'It means the world to stay sober and stay out of prison', emotional experience for former inmate
Published Thursday, August 10, 2017 11:44AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 10, 2017 4:50PM EDT
A sign of unity and day to reflect; people came together outside of the Sudbury Jail to commemorate Prisoner Justice Day.
It's all in an effort to show support to those who have died in unnatural and violent ways while incarcerated in prisons.
"It's an opportunity for us to educate the public about the circumstances that currently exist within the walls and for us to bring a focus to the individuals going through the criminal justice system and the circumstances that have led them there," explained Cory Roslyn, Elizabeth Fry Society of Sudbury executive director.
Ed Belec has been in and out of jail for more than 40 years. He's been charged with - and convicted of - a number of offences.
"I didn't listen to anybody," said Belec.
"I always just went back. I was caught in the system, the vicious cycle."
Belec said he has seen his friends harmed and even end up dead behind bars, so this day is especially emotional for him.
"I respect and reflect back on what I went through. It means the world to stay sober and stay out of prison."
According to government statistics, almost 40% of people who die by suicide while incarcerated have mental health issues. The director of the John Howard Society of Sudbury said its just one of many problems with the prison system.
"Let communities form advisory groups that actually inspect the jails, to give feedback to the jails and to the province on what conditions need to be changed and when they need to be changed," said John Rimore.
"We need to stop making our jails and prisons literally warehouses for those with mental health illness and we need to start doing something in our communities to assist these folks."
Rimore said in a 20-year stretch from 1994 to 2014, about 200 federal inmates took their own lives.
Prisoner Justice Day began in Canada in the 1970s and it’s now observed around the world.