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    < 2006 Family Visiting Day
CCWP started Family Visiting Day in 2005 when we realized how many women were not getting regular visits from their families because of the difficulties involved with transportation to the prisons. In 2005, we brought families from the Bay Area but this year we expanded the event to include a bus from Los Angeles. We spent several months raising money, getting donations of food, collecting names and information from families who were interested in participating, researching chartered bus companies and working on dozens of other details to make it all possible. Some families were picked up by volunteers and some got to the meeting places on their own. There were packets of information which included descriptions of CCWP’s programs for each family, as well as healthy snacks, and crayons, paper and flash cards for the kids to pass the time on the long bus ride there. Although everyone was sleepy because of the early hour, you could feel the excitement running up and down the aisles!

    < CCWP's 10th Anniversary Celebration
CCWP celebrated our 10th year anniversary on June 9, 2005. The event, held at the African American Art and Culture Complex in San Francisco, opened with a dedication to women inside.

    < AROC and ASATA release statements on homophobia, racism, and Islamophobia
29 March 2010

Today, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA) each released the below statements on connections between homophobia, racism, and Islamophobia.

from ASATA: "...the people--queer people, South Asian people, Muslim people--can reclaim our agency and work to end homophobia and Islamaphobia in the same breath."

from AROC: "...we are working for the liberation of all peoples, and see our movements as inextricable from each other..."

    < Attack on Prisoner Rights Advocates
The California Department of Corrections is attempting to pass a set of regulations which would severely limit prisoners' access to legal services and advocacy.

    < Ellen Richardson's statement for May 8, 2003 rally for Education Not Incarceration
On May 8th, 2003, teachers, students, parents and concerned community members from across California rallied at the state capitol to advocate for education funding over prison spending. This statement from Ellen Richardson, a prisoner incarcerated at VSPW, was included in various activities at the rally.

    < Family Visiting Day 2007
CCWP held its third annual Family Visiting Day event this past February, providing transportation from both Oakland and Los Angeles to Central California Women’s Facility and Valley State Prison for Women, both in Chowchilla, to the loved ones of prisoners in each institution. The response this year was bigger than any previous year showing the enormous desire of women, transgender and gender variant prisoners and family members and loved ones of these prisoners to visit one another. This huge response also illustrates the absolute need many have for assistance in getting to the prisons, as the cost and distance of the trip is often prohibitive, especially considering the disproportionate number of people from poor communities and communities of color being locked up. The fact that we received information for over 800 visitors while we had the resources and capacity for only 170 shows how much this opportunity means to people in California women’s prisons and their loved ones on the outside.

    < Federal 3 Judge Panel Rules on Prison Overcrowding
California Must Reduce Number of People in Prison

On Monday, February 9, a tentative ruling was issued by the federal three judge panel stating that overcrowding is primary cause of the cruel and unusual conditions in California state prisons, and that they plan to order the state of California to reduce the population by roughly 55,000 people in the next 2 to 3 years. The ruling lists changes to parole practices, increasing "good time credits" for prisoners, and alternative sentencing as possible ways to reduce the population, all of which have been considered by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and Governor in recent years. The Governor declared a state of emergency in 2006 because of the “severe overcrowding” in California’s prisons, causing “substantial risk to the health and safety of the men and women who work inside these prisons and the inmates housed in them.”

This ruling is a major victory for prisoners, their loved ones, and advocates who in the face of retaliation and deliberate indifference from the CDCR have continued fighting for their constitutional and human rights.

However, the State plans to immediately appeal the decision to the Supreme Court which will mean that it will be some time before a population cap will be put into effect. It is vital that our communities continue to raise public awareness of conditions inside and organize to hold the system accountable to the suffering and death it has caused.

CCWP will continue to organize with people inside and their loved ones and advocates outside as this situation unfolds.

