Last Updated on August 15, 2021 by Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
CFRC Prison Radio (CPR) diverted from its’ normal Wednesday night program to mark the 46th Prisoner’s Justice Day, a day meant to shed light on the those who have died of unnatural causes while incarcerated.
The day is marked by prisoners around the world refusing work and fasting, joined by protests outside of prisons and other demonstrations of support like that at CFRC.
The first Prisoner’s Justice Day was held at Millhaven Institution in 1975 and has continued to this day to bring light to an issue that is under-discussed.
CPR began with a broadcast to honour Prisoner Justice Day and has since expanded to a weekly broadcast with primarily talk content about prison issues as well as a call in show once a month where people can dedicate songs and messages to their incarcerated loved ones.
On Prisoner’s Justice Day the broadcast included an hour long reading of the names of those who have died of unnatural causes while imprisoned, a list that host Rachel Mendl said unfortunately gets longer and longer.
The rest of the six hour broadcast included memorial segments to those who have passed away as well as an extended edition of their monthly Calls From Home program.
Chancelor Maracle, the station’s music director, says especially for a city like Kingston this day and the overall prison experience is relevant.
“We have such a large prisoner population here and so a lot of people are affected by that,” Maracle said.
CPR host Rachel Mendl added that relationship can be problematic, with Kingston often sensationalizing prisons rather than acknowledging them as people’s lived experiences.
She says outside of a day like Prisoner’s Justice Day, just having respect and compassion for the large incarcerated population is important.
“Recognizing the humanity of the people in those prisons and thinking of them as our neighbours, because they are,” Mendl said.
“There are hundreds of Kingstonians that live inside those institutions, many people have this privilege of never having to think about or communicate with those people. Speaking to people who have been incarcerated as if they’re just people I think is an important step there”
She also pointed to a number of organizations in town who you can support that promote prisoner justice, but emphasized doing your research on the justice system and what prisoners face.
The weekly broadcast of Prisoner Radio airs at 7 PM every Wednesday.