To the readers of this message, I am writing this open letter with the hopes of possibly saving my fathers life and sanity, along with dozens of other men who are currently in the same situation as him. He is presently being held in the Montreal detention center commonly known as Bordeaux. He began his internment right around the height of the pandemic, and is serving a sentence for a non-violent crime. During his time throughout the sentence, he, along with the countless other inmates have been the subject of disgustingly cruel and harsh discriminatory measures throughout the Covid-19 crisis, many of which have already been made famous by the mainstream media, including articles from CTV News coverage of ongoing hunger strikes, APTN News covering the mistreatment of BIPOC members regarding unlawful treatments during their internment inside the prison, and many others. While inside during this pandemic, he has shared with me many personal stories of inhumane crimes against humanity within those walls, which would send chills down the bones of anyone on the other line of a phone call hearing what their loved ones have gone through; but none can compare to the atrocities he has been going through these last few weeks.
To begin, every inmate upon entry of the prison must serve a mandatory 14 day quarantine isolation period in cells designated for such purpose. My fathers first experience with this matter was that he shared his cell with a man who was brought into detention at the same time. Throughout the few weeks in solitary isolation together, they were able to share many tales and life experiences, and having the company of a stranger made the isolation period for both of them still hellish, but livable enough. Upon passing the mandated entry isolation, both men were sent to different wings of the prison, where he would begin his sentences with the general population. The "vibe" was what many would expect in a prison, but given the circumstances outside those wall at the time (where many of us were forbidden from human contact and gatherings, along with activities such as movie theaters, libraries and gyms), many fellow prisoners were in a way still very grateful to have those privilege's intact; at least for the time being. Upon spending the next few months in the general population, my father quickly began making new friends in his wing, some of whom were of similar background and ethnicity, while also surrounding himself with many kind and upstanding inmates of BIPOC identity who surprisingly made up a large portion of his sector. These new friends of his would later inform him of previous events involving staff members testing positive, and the horrific measures that were put in place to "protect the inmates”.
Now, although the measures of forced confinement throughout a pandemic can be debated for many political and ethical reasons, it is safe to say that if one is to be mandated into a government created isolation facility, they are to be given the most humane treatment, and to be held to the highest possible standard without any discrimination towards race, age, creed, sexuality and legal status. But as the months would go by, I was quick to find out that these dogmas would be non existent when men in power who have authority over others can use their discretion to create a living nightmare on those they see are below them. My father was a member of confinement for most of these previous and ongoing periods of cruel isolations throughout 2020 and 2021. As those articles stated, at that point, many of the inmates refused to take the PCR test, because they feared that although the vast majority of the population were asymptomatic, there would be false positives. The results of an inmates positive test would extend the length of the 14 day confinement that followed whenever a staff member previously tested positive. After trying to understand what the logic of collectively refusing those tests was, it began to make sense why. Once an outbreak among staff is confirmed, all prisoners in the suspected wing are placed upon a mandatory 14 day self isolation. PCR tests may be offered to them, but the results have drastic consequences. The reason, from what I was told, is that after a few days of an inmate doing the test and coming back as negative, he is lucky enough to be released back into the general population. However, out of the hundreds of inmates, if one were to test positive, the 14 day isolation is restarted for the entire crowd, meaning that one man's positive test days into a 14 day isolation will result in another 14 day extension for everyone else as well. As evidenced, periods of long term isolation ranging up to 28 days were commonly reported by many mainstream media outlets. To the best of my knowledge, only one inmate has died after testing positive for Covid-19, an inmate in their 70's who passed away in May of 2020. Some can argue that harsh new conditions imposed on prisoners may have played a role in the death of this at risk man. You can imagine now, why many inmates would want to refuse this test, because in an environment housing a handful of angry and violent offenders, the results when released from isolation could be dangerous to one's safety, to say the least. In my opinion, it would be more logical to test everyone without the threat of confining them all based on the results of their peers, and prioritize isolation to those who are either most at risk or showing signs of symptoms. But what do I know, I don't have a degree in youth and adult correctional intervention.
