours, where any disruption will be much more effective. These delays will stack on each other, drive up the cost of the project, and push it across multiple provincial governments.

Direct action means different things to different people, but we feel like it is worth using “direct action” in its more specific sense here. That means taking actions that directly stop the thing you don’t want to happen from happening, as opposed to actions designed to get someone else to do it. Here are some examples:

Suppose there is a public consultation meeting about a proposed prison’s request for a permit. The permitting process can’t move ahead if that meeting doesn’t happen, so rather than trying to get the committee to deny the permit, direct action means disrupting the meeting. This could look like filibustering the meeting so that it goes over time and has to be rescheduled, and it could also mean blocking the doors.

Direct action is certainly not the only way of creating delays, and we don’t expect everyone who cares about stopping prison expansion to want to use direct action tactics. But direct action does not need to be very escalated or risky to be effective, so thinking about how to make your organizing more direct is still worthwhile. Taking actions that directly disrupt the construction process is the surest way of creating delays, and publicizing them also gives more opportunities to dramatize the issue, forcing groups to pick sides.

Understanding the campaign against prison expansion as having a crucial direct action component is important, since the supporters of the expansion will try to do to us the same thing we try to do to them: they will attempt to separate the more radical people using the more disruptive tactics from those they consider reasonable. They will try to recuperate — they will invite the reasonable ones in for a seat at the table and use the police to target those who won’t compromise.

Direct action and solidarity go together. Let’s try to build a campaign that is diverse in its approach and decentralized in its structure, one that is resistant to being disrupted by repression and is capable of taking actions that slow these projects down.

Solidarity with Giannis Mihailidis, on hunger strike since the 23rd of May!

 Comments Off on Solidarity with Giannis Mihailidis, on hunger strike since the 23rd of May!
Jun 042022
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

On Monday the 23rd of May the anarchist Giannis Mihailidis, held at the Malandrinos prison in Greece, started a hunger strike to obtain his conditional release. In a letter he wrote announcing the hunger strike, he emphasizes – among other aspects – that this battle for his freedom is also an attempt to participate in the larger struggle against State and capital from which his long imprisonment has cut him off. In order to support this initiative out on the streets, many different types of actions are being organized across the Greek territory. To do everything possible to keep this umpteenth episode of struggle of our comrade from being caged in silence, we call for international solidarity. Although we thoroughly believe the best solidarity will always be to continue and deepen our fights, we think it is valuable to look at Giannis’ history of struggle, the hostility with which he looks at the existent, and the ideas of freedom he always carried inside of him on both sides of the prison walls – to recognize ourselves in the reflections of his turbulent journey of revolt. This is an opportunity to accompany our comrade in a fragment of his fight in a more outspoken way, using the means each of us sees fit.

Below you will find a short summary of Giannis’ long history with the authorities and a link to his initial letter announcing his hunger strike translated in English, German, Italian, French, and Spanish. We strongly encourage the further spreading of this call for solidarity among other comrades and spaces.

In February 2011, Giannis Mihailidis is arrested at a big demonstration in Athens and is charged with attempted murder for attacking the riot cops with bow and arrow, after which he is released on conditions. One month later, after the arrest of 5 members of CCF in a house in Volos, a warrant is issued for Giannis’ arrest for membership in CCF, based on finding his fingerprints in the house in question. He decides to go on the run.

In April 2011, in a shootout between Theofilos Mavropoulos and cops in the Pevki area in Athens, Giannis is suspected of being present and fleeing the scene by stealing the cop car. He is charged for attempted murder for injuring a cop that tried to stop him while fleeing, and condemned many years later when he’s again in prison.

A little less that two years later, in February 2013 in the town of Veria, he is arrested along with three other anarchists and sent to prison, shortly after a double robbery of a bank and post office in Velventos, northern Greece.

In June 2019, after six years in prison, he escapes from the rural prison of Tyrintha in the Peloponnese region. Seven months later he is arrested again in an Athens suburb, armed and in a stolen car, along with two other comrades. He is charged with a bank robbery that happened in August 2019 in Erymanthia, and is sent again to prison.

