The Sudbury jail will host an advocacy event later this week for prisoners who die of unnatural deaths such as homicide or suicide while incarcerated.

The John Howard Society is organizing the commemoration on Thursday, which is meant to honour prisoners and raise awareness of their rights. 

"Even though they may have committed horrendous crimes, it is not right to at least treat them as if they have no meaning in life," says John Rimore, the executive director of the local John Howard Society chapter.

Cramped conditions breed anger, violence

Rimore says conditions at the Sudbury jail have improved when it comes to cleanliness, air ventilation and shower quality. There's still violence behind bars, however, especially when two to three inmates are sharing close quarters.

Executive Director, John Howard Society in Sudbury, John Rimore

John Rimore is the executive director of the John Howard society in Sudbury. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

"You have people  in the size of a large bathroom with a toilet in the room. It's very hard for people to not just have a sense of privacy, but a sense that they have some space," says Rimore.

"When people are cramped together in a room, it breeds violence and anger. The smallest of events can cause someone to get upset."

Lack of supports for recently-released

The other part of the problem is rehabilitation. Rimore says there's a serious lack of transitional houses in Sudbury, and many social assistance programs are over-run or difficult to reach.

"Many of these folks return to their old friends, their old stomping grounds, which in many cases were the very reasons why they were incarcerated in the first place," he says.

"It's a breeding ground for a higher risk for many of the men and women to just get back to their old ways."

Ignoring prisoner rights 'hurts all of us'

The idea of fighting for prisoners' rights might not be everyone's priority, but Rimore says it's a moral choice.

"If we treat them like they have treated the people that they've hurt, then there will never be any change in our communities and we become nothing more than a vindictive and vendetta-based society," he says. 

"That hurts all of us."

The spiritual commemoration will be led by the jail's chaplain. Women from the N'Swakamok Native Friendship Center are also expected to be there to lead drumming songs.

Listen to the interview here.

with files from Olivia Stefanovich