This would eventually lead me to the reason for writing this open letter. They would be the incidents that led to some of the most abominable and gruesome forms of psychological tortures and inhumane actions that our modern day government has ever done to its citizens; something that you would only see in horror/fiction movies and rivals the actions that have lead to many genocidal events throughout our history. Finally, towards the end of February 2021, inmates were once again informed that they would have to isolate alone in their bathroom sized cells, with nothing but a bed, toilet and a radio for those who were lucky. Books and other forms of entertainment were deemed by guards as "a safety risk". Throughout these periods, loud screams of panic, fear and insanity from other prisoners in the background would constantly be heard on each phone call when speaking with my father. The screams of terror that could be heard would relate to those of a mental institution, and not such of a first world prison. With each phone call permitted to inmates every few days, I could hear the dehumanization in his own voice as a result of his disgusting treatment. Phone calls with lawyers, a unquestionable right for inmates, were a rarity, and the media has also reported many having difficulty reaching out to them throughout previous quarantine isolations. In order to understand how and why this dehumanization was slowly occurring, you must understand what he and the rest of the inmates were subject to. When faced with current and previous quarantine isolations in prison, you do not have the privilege of televisions, computers, iPhones or any other form of entertainment to help pass the time. For weeks on end while locked alone in your cell, physical movement is non existent, and a healthy positive mindset is the only think keeping you on the verge of insanity. Even murderers and rapists housed in the worst maximum security prisons are still treated to an hour or two of daily outdoor activity, but to my father and his colleges, that right was just a fairytale. Travelers returning to Canada and isolating in a hotel are treated with luxury and royalty compared to those staying in these government run facilities. They are subject to 24/7 isolation in their tiny smelly cell, and the only time they get to leave it is for a a few minutes minute shower every couple of days. My father, who already is not in the best of physical health, has complained to me multiple times about the lack of air circulation while being confined for weeks on end in a room where the stench of his own urine and feces can linger the entire day. Because of the restriction of movement, it has gotten to the point where his whole body is bruised from the stiffness, and his appetite has completely disappeared. Although living in these atrocious conditions, he along with the rest of the inmates can only cling to the fact that they trust one another to not be tested, and they will surely be released after 14 days. However this time was different, and when that 14th day came, inmates were informed that because none got tested, the authorities of the prison would use their discretion and be extending their time in isolation for another 10 days minimum, meaning that they would be going for well over 3 weeks with no end in sight confined in these rooms indefinitely. As of todays writing, he has currently just surpassed his 23rd day of quarantine, and has been informed that he and the rest of the inmates will be locked in their cells indefinitely as staff decide what would be an appropriate length of time to let them out. As previously stated, the media has reported that these periods of isolation could last up to 28 days, and I intend on doing everything possible to make sure my father and his colleagues do not break that record.
Many in Quebec do not trust the notion of the ongoing "2 weeks to flatten the curve", in respect to respecting government timelines, and this is just as common in prison. After receiving this news, my father has been telling me with each phone call about almost daily new suicides and attempted suicides occurring in his wing, with body bags of the men who he had just recently come to know, attempting to end their lives because of this torture. I fear for his life and his safety, as he has inevitably spoken to me in eerily similar manners, going on over 3 weeks of confinement at the time of writing, with not much else to live for. I am writing this letter on behalf of him, and all other men and women imprisoned throughout the province (and frankly nationwide) who are facing similar inhumane conditions with their voices unheard. This is a call to action; to hold these psychopaths who are funded with our tax dollars and tasked with housing imprisoned members of society to an ethical standard; who are running the show, to be held accountable at the highest level. I encourage anyone who has suffered from these crimes against humanity to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Quebec, and if approved, to seek grievance and compensation in the court of law for themselves, and the rest of the inmates subjected to the same horrors within those walls. I ask for anyone who feels the empathy after reading this letter to share the message and help it go viral. Make sure that those committing these crimes will not be able to escape its noise when they leave their job. Let your voices be heard towards our provincial public security and public health authorities, and tell them what is going on under their administration. We must ensure they cannot escape it, to the point where their family and friends will criticize their actions when they find out the truth about this prison; only then will there be a sliver of hope of making sure it never happens again. When the time is right and your voices are heard all around the country with the help of modern day technology, punishment and justice will be served to those responsible for these actions, and they will not get away with what they have done.