On December 29th 2021, he reached three fifths of his total merged sentence, and is allowed to apply for his conditional release. On May 23rd, after a first negative answer and the prosecutor’s request for a negative answer on his second application, he decides to start a hunger strike aiming at his release.

Text anouncing the hunger strike in English, German, Italian, French and Spanish

June 11th: International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason & All Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners

 Comments Off on June 11th: International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason & All Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners
Jun 012022
 

From June 11th

As time moves on and the seasons change, we approach once again the June 11th International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason & All Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners. Another year has passed, and many of our dear comrades remain captives of the state, subject to its daily subjugation, isolation, and brutality. June 11th is a time to stop the ever-quickening rush of our lives and remember.

Remember our imprisoned comrades. Remember our own histories of revolt. Remember the flame – sometimes flickering, sometimes blazing – of anarchism.

WE ARE ALL POTENTIAL PRISONERS

With June 11th, we desire to deepen a critique of prison that challenges the distinction between prisoner and supporter. For us, these differences are conditional: we, as anarchists, see ourselves as potential prisoners. Some of us have been, some of us will be. This is the basis of our solidarity – a recognition of ourselves in the plight of those in prison.

The continuum of prisoner and supporter can only be seen as tenuous if one looks to the examples of imprisoned and formerly-imprisoned comrades: Marius Mason’s activity with the Anarchist Black Cross, Bill Dunne’s liberation of an anarchist prisoner, Pola Roupa’s attempted helicopter rescue of anarchist prisoners, Claudio Lavazza‘s actions to liberate prisoners. The connections deepen when one considers that numerous anarchist prisoners are locked up for attacks on prison, judicial, and police institutions; and that others connect us to prisoner uprisings from California and Alabama to Greece and Italy.

SOLIDARITY MEANS…

We have always said that “solidarity means attack,” but we must recognize that slogans do not offer us a way forward in our struggles. If “attack” becomes confined to a restrictive set of activities, we cut ourselves off from a more expansive vision of anarchist struggle. If we move beyond mere repetition of fetishized actions, what possibilities open up to us? Solidarity means attack, yes, but what else does it mean?

In this vein, we’d like to offer our suggestion: instead of doing what you always do for June 11th, try something new. If your focus is usually on offering material aid to prisoners, take up action against some tentacle of the prison system in your town. If you’re usually out in the night attacking, try doing something to directly support an anarchist prisoner. The point is not to further entrench the false dichotomy between direct action and care work, but to challenge our ossified roles. By trying new things, we may come to recognize that the walls that separate the dedicated supporter and the dedicated saboteur were always illusory, that our imaginations are more expansive than we thought, and that we individually and collectively are capable of more than we give ourselves credit for.

Central to our vision of solidarity is maintaining the lines that connect us to our companions behind bars. We should keep alive the projects, fights, and movements to which they’ve sacrificed so much of themselves. Our connections with anarchist prisoners start from a point of commonality – that we share a desire to directly transform the world in a liberatory and egalitarian direction. Thus, our solidarity should root itself in bringing prisoners into our projects and investing ourselves in theirs. We want released anarchists to come out into a world of vibrant debate, collaboration, and action; and we want to foster that as much as possible behind prison walls as well. This can be as simple as sending news of local struggles to a prisoner or printing prisoner statements to share at events. As with any aspect of solidarity, we are limited only by our imagination and commitment.

While we should support prison struggles when they happen, we should be careful not to put the burden of struggling against the prison system on prisoners alone. Those in prison – being in conditions of extreme control, surveillance, and restriction – are in many ways the least able to actively fight winnable battles against prison institutions. Those of us living in relative freedom have opportunities to think strategically about what actions and sites of struggle would have the most positive impact on the lives of people in prison and do the most work to dismantle the prison system. As prison is inexorably connected to numerous corporate and state institutions, enemies are everywhere: where can we win?

Supporting prisoners is also a way for different struggles to converge, as the last several decades have taught us. From the Black Liberation Army to the Earth Liberation Front to Grand Jury Resistors to anti-police uprising defendants to land and water protectors, all struggles for liberation will necessarily lead to state repression and imprisonment. By building up support infrastructure and culture, by making prison a less complete isolation and removal, we strengthen every aspect of challenging this society. We also find each other, learn from each other, enrich each other.

