On August 21, the prisoners at the Central Nova provincial jail in Burnside launched a peaceful protest, in solidarity with a nationwide prisoner strike in the United States, to call for basic improvements in health care, rehabilitation, exercise, visits, clothing, food, air quality and library access. The protest is ongoing.
East Coast Prison Justice Society stands in support of the Burnside prisoners’ efforts to alert the public to their urgent concerns. These concerns speak to ongoing gaps between provincial correctional practices and the fundamental human rights accorded to prisoners under both domestic and international law.
Among the concerns identified by the prisoners is lack of access to health care, including for serious mental or physical illness. This is an ongoing crisis at the Burnside jail compromising the lives and safety of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. Lack of programming responsive to addictions and other problems directly relevant to criminalization and community re-integration is another urgent issue that the prisoners have legitimately brought forward.
A disproportionate proportion of provincial and federal prisoners are Indigenous or Black. Most are poor. Many
The provincial auditor general has been highly critical of Nova Scotia corrections for its failure to comply with Department of Justice policy, including policies on the authorization and review of solitary confinement. The auditor general has recommended
The prisoners at Burnside have shown a willingness to find common ground with staff, who similarly want better conditions including improved access to health and programming for prisoners. Through this peaceful protest, the Burnside prisoners have invited the province to show that it is listening.
We ask the ministers of Justice and Health: How do they propose to show that they are listening? How do they propose to demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that conditions of confinement are improved to meet basic human rights standards?
East Coast Prison Justice Society encourages