About the Prisoner Emergency Support Fund:
The Prisoner Emergency Support Fund (PESF) was started by the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP) and the Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project (TPRP). We are a team of volunteers that are organizing to support prisoners. We believe that people need access to community support and not human cages. The fund was originally launched in April 2020 as a response to the pandemic. Given the clear gaps in care that have been revealed by the volume of applications, we are continuing to raise funds so long as there are needs to be met. The harms of incarceration, while heightened by the pandemic, are not contained to this historical moment, and we firmly believe that by continuing to show up and care for all members of our community, we can work towards a safer and more equitable world. The overwhelming show of solidarity has encouraged us to continue to raise and distribute money from the Prisoner Emergency Support Fund.
This fund is intended for people inside prisons and jails and recently released prisoners. People behind bars often need access to funds to contact their loved ones or purchase essential items on their canteen, such as personal hygiene items. Recently released prisoners need access to funds for shelter, food, clothing, transportation, and physical and mental health supports. Families who still have loved ones behind bars need funds for expensive phone bills and canteens.
How the Prisoner Emergency Support Fund Works:
The PESF operates based on a shared community trust system. We aim to reduce the barriers and invasive questions that prisoners often face when trying to access support, while also being accountable and transparent to our community.
Volunteers with the Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project and the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project review each application and distribute the funds accordingly. Funds are distributed to each applicant as a one-time stipend of $225. For recently released prisoners re-entering the community, most will receive their stipend directly by e-transfer or money order. For prisoners who are still behind bars, we will send the money to their trusted loved ones to deposit on to their canteen, or mail a money order directly to the jail or prison.
Funds are released on a first-come-first-served basis, while also prioritizing people in emergencies. We want to honour this commitment by trusting that those who have the means will seek out those means, and leave this fund to be accessed by those who have little to no choice.
This fund is limited. Using community donations, we will continue to distribute funds for as long as we can. We recognize that this, too, will not be sufficient to bridge the deep gaps that this crisis has caused. To preserve each other's privacy and dignity, we will never publish the names or details of the recipients. Still, we will give periodic updates to our community on the number of people who have been served by this fund.
PESF Update as of December 2021:
Funds Distributed To-Date: $260,165
Applications Received: 2,425
Number of People Supported: 1,156
Number of People Still in Need of Support: 1,269
Funds Still Required to Meet Current Needs: $285,525
As of December 2021, new applications to the Prisoner Emergency Support Fund are still temporarily on pause due to overwhelming demand, and donations are urgently needed on an ongoing basis as we continue to work through a large backlog of applications. We are continuing to channel our efforts into fundraising, and we will continue to distribute money to people who have already applied to the fund as money becomes available. We are aiming to resume accepting new applications as soon as possible.
Ways To Support The Prisoner Emergency Support Fund!
Donate: You can donate to the PESF through this GoFundMe page -- or visit our Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project website for instructions on how to donate by e-transfer, or to find out how you can help sustain our mutual aid efforts on an ongoing basis by becoming a monthly supporter through our Patreon!
Fundraise: Do you have an event, celebration, meeting or workshop coming up where you could raise funds? Could you organize your own auction or raffle? Are you an artist, maker or service provider who could donate a portion of your sales? Are you a part of an organization or group that can collectively fundraise through your networks? Feel free to get creative! We are always so grateful when folks support with fundraising on behalf of the PESF.
Share: Please continue sharing info about the PESF with your friends and networks!
We are so appreciative of everyone who has been supporting the PESF by donating, fundraising and sharing. Those who have received funds through the PESF have expressed deep gratitude for the support and for the extent of community care - many have used the funds to cover phone bills, canteen items, legal aid, transportation, shelter, clothing and food during this challenging time. From all of us at TPRP and CPEP, we thank you so much for your ongoing solidarity.