PRISONER UPDATES

Marius Mason secured his long-fought-for transfer to a men’s prison, likely being the first trans man to achieve such a transfer in the federal prison system.

Italian prison administrators began censoring Alfredo Cospito’s correspondences in October. Authorities charged him with incitement to commit crimes, citing his writings in the anarchist newspaper Vetriolo. This repression is part of Operation Sibilla, where Italian police have raided numerous anarchist spaces and shut down websites surrounding Vetriolo to prevent the publication and spread of its subversive ideas.

Claudio Lavazza received a hit of five years to his twenty-five-year sentence. His legal support is trying to secure an earlier parole date.

Eric King went to federal court on charges related to a situation in which he was attacked and tortured by prison staff in 2018. The jury found him not guilty and his legal team is now filing a suit against the prison administration. As of this writing, Eric is the process of being transferred and the continued target of a vindictive prison system.

Michael Kimble was assaulted by a corrections officer in June and then sent to solitary confinement before transferred. He has again been denied parole, the stated reasons being disciplinary citations for refusing to work and an altercation with a corrections officer.

Sean Swain was also denied parole, which he argues is retaliation by prison staff for comments he made and civil suits he has filed against them. He has since been transferred from Virginia back to OSP Youngstown in Ohio. His supporters suspect he will soon be transferred again.

More and more defendants from the uprising of 2020 are getting sentenced, some have been released and other going on to serve their terms. Some are still pretrial and facing lengthy sentences. The effects of this repression will still be felt for many years. May the quality of our support for these defendants make us stronger than we were before.

In Chile, anarchist Joaquín García was transferred along with several subversive prisoners to the Rancagua maximum security prison last June. In October, he along with 20 other prisoners were attacked by about 50 guards, after which he was put in solitary confinement for 24 hours. This followed their declaration of solidarity with Pablo “Oso” Bahamondes Ortiz, who was facing weapons and explosive charges, and was subsequently sentenced to 15 years. Francisco Solar, another anarchist locked up at Rancagua, was hospitalized last autumn due to the advancement of undiagnosed diabetes. He and Mónica Cabellero were accused of multiple bombings, after his DNA was surreptitiously taken during a graffiti arrest, and have been in preventative detention since July 2020. In December of 2021 he accepted responsibility for bombing police structures, in solidarity with the revolts beginning in 2019 and those harmed and murdered by the police because, “no one and nothing is forgotten.” Days later, Mónica was in a fight with another prisoner that her family called a provocation set up by the prison. At the time of this writing, information is not yet available on the sentencing or a release date for these two anarchists.

Siarhei Ramanau, Ihar Alinevich, Dzmitry Rezanovich, and Dzmitry Dubousky were sentenced early this year to 18-20 years each for direct actions against Belarusian government targets after preliminary incarceration since 2019. After sentencing it was revealed that they were tortured by guards, resulting in a confession. As anarchism has become criminalized under the ongoing dictatorship, at least two other groups are facing several years each for their dissent.

Russian authorities have sentenced teenage anarchist Nikita Uvarov to five years for a conspiracy to blow up the Federal Security Service in Minecraft (yes, the video game) and constructing small fireworks. Two of his peers received probational sentences for their alleged crimes at the age of 14. Moscow ABC has reported that repression has increased (though there are no new proceedings against anarchists and antifascists there) and they have begun reorienting resources toward humanitarian efforts as Russia continues its murderous invasion of Ukraine.

The Anarchist Black Cross of Dresden, too, has reoriented itself toward providing support to those fighting in and fleeing from Ukraine. This reimagining of their support means helping finance solidarity forces like “The Black Headquarter” that have assembled volunteers to oppose the Russian forces and also attempt to carve out autonomous space in opposition to the Ukrainian state itself. Under the banner of the black flag, Balkan anarchists and anti-authoritarians are uniting against nation-states’ concepts of war and peace. It’s worth noting that chapters of the Anarchist Black Cross were established in Ukraine in 1918 as an adjunct to the Black Army that was fighting both the Soviet and Czarist forces invading from Russia.

