Six Days: Some Rememberings

I encourage you all to listen to the story “Six Days: Some Rememberings”. In it, author and activist Grace Paley writes about her six day incarceration in the 1960’s at the Women’s Detention Centre, which was then located in the middle of Greenwich Village – her own neighbourhood.

Paley talks about the women she meets, their abuses at the hands of the police, the empty feeling of not having books or pen and paper, and the comfort she feels in being able to look out the window and see her children walk to school.

It’s a privileged perspective of prison in which Paley owns and examines her privilege. And it is, of course, beautifully written.

“Now there is a garden where the Women’s House of Detention once stood. A green place, safely fenced in with protective daffodils and tulips. Roses bloom in it too. Sometimes in to November.

The big women’s warehouse and it’s barred, blind windows have been removed from Greenwich Village’s affluent throat. I was sorry when it happened. The bricks came roaring down. Great trucks carried them away.

I have always agreed with Rita and Evelyn that if there are prisons, they ought to be in the neighbourhood near a subway, not way out in distant suburbs where families have to take cars, busses, ferries, trains. And the population that considers itself innocent forgets. Denies. Chooses to never know that there is a whole huge country of the bad and the unlucky and the self hurters. A country with a population greater than that of many nations in our world.”

“Six Days: Some Rememberings”

(it’s the first story on the podcast and runs about 15 minutes)


Art behind bars

The Edmonton Journal is running a series this week on art in prisons in Alberta.

Today’s article is about piano lessons at EIFW. (Anyone got a spare electric keyboard kicking around…?)

I don’t like how they incorporate the crimes in to the stories, but I suppose it’s to be expected and it’s not as sensationalist as it could be. It’s nice to have some positive stories like this getting out.

Prison Justice Day orders

Here are the forms and information on ordering clothes for Prison Justice Day.

Add two dollars to each price. The women get the clothes at cost, but we thought it would be nice for us to do it as a bit of a fundraiser. All of the money will go to the Social Committee at EIFW, which puts on socials and events for the women.

Moyra and Liz D. are the money contacts. The deadline listed is for the women at EIFW.

The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons

The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons is calling for submissions from women in prison.

Moyra will be the contact person for this project.

A little more about JPP from their website:

The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons (JPP) is a prisoner written, academically oriented and peer reviewed, non-profit journal, based on the tradition of the penal press. It brings the knowledge produced by prison writers together with academic arguments to enlighten public discourse about the current state of carceral institutions. This is particularly important because with few exceptions, definitions of deviance and constructions of those participating in these defined acts are incompletely created by social scientists, media representatives, politicians and those in the legal community. These analyses most often promote self-serving interests, omit the voices of those most affected, and facilitate repressive and reactionary penal policies and practices. As a result, the JPP attempts to acknowledge the accounts, experiences, and criticisms of the criminalized by providing an educational forum that allows women and men to participate in the development of research that concerns them directly. In an age where `crime` has become lucrative and exploitable, the JPP exists as an important alternate source of information that competes with popularly held stereotypes and misconceptions about those who are currently, or those who have in the past, faced the deprivation of liberty.

APIRG funding to support the library

Sara and I have successfully applied to APIRG on behalf of ABC Edmonton for a Books Behind Bars project in support of the library. We have received a grant of $670 to be used to buy books for the library and promote the project.

Now to buy some books! We will, of course, be looking to the wishlist, as well as a lists of recommendations from ABC contacts. Kirsten and I have discussed the possibility of buying some reference books.  There’s a bookclub meeting this weekend, so I’ll be able to talk to Cathee about what she thinks would be most useful.

APIRG is also interested in setting up a ‘satellite’ library at the prison. The idea is that they would lend books from their collection to the prison library for an extended period of time and those books would circulate in the prison. This is in discussion stages right now, but I will keep you updated!

Presumed Guilty

Presumed Guilty, a story of a man caught in a justice system and fighting to regain his freedom, will be shown as a part of Edmonton’s DocSoup festival, presented by Global Visions Film Festival and Hot Docs.

Under Mexican law, one is guilty until proven innocent. José Antonio Zuñiga of Mexico City was convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years based on the testimony of a single eye witness. The film follows Zuñiga and his two lawyers as they undertake the seemingly impossible task of having the case re-tried. “Through one man’s extraordinary two-year struggle to regain his freedom, Presumed Guilty documents the contradictions of a judicial system that presumes guilt.”

Presumed Guilty shows how [Zuñiga]‘s strength and creativity help him through nearly three years of wrongful imprisonment. Courtroom scenes chillingly call to mind Kafka’s The Trial, so absurd is the mindless bureaucracy in the judicial process. Toño is retried by the same judge who condemned him. The prosecutor is concerned only with the previous case file and has no interest in new information. The police officers refuse to co-operate, insisting they do not remember Toño’s arrest. It is revealed that the only witness to implicate Toño had himself originally been accused of the crime, then learned of Toño through the police. Hernández and Negrete uncover a frustrating, labyrinthine legal system defended by mediocre civil servants and corrupt police officers. (TIFF)

Presumed Guilty will be screened on Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 7:00 pm at Metro Cinema, Zeidler Hall in the Citadel Theatre, 9828 – 101A Avenue.

Tickets are $10 at the door.

Originally posted at Blogosaurus Lex.