Peter 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,
and cc. Cheryl Kerr:
Cheryl Kerr, Parole Officer
P.O Box 1500
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
Parole Board of Canada
516 O’Connor Dr,
[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.