In England, Toby Shone was sentenced to almost four years on drug charges related to psychedelics in his possession (during coordinated raids of collective anarchist homes) after terror charges failed to stick, related to the alleged operation of counter-info site 325. Despite the government’s failure to attribute membership to the the 325 collective, the Informal Anarchist Federation/International Revolutionary Front, the Earth and Animal Liberation Front, and involvement in related arsons and writings, he still must fight a Serious Organised Crime Prevention Order that would subject him to a heavily monitored five-year house arrest, expressing the evolution of incarceration by an increasingly digitized state apparatus.

ONWARD

The expansion of home detention and monitoring is not new, but still growing, as the prison society further invades the everyday through technological advances. Warfare too, grows increasingly digital from drone strikes to hacking, while government-sanctioned murder continues in all its finality. We may lack details regarding anarchists struck down or imprisoned in their pursuit of freedom in ongoing struggles in Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria – still they also move our thoughts and actions. As the state persists in all its punitive perdition, killing and imprisoning, and we find common ground with those who fight in an effort to grow our power and destabilize those that seek to control us – carrying the fallen and imprisoned with us in our relationships with them and through a persistent conflict with the existent.

For ideas on potential activities, check out our blog for years of archived reportbacks. Those looking for materials to print and share can find them at the Resources page. And, most importantly: a list of anarchist prisoners to write to.

We eagerly await the events, actions, statements, and other contributions to this year’s June 11th.

For anarchy!

Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages: Fighting Against Recuperation

 Comments Off on Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages: Fighting Against Recuperation
May 232022
 

From Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages

This article is the fourth in a series about prison expansion in Ontario that starts here.

Although we have many reasons to be against prisons and against this prison expansion project in particular, our motivations are profoundly anti-capitalist, since prison is an important part of how capitalism functions. However, we understand that not everyone will share this motivation, even if we have a shared goal of keeping this prison expansion project from happening. Therefore, while our primary goal is abolition, our secondary goal is to stop these prisons from being built, so we will need to find and reinforce common ground with others. Perhaps the best foundation from which to work is to identify the state, in the form of the provincial government, as a common adversary in this fight.

The state will try to undermine any anti-expansion organizing taking place, and the best way for it to do that is to take up a version of our demands and use them to justify expansion and reform; in a word, recuperation.

Recuperation is when the state (or another powerful body) tries to involve its critics in a process of transforming the institutions they criticize. For this expansion project specifically, we see the prison system taking up arguments used against it (like overcrowding and the absence of programs) and inviting its critics to support them in changing certain details of the system, obviously stopping short of changing anything that would challenge their power. It gives us, the critics, an air of control, like we were able to facilitate change. When in reality, nothing about the system is changed. The state is still locking people in cages, they just happen to be cages with different empty promises attached.

The following are a couple examples of recuperative actions taken by the Province of Ontario in response to critiques of the Ontario prison system in recent years. The point we want to make with them is that the prison system managed to use a narrow concession to stop specific campaigns targeting conditions inside.

There was an inspiring and successful struggle that emerged from inside prisons around Bell’s collect call system. The prison system eventually decided to react, but it ignored the more general critiques about the effects of cutting prisoners off from their supports and focused on the narrow demand of being able to place direct calls to cell phones. They did this by awarding the phone contract to Telmate, a Texas-based prison contracting company. Prisoners can now make direct calls to cell phones, but issues of surveillance, number blocking, and unequal access remain, and the system also pivoted towards video visits and scanning mail, creating new obstacles to comunication.

Similarly, in the mid-2010s there was a mass movement among prisoners to get access to better meals (centered around accessing the kosher diet). This involved coordinated action by hundreds of prisoners and eventually a successful legal challenge. It led to significant reform to the menus in provincial prisons and also to how decisions around special diets are made. Many, many more prisoners have access to special diets now and there are fewer completely inedible meals, but the experience of incarceration has not become any healthier.

