"Prisons Kill Prisons Kill," 2012
By Neal Hartwick-Freeland and Giselle Dias
When we began working on the AAN! poster project, Neal was still inside the Waseskun Healing Center in Quebec and Giselle was living in London Ontario. The process was complicated by the fact that Neal didn't have access to the Internet and Giselle was unable to accept collect calls on her cell phone. Despite these barriers we were able to conceptualize the idea of what we wanted to communicate through a few short phone calls. We knew that we wanted to highlight Bill C-10 and the effects it would have on prisoners, focusing on overcrowding.
Neal is the artist so he conceptualized how the overcrowding would look visually. He produced an incredibly powerful image and then we were left with the task of finding the best message. We wanted to highlight the fact that prisons are violent, dangerous places and NOT because of the prisoners themselves but because of the circumstances people are put in. Prison conditions make prisons dangerous -- especially overcrowding. The watermark of "PrisonsKillPrisonsKill" was created to say that "prisons kill" but that we should consider to "kill prisons." Neither of us believe that prisons make our communities safer and in fact if we addressed social problems such as homelessness, mental health issues, the criminalization of drug users and people living with HIV/AIDS we would be able to reduce the prison population significantly leaving us time and resources to work with people inside for more violent offenses.
Neal highlighted the fact that Indigenous populations and people of color are over-represented in the system in this piece. In the Prairie Provinces over 80 percent of the prison population is Indigenous and we see this as a form of ongoing colonization practices (reserves, residential schools, 1960s scoop, foster care and now prisons). The idea that Canada's solution to control marginalized populations through incarceration seems absurd to us; so we decided to pose the original statement as a question asking "lock 'em up till they die?!" Really?! This is how Canada wants to deal with homelessness, mental health, drug use and HIV/AIDS? Our commitment is to continue to find ways to dismantle the Prison Industrial Complex through pressuring the government to create a housing strategy, to stop criminalizing drug users, people with mental health issues and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Giselle and Neal have been collaborating on projects since the Prisoners Justice Film Festival in 2003. Neal's work as a peer health educator in prison and Giselle's work with Prisoners with HIV/AIDS Support Action Network (PASAN) made them ideal colleagues.