Barton Jail inmates are on a hunger strike. Here's what they're protesting

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Inmates of the Barton Street jail are staging a hunger strike to protest conditions of the institution.

Over the weekend, advocates of the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project shared via Facebook that some inmates residing in one range had started to refuse meals.

They were soon joined by other ranges in solidarity.

On Tuesday evening (June 23), a protest was held outside the jail in a show of support for the prisoners who are calling for conditions to be improved.

Here are some of their demands:

1) We want a diverse range of healthy, cooked food — no more premade trays (since the start of the pandemic, prisoners have reported that the quality of the food they’re provided has sharply dropped).
2) We want an end to the rotating lockdowns.
3) We want visits reinstated (visitation has been cancelled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic).
4) We want our mail delivered quickly and in full.
5) We want consistent access to soap.
6) We want the necessary infrastructure to function (specific mention of the broken urinal on 4C, which has left 20 prisoners with one toilet for nine weeks, and the ventilation on 3B).

One big point of contention for inmates is also the fact that court proceedings have been cancelled during the pandemic.

The Barton Street Jail is a remand centre, meaning its inmates are waiting for trial or sentencing — most inmates detained there are unable to obtain bail (which for many in the prison system is unobtainable due to socioeconomic status).

There have also been reports, shared by the Solidarity Project, that inmates are not receiving a regular change of clothes and bedsheets are changed monthly, if at all.

Earlier this month, a group of local advocates supporting the Black Lives Matter movement staged a coordinated series of live-streamed protests across Hamilton.

One of the groups outside of Hamilton Police Service Central Station called for the release of prisoners in the Barton Street Jail.

The Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project advocates for this as well, saying:

We are calling for all prisoners to be released because we see that prisons don’t solve any problems and in fact create new ones. They produce a class of people with reduced rights who can be blamed for large social problems, reducing issues like poverty or addiction or intimate partner violence to questions of individual behaviour.”

To learn more about the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project, check out their Frequently Asked Questions post on their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter for updates.

Photo courtesy the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project Facebook page

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