Please don’t hear this as an argument against trying to help prisoners win specific demands or that the campaigns around food and phones were not important and successful. Supporting inside struggle is a big part of what we do too.

At this moment the provincial government is using some key demands from the past decade of struggle to justify building new prisons, and we think an analysis of recuperation can help us stop them.

The state will play on concerns about the brutal treatment of prisoners with mental health issues to justify building new prisons by calling them treatment centres. They will use cultural programming and healing lodges to justify building new prisons that will be disproportionately filled with Indigenous people. They will claim to be addressing overcrowding while making room to lock more people in cages.

The above examples involve small pieces of overall systemic brutality of the prison industrial complex. Prisoners are some of the most forgotten people in our society. Prison exists to erase certain humans, and it does its job well. Although forcing small concessions, like direct calls to cell phones, can feel good and make people’s time easier, we all know that is not a challenge to the prison system. It is simply slightly less torture, and to respond to the current wave of recuperation and prison expansion, we need to confront that reality. If our goal is abolition, we need to not get lost in the state’s language of reform and start aiming bigger.

Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages: Why Oppose Ontario’s Prison Expansion?

 Comments Off on Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages: Why Oppose Ontario’s Prison Expansion?
May 102022
 

From Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages

This text is the third in a series. To start at the beginning, read the introduction. The second part, a summary of the projects, can be read here.

First, briefly, why oppose prisons in general?

We take as our starting point that the world would be better without prisons. Prisons don’t solve social problems, they exacerbate existing inequalities and play a crucial role in a violent capitalist system. The lie told about prisons is that by disappearing people who have been convicted of criminalized activities, our communities will be “safer”. In reality, breaking up communities, only to later release people with more trauma and fewer resources, does far more harm.

Unsurprisingly, those dealing with poverty, addiction, or mental health struggles are vastly over-represented prison populations. Prisons frame these struggles as individual choices instead of symptoms of a capitalist system that disposes of those viewed as having less to contribute. The legal system itself is designed so that those with less resources are far more likely to end up incarcerated. The over-representation in prison of Indigenous, Black and other people of colour – all communities dealing with higher levels of surveillance and criminalization – is also indicative of how prisons entrench existing inequalities. In Canada, a country built on stolen Indigenous land, prisons have always been institutions used to lock up those who threaten the colonial state and the capitalist system it relies on.

For these reasons, the struggle against prison is a crucial part of struggles against other forms of oppression. Prison is one of the most explicit and violent ways that the state keeps the oppressed in their place and maintains the status quo.

Responding to Ontario’s Prison Expansion Narrative

Over the years, through moments of crisis/tension, the government has responded to crises in prison management by directing resources towards expanding the prison system in Ontario. Looking at public discourse around prisons over approximately the last decade, we can see a narrative that the provincial government has built up around their current prison expansion program.

Funding for the two largest projects, the Kemptville and Thunder Bay prisons, was approved back in 2017.

Around that time, Ontario prisons had come under scrutiny for their heavy-handed use of segregation, meaning solitary confinement. In one high-profile case, Adam Capay, a man from Lac Seul First Nation, was held in segregation over 1,500 days, much of that time in a cell that was brightly lit for 24 hours a day. His case was a starting point for two significant reports: Out of Oversight, Out of Mind, a report by the Ontario Ombudsman on the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ handling of segregation placements, and an interim report on from Ontario’s Independent Advisor on Corrections Reform, also on the use of segregation.

In a press release, the province describes the reports as guiding the government’s “ongoing work to reform Ontario’s correctional system.”

The work included “chang[ing] segregation practices, as well as investments made to increase staff and mental health supports for those in custody.”

Crucially, the press release also announces approved funding for a 325-bed multi-purpose correctional centre to replace the existing Thunder Bay Jail and Thunder Bay Correctional Centre, and a 725-bed multi-purpose correctional centre to replace the existing Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (the details of these projects have changed since then). These investments are described as increasing capacity and reducing overcrowding.

If the link between locking less people in segregation and building new prisons feels murky, the release goes on to explain that these actions meet the goals of reducing segregation by “building a system in which appropriate alternatives to segregation are more available for vulnerable inmates, such as pregnant women and those with acute mental health issues, and ensuring that segregation is used only in rare circumstances”. If it still feels murky, perhaps it’s because surely there are easier ways to avoid locking people in segregation than building new facilities.

