On January 22, the Prisoner Correspondence Project (PCP) raised awareness as part of the Trans Prisoners Day of Action and Solidarity.
Later that week, on January 26, PCP held an event at Café Ouvert which included screening a movie and reading from a zine written by a prisoner. This was the first year the day of solidarity has been held. The PCP aims to raise awareness around and give a voice to the challenges faced by trans prisoners, adopting an intersectional approach to incarceration and LGBTQ issues as a whole.
The PCP is a non-hierarchical, volunteer-run collective operating as a working group of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) Concordia. The PCP’s main initiative is a pen pal program between LGBTQ prisoners and the broader community. It also provides a resource library which includes reading materials that address questions regarding coming out while in prison, gender transitioning, and legal aid concerns.
While some support programs do exist, the PCP aims to give voice to those who fall through the cracks. Its initiatives, such as the pen pal program, aim to connect the queer and trans community outside to those in prison, specifically connecting those imprisoned in the U.S. and Canada with people outside of prisons. The majority of pen-pal correspondents are from outside of the U.S..
Day of action and movie screening
In an interview with The Daily, Parker Benley, who is a member of the PCP, said that the purpose of the day of action and the movie screening was two-fold.
First, it served as a call for more pen pal program participants. Benley explained that currently there remains roughly 700 trans prisoners on the PCP’s waitlist looking to establish a correspondence. Secondly, the day of action aims to raise awareness on the issue and garner further donations to the cause.
As a result of finance issues – mainly due to the weakness of the Canadian dollar and their purchases of U.S. postage for their pen pals based in the U.S. – Benley said that the PCP will be launching a campaign for monthly donors in the next few weeks.
Benley was optimistic about the event’s impact, and was pleased to see a full house during the movie screening and reading of PCP inside member Catherine Lynn Quick’s zine, A Caged Bird Sings. The day ended with a collection of contributions and many new pen pal sign-ups.
Benley expressed hope that the movement will grow and continue to raise awareness of the harsh realities of imprisonment.
According to Benley the day of action sought to “raise awareness of the things that we can change to alleviate the harm [experienced by trans prisoners].” Concretely, this would focus on the currently lacking healthcare provisions. Benley expressed hope that the event would amplify the discussion around prisons themselves, remarking, “prisons aren’t safe for anyone.”
The PCP garners its main contributions from McGill’s and Concordia’s branches of QPIRG, as well as McGill’s Union for Gender Empowerment. While pleased with the level of campus support, Benley said that “more would be better.”