Write a Letter for Prisoner-Activist Peter Collins

peter-collinsPeter Collins is a long-time prisoner-activist, incarcerated for the
1983 murder of a police officer in a failed robbery.

Prisoners’ rights activists in Canada will likely know of Peter’s work
around Prisoners Justice Day, and his activism around various issues
pertaining to the expanding prison system in this country. Peter has
drawn, painted, silk screened dozens of images to commemorate PJD for
the past 31 years. He has done interviews, written papers and recorded
statements talking about the significance of remembering those who have
died behind prison walls (and in other carceral spaces) and of
continuing to fight for the rights of prisoners and their families.
Activists in the United States may have seen Peter’s graphic
contribution to the California prisoner hunger strikers of recent years,
a drawing of a Pelican gagged with barbed wire. (The California
prisoners’ hunger strikes having originated in the Pelican Bay
supermax.) Peter has supported campaigns against violence against women
and did several art pieces and songs about the Missing and Murdered
Indigenous Women. Peter participated in the Anti-Violence Project and
came up with strategies for anti-bullying campaigns in schools. He has
written hundreds of articles, done countless radio interviews, presented
at conferences through audio recordings, created short films and written
policy papers.

Last year, Peter was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder
cancer. In January of this year (2015), Peter learned that the cancer
had spread throughout his body, and that he probably does not have much
time left to live (possibly months).

As a consequence of Canada’s racist “double punishment” policy, Peter is
under a deportation order to the United Kingdom, where he was born but
hasn’t lived since 1967. This order would be enacted immediately upon
his release from prison – i.e. he would be transferred directly to
immigration detention to await deportation. For this reason the parole
board has objected to his release as it has no mechanisms under its
control to gradually ease him back into society. This catch-22 situation
has been used to block Peter’s parole since 2008.

Given Peter’s cancer diagnosis, if he is not released soon, he will die
in prison. Peter is not contesting his deportation to the UK. He has a
strong circle of support in the UK, family members who can provide him
with a home, and has been in contact with UK police officials who have
conducted community assessments at his family home and do not oppose his
return to the UK. There have been two Public Protection officers
assigned to Peter’s case, and who are ready for his return. What Peter
requires is that the parole board grant him compassionate release,
“parole by exception.” We understand that case management at Bath Prison
are supportive of Peter’s release.

We are asking you to write a letter on Peter’s behalf, to:

Parole Board of Canada
516 O’Connor Dr,
Kingston ON,
K7P 1N3

and cc. Cheryl Kerr:

Cheryl Kerr, Parole Officer
Bath Prison
P.O Box 1500
Bath, Ontario
K0H 1G0

Below is a list of points to raise in your letter.

Please use these or any other information you feel is relevant in writing a letter. When
writing, we encourage you to include any academic or professional
qualifications and/or to use your organizational letterhead, as
applicable. As the prison bureaucrats have Peter’s life in their hands,
it is best to be polite and not provocative, as it is Peter who will pay
the price if they react badly. A sample letter is provided below, which
you should also feel free to cut and paste from.

Please also send a copy of any letter you send to us, at
mtl.prisoner.coordination@gmail.com

Points to raise:

* Peter has been rated low risk to re-offend, and has followed all
directions in terms of his Correctional Plan, completing all programs
for which he is eligible

* In 2011 Peter’s Correctional Plan Progress Report noted that “Mr.
Collins is a self-starter and he has developed an excellent support
network, both in Canada and in England.”

* In 2012, the Parole Board noted that: “You [Peter] have not incurred
any institutional charges since 1996 and you have been described as
polite and respectful. You long ago completed your correctional
treatment plan with positive program reports and have involved yourself
in volunteer work and education to improve your skills. You are
recognized as an accomplished artist and have used your talents to
assist various charitable organizations. You have spent much of your
time working in the harm reduction field and have been recognized for
your efforts by outside organizations and professional in the field.”

* Peter has demonstrated his ability to function outside of prison
during multiple medical and compassionate escorted temporary absences

* While in prison, Peter has worked with the Prisoner HIV/AIDS Support
and Action Network (PASAN), and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

* In 2008 Peter was the Canadian recipient of the Award for Action on
HIV/AIDS and Human Rights jointly sponsored by the Canadian HIV/AIDS
Legal Network and Human Rights Watch

* Peter has been eligible for full parole since 2008, but because his
deportable status places him in a complicated catch-22 situation

* Peter has expressed great regret for murder of Constable David Utman
and has spent his time trying to make amends for his actions

* Peter has been in prison for over 32 years, and has remained
conviction free for the past 18 years

* In addition to the daily help and supervision Peter would receive from
his family in the UK, he has secured the commitment of a dedicated
Circle of Support and Accountability in England, to provide support.
Members of the Circle include a former magistrate, university law
faculty, a violence-prevention worker, and a teacher

* British Authorities have no concerns about Peter returning to England
to live out his final days

* If this process is allowed to proceed too slowly, Peter will become
too sick to travel

* Section 121 of the Correctional and Conditional Release Act, which
addresses parole by exception, states that parole may be granted at any
time to a prisoner who is terminally ill. This applies to any prisoner,
including someone serving a life or indeterminate sentence. Peter is
entering the 32rd year of a Life 25 sentence

If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at
mtl.prisoner.coordination@gmail.com

***********************************

Parole Board of Canada
516 O’Connor Dr,
Kingston ON,
K7P 1N3

[Put the date here]

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is  ___. [Please include any academic or professional
qualifications.]

I am writing regarding compassionate release for Peter Collins.

Peter has been rated low risk to re-offend; he has followed all
directions in terms of his Correctional Plan and has completed all
programs for which he is eligible. He has demonstrated his ability to
function outside of prison during multiple medical and compassionate
escorted temporary absences. His work for charitable and
community-oriented organizations has been acknowledged both
internationally and by the National Parole Board itself. Peter has spent
the better part of the last three decades trying to make amends for the
suffering that he caused when he killed Constable David Utman. He has
worked to personally transform himself, and to make the world a better
place.

One of the reasons provided in the past for denying Peter’s parole has
been that the only form of release deemed appropriate to him is a very
gradual and structured release, and yet because of his deportable status
any steps that might be considered consistent with a gradual and
structured release have been rejected as being of no benefit. There has
been little recognition that Peter is considered a low risk to
re-offend. These are some of the reasons why he has not been transferred
to a lower security prison, and remains incarcerated today.

Last summer Peter was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder
cancer and began to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment. On
January 12th of this year, Peter was informed by his doctor that the
cancer had spread to his stomach walls, lungs, and now his bones
(particularly his spine), and that any treatment moving forward will be
palliative. He is in considerable pain. At this point, the doctor has
been clear that Peter has only months left to live.

Section 121 of the Correctional and Conditional Release Act, which
addresses parole by exception, states that parole may be granted at any
time to a prisoner who is terminally ill. This applies to any prisoner,
including someone serving a life or indeterminate sentence. Peter is
entering the 32rd year of a Life 25 sentence.

It is important to note that British Public Protection Officers have no
concerns about Peter returning to England to live out his final days.
Unfortunately though, if the Parole Board leaves it too late, Peter may
become too sick to be able to travel overseas.

As such, I am asking that you support Peter’s request for compassionate
release.