A group is gathering in downtown Ottawa to commemorate deaths happening in local jails, and in prisons across the country.
Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Ottawa Justin Piché told Ottawa Today on 1310 NEWS, Thursday evening's vigil falls on the eve of Prisoners' Justice Day.
Prisoners' Justice Day started as a prisoner-initiated day of non-violent strike action to commemorate the death of Eddie Nalon in the segregation unit of Millhaven maximum-security penitentiary on August 10, 1974.
Piché said 48 people died in Ontario federal prisons between 2014 and 2016. Another 51 died in provincial jails and prisons during that time.
He explained that the vast majority of those deaths were preventable.
"It happens at the hands of, sometimes other prisoners, sometimes people who work in the system, other times because of neglect," said Piché. "In the case of Ashley Smith, there were several people who watched her die. The coroners called it, because her death was preventable and resulted from an action, he called it a homicide."
Listen to the full conversation with Justin Piché:
The group at Thursday's vigil is calling for justice.
Piché believes there is plenty the government can do at both the federal and provincial levels to prevent prison deaths. He would like to see improved conditions for local prisoners, a reduced reliance on imprisonment in Ontario, and programs to help prisoners deal with opioid addictions.
The Prisoners' Justice Day vigil will be held at the Human Rights Monument in Ottawa, at the corner of Elgin Street and Lisgar Street.