""

What will you do for Prisoners’ Justice Day?

Prisoners’ Justice Day has been observed every year on August 10 since 1975 to call attention to human rights and justice for prisoners.

Why prisoners’ justice matters

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Sukanya Pillay described the importance of rights and dignity being protected for people who are incarcerated in her 2012 editorial:

When the punishment for a crime is incarceration—as opposed to a fine or a suspended sentence—this means that the prisoner is punished for crime through the deprivation of his or her liberty. Liberty is the right upon which true self-determination and full enjoyment of other fundamental rights is predicated. In other words, the deprivation of liberty is, in itself, the punishment.

The suffering inherent in that punishment should not be unjustly aggravated. Yet, when placed “behind bars” a person is immediately placed into a situation of powerlessness and dependency, and therefore exposed to possible cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment and even torture. While the deprivation of liberty may be legal, the deprivation of human dignity is not.

At issue in prisoners’ justice

Since the establishment of Prisoners’ Justice Day, prisoners’ rights advocacy has focused on a variety of issues affecting prisoners, including but not limited to:

An abridged history of Prisoners’ Justice Day

Prisoners’ Justice Day began following the August 10, 1974 death of Canadian prisoner Edward Nalon, who died in segregation while in Millhaven prison in Ontario. The following year on August 10, 1975, prisoners went on hunger strike and mourned in Nalon’s honour.

In May 1976, the death of prisoner Robert Landers, who was in segregation in the same prison, precipitated the recognition of August 10 as the day of remembrance and mourning for prisoners.

LAO and prisoners’ justice

LAO supports prisoners’ justice on many fronts, including through the work of:

  • LAO staff, duty counsel and private bar lawyers who provide legal advice, information and assistance to prisoners
  • the LAO Prison Law Advisory Committee, a body of experts that meets twice a year to provide advice on prison law and prisoners’ issues to the LAO Board of Directors
  • LAO supports test case litigation that raises prison law and prisoners’ rights issues
  • the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic (formerly the Queen’s Correctional Law Project), a non-profit corporation funded by LAO and the Queen’s University Faculty of Law that provides legal advice and representation to prisoners. They also work closely with other organizations including the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the John Howard Society of Canada, and PASAN
  • LAO’s mental health strategy is strengthening the capacity of lawyers, front-line workers, and management to better serve clients with mental illness

Join us

There are many ways that you can participate in prisoners’ justice on August 10 and throughout the year:

A version of this post was originally published on Aug. 7, 2014

Colleen Westendorf

About Colleen Westendorf

Bilingual digital communications specialist at LAO, Colleen has previously worked for CBC/Radio-Canada and the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Colleen grew up in Vancouver, spent three charmed years in Montreal, and is now glad to call Toronto home.



Leave a Reply

If you need legal help, please call us at 1-800-668-8258. This area is for comments on blog posts only. Requests for legal assistance can’t be responded to here.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

We welcome a diversity of perspectives in your comments – including your views if you disagree with posted blogs. We ask that you comment respectfully to keep this blog a welcome forum for all. Read more in our blog moderation policy.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>