While it already feels clear that the government can spin any crisis in corrections into an excuse to expand the prison system, let’s look at a few other issues unfolding at the time.

In August 2017, a joint coroner’s inquest was announced to investigate at least 8 overdose deaths in the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre between 2012-2016. This is one particularly stark example of the overdose crisis unfolding inside Ontario prisons.

The report produced 62 recommendations, none of which were binding, but many of which provide possible justification for the expansion of prison infrastructure. For example, recommendations included introducing full-body scanners, limiting the number of prisoners to a cell, and housing new prisoners in a separate intake area.

Finally, in early 2016, the government of Ontario narrowly avoided a strike during contract negotiations with correctional officers (prison guards) and probation officers represented by Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). Results of the negotiations included an end to a hiring freeze and the appointment of at least 25 new probation and parole officers. Understaffing and overcrowding of facilities has been a perennial talking point for the corrections unit of the union.

It is unsurprising that correctional staff complaints also throw support behind a prison expansion program. OPSEU president Warren Thomas has made multiple statements in wholehearted support of the Kemptville and Thunder Bay prison projects. In fact, he cited new prison construction as a reason corrections staff remained satisfied with OPSEU representation when complaints emerged from some union members in 2020.

All these events helped form the context for approving upwards of $500 million for prison expansion.

It is true that prisons in Ontario are horrifyingly overcrowded, poorly maintained, frequently locked down due to short staffing and lack even basic services like medical care. While prison expansion is far from the only answer to these problems, it’s unsurprising that it is the one the government reached. Any crisis in corrections will be responded to by an expansion of the system, escalated forms of control, and further categorization, separation, and isolation of prisoners.

In addition to supposedly addressing issues like overcrowding, new projects claim to include more specialized services and programming. The Northern expansion strategy is billed as being “responsive to the needs of Indigenous people and communities”, with “culturally appropriate spaces and aspects of the facilities.” The Eastern strategy includes the expansion of the St. Lawrence Valley Correction and Treatment Centre, a facility specifically for those with mental health or developmental issues.

This ignores the fact that prisons perpetuate a cycle of harm against marginalized communities, and that more “culturally sensitive” or specialized forms of incarceration will never change this. There is also no guarantee that programming or specialized use of facilities will be permanent – the only guarantee is that the state’s capacity to incarcerate people has forever expanded.

References

https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/44567/ontario-taking-action-to-reform-correctional-system

Ombudsman report: Out of Oversight, Out of Mind: https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/resources/reports-and-case-summaries/reports-on-investigations/2017/out-of-oversight,-out-of-mind

https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/45931/joint-inquest-into-the-eight-deaths-at-the-hamilton-wentworth-detention-centre

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/01/07/bitter-fight-by-ontario-correctional-officers-to-form-own-union-fizzles.html

https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/60542/ontario-announces-successful-bidder-for-expansion-of-northern-correctional-facilities

https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/57233/ontario-investing-in-frontline-corrections-workers

Bristol, UK: Anarchist comrade Toby Shone’s SCPO was rejected by the court!

 Comments Off on Bristol, UK: Anarchist comrade Toby Shone’s SCPO was rejected by the court!
May 102022
 

From Dark Nights

To the wild celebrations in the public gallery, the presiding judge rejected the application for anarchist comrade Toby Shone’s Serious Crime Prevention Order, declaring there were no grounds for it to be applied under the circumstances. Shouts of ‘Not one step back!’ were responded to with Toby shouting ‘The Revolution is inevitable!’

The result of the court means that comrade Toby will now be released at the latest in August of this year, without the extreme conditions of surveillance and control, that would have led to him not only being cut off from his comrades, but his family, friends and partner. It would have restricted his way of living, his ability to fuction as an anarchist, with many conditions that have been listed before, such as his use of electronic devices through to him having to declare who visits his residence. It would have lasted 5 years and could have been renewed. If it had been broken by Toby it would have led to him serving 10 years in the hellholes of the UK prison system.

