I am a self-taught animator, and have worked on numerous self-directed projects, as well as many commissions. RKLSS is a deeply personal project, and is a step out on a limb for me. I normally hide meaning and personal history behind horror and fantasy, so drawing directly from my own life experience has been a challenge. For more of my work, check out @tankstandingbuffalo on Instagram.
RKLSS is a true depiction of my passion for creating art and how it saved my life. I did two years in a maximum-security facility as a young offender, and was subjected to involuntarily segregation for six months. The practice of prolonged segregation has since been deemed cruel, and an inhumane punishment. Extended involuntary holds in segregation have damaging and lasting psychological effects. RKLSS depicts my passion to create art and how art managed to get me through the experiences I endured in segregation.
At the time, I didn’t realize I was being tortured. I thought that this was the way it was supposed to be; routine beatings by guards, fear tactics and isolation were all part of being in segregation. Years later, upon reading about the long-term effects of prolonged segregation which include depression and suicidal thoughts, I felt it was time to go back and figure out what happened to me. How have I survived when so many people I know have not? Friends depicted in the film died in solitary. Many of my past experiences make sense to me now that I understand what I was subjected to was not normal. I want to shine a light on my experience and, through my artistic expression, find some healing in what was a horrible time in my life.
Statement on Solitary Confinement and Prisoner Justice Day from J.P. Blanchette:
“You don’t think torture takes place here in Canada? Think again.
On August 10, 1974, Edward Nalon, held in solitary confinement in Millhaven Maximum Security Prison J-unit for much longer than what was justified, slit his wrist. Guards pressed the emergency panic button for medical help, but the button malfunctioned and Nalon died.
Fast forward 29 years, to 2003. My 27 year old brother Yvan faced the same outcome as Nalon, after almost 12 months of involuntary solitary confinement without being formally charged. Same prison, same cell. Same emergency panic button malfunction when the guards found him. Same sad outcome.
At one point, I as well had been taken into involuntary solitary confinement at Millhaven Maximum Security. Fortunately, after an 8 day hunger strike, after losing 22 lbs, Corrections agreed to some of my conditions and released 3 of my colleagues. I was eventually found not guilty of the suspected charges and was released from solitary confinement 4 weeks later, where I finished my time in general population. I was fortunate enough to make it back home. Many of Canadian inmates are not so lucky.
These stories are sadly common. This is happening every day in our Canadian prison system. Fundamentally everything about the system is flawed, from how it is designed to turn prisoners into raging animals to how you are mistreated and left to die.
If you come at me with “Club Fed, easy time,” I’ll show you my collection of scars received serving time, and am willing to tell you about the countless scars I’ve left on others. It was not easy time. It was definitely not humane.
Canadian prisons are in need of a serious overhauling.
This is why Prisoners Justice Day means so much to me. More so than any other day of the year. On August 10th every year I stand in solidarity with all of my fallen brothers.
For every inmate that has died an unnatural death within our prison walls, I stand for you! https://johnhoward.on.ca/sudbury/prisoners-justice-day/”