The SCPO was a direct attack on Toby as an anarchist, his alternative way of living and his connections to those he is close to. It was clearly linked to the anti-terrorist cops attempting to apply repressive measures on him after the terrorist charges in his previous original trial were dropped.

The move by the anti-terrorist cops sets a new repressive environment on this prison island, that now just like in other European countries such as we have seen with the many repressive operations against comrades in Italy and Greece, that anarchists are deemed as terrorists by the state, that anyone daring to fight back against authority will be subject to such repression. Also it is clear that the British state wants to attack the connections, the affinities, the friendships, even love, of those they want to punish. This a similar vindictive tactic we have seen been used in other countries as well, such as the targetting of partners and family members of revolutionary organisation Conspiracy Cells of Fire members in Greece.

‘Operation Adream’, the repressive attack on Toby, on 325, is also an attack on the anarchist circles and alternative lifestyles as a whole. The years of imprisonment are piling up for those who dared to rebel during the Kill The Bill protest last year, that was attacked by cops and led to a riot. Those who live ‘off-grid’, from Roma/Gypsies/Irish travellers through to van or carvan or boat dwellers, along with squatters are also feeling the full force of British state’s, the Tories, Boris Johnson’s and Priti Patel’s repressive shaping of racist right wing ‘Build Back Better’ UK.

There is indeed a ‘storm coming on the horizon’ as comrade Toby mentioned, it is time for all of us who feel it to move towards it, to revolt against the destruction of our lives, our very existence.

This is only the beginning, ‘Nothing Is Over, The Conflict Continues!’

Some anarchists in solidarity with anarchist comrade Toby Shone

UK: Two statements from anarchist prisoner Toby Shone

 Comments Off on UK: Two statements from anarchist prisoner Toby Shone
May 062022
 

From Anarchist Black Cross Brighton

First of May 2022

As a minimal gesture I refuse to eat from the prison servery to mark the Revolutionary 1st of May, to join in the demonstrations around the world using my body as a means of solidarity and to protest the denial of my correspondence by the security company G4S. I will not be isolated from my family, friends and comrades and I continue to define my anti-political convictions. Honour and dignity to all those who have fallen.

Remember Haymarket.

Toby Shone
G4S Parc, UK.


Statement for J11 International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason & All Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners

We will have to go to sea and embark on a journey into the unknown. It is up to us to choose the course from the march. We are free to make mistakes.”
Gustavo Rodriguez – ‘Brief Informative Report About The Weather’.

An embrace of life, fire and complicity to all imprisoned anarchist comrades for this June 11th. I have been invited to participate by the comrades in North America, for which they have my thanks and agreement. Whilst I am not condemned to a particularly long sentence, I faced well over a decade at my trial last October in “Operation Adream” and next week I will go to trial again in Bristol on the 6th of May. This time the “anti-terrorist” prosecutors demand up to five years house arrest and special surveillance, which could see me returning to prison frequently. It also has a precedent for the rest of the anarchist space in the UK if the State is successful. International mobilisations are essential for learning about and combining our shared struggles. Opening a space for discussion and praxis enables us to escape the walls and barbed wire which divides and isolates us. I’m locked up for 23 hours a day in a solitary cell, subject to enhanced monitoring and censorship, categorised as “high risk” and placed on the “escape list”. I could not care less. I will leave this place without stepping back one millimetre.

One who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – F. Nietzsche.

There are storms gathering on the horizon.

Toby Shone
Written on the eve of Revolutionary 1st of May, 2022.
G4S Parc, UK.

The Whole Orchard: Policing in Indigenous Communities

 Comments Off on The Whole Orchard: Policing in Indigenous Communities
Apr 132022
 

From the Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes

The Whole Orchard launches its third episode of the second season. This month, the podcast addresses the stakes surrounding the police in Indigenous territories, whether led by native people or settlers.

We talk about the Kanien’kéha language camp in Akwesasne and the relation of Indigenous communities with police forces with one of the founders of the camp.

Music
References

To learn more about the langugage camp: https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/longform/reclaiming-land-language

Transcription