If you are interested in being involved with these efforts, please contact CCWP at 415-255-7036 x4 or at

    < Fire Inside Tenth Anniversary Event
This year marked the tenth anniversary of the CCWP newsletter The Fire Inside. A celebration of this occasion was held on November 7, 2006 at the African American Art and Culture Complex in San Francisco. This amazing event featured author Alice Walker as our guest of honor who read from her recently released book We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For and shared her thoughts on the prison industrial complex, the oppression of political prisoners in the United States, and the current state of our world.

    < Frankie Williams is Free!
Many thanks to all who signed petitions for Frankie's release!!

California Coalition for Women Prisoners challenges the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) and its destructive effects on our communities. All communities and all people suffer from the abusive nature of this system that punishes those deeply in need of healing. The PIC sustains itself by further entrenching racism and systemic racial discrimination to which all forms of discrimination are connected.

    < Giving Birth to Justice in the Desert
A report from a CCWP-sponsored demonstration in Chowchilla protesting the health care crisis and deaths of women prisoners in the SNF.
by Leroy Moore Jr.

"The warden is not here. No one is in charge today!", the security guard barked at the protesters at the gate of the Skilled Nursing Facility of the Central California Women's Facility, a state prison in Chowchilla. The group had come armed with a list of demands:
  • An end to the lockdown of women in the Skilled Nursing Facility.
  • Compassionate release for dying prisoners.
  • An independent investigation of the Skilled Nursing Facility.

On April 27, 2002, over 75 former prisoners, family members and advocates from around the state gathered at the gates of CCWF to protest the health care crisis and deaths of women prisoners. Chowchilla is in central California, north of Fresno.

Speakers who represented a coalition of organizations including Critical Resistance, Out of Control, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, California Prison Focus, Queers United to Fight Israeli Terrorism, Prison Moratorium Project, Death Penalty Focus, Amnesty International, and Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization, and other community activists took the mike to talk about what was going on inside.

Karen Shain of California Coalition for Women Prisoners and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children put the spotlight on the physical and sexual assaults against women plus the denial of medical care that has lead to 17 deaths at CCWF in the last year. Two years ago the high death rate at Chowchilla got the attention of the Los Angeles Times. According to a Dec. 20, 2000 article, there were 15 deaths in the year 2000, nine in 1999 and 10 in 1998.

Ida McCray-Robinson, a formerly incarcerated poet, mother, organizer, and founder of Families with a Future, pumped up the rally as she told how she used to feel, hearing protesters outside when she was incarcerated. "Make them hear you!" she coached. "We love you, we love you!" we shouted under Ida's command. As I marched with the other protesters, some very young and some my elders, my blood was boiling from the stories about the way my disabled and terminally ill sisters are treated inside CCWF.

After an hour or so marching and listening to speakers, a handful of activists decided to take our list of demands to the warden. As we approached the gate, three security guards, one of them a woman, communicated to us through their body language, which clearly read "total confusion." After we asked for the second in command because the warden wasn't in, the guards looked at each other and replied that nobody was in charge today!

At that moment a common thought breezed into our heads and flew out of our mouths in a chorus, "Well, if nobody is in charge, the women prisoners should come home with us." We realized that we were talking to a wall with human-like features, so we decided to continue our rally outside the gate.

Beloved activist Yuri Kochiyama rolled her walker up to the mike and told her story about the racist, sexist and classist prison industrial complex that is becoming home to so many in our diverse society.

As the car turned onto the highway to the Bay area, I saw three more prisons all for women. Our mothers, sisters and grandmothers are joining forces with spirits of our ancestors, goddess, Mother Earth and Mother Nature to give birth to JUSTICE in the desert. I wonder would our Native American ancestors agree on how the land and women are being treated? I don't think so!

Leroy F. Moore Jr. is executive director of Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization, DAMO.

    < Good News to Share from LA . . .
From Youth Justice Coalition: The Proposed 1.4 Million Dollar Cut to Gang Intervention Did Not Go Through!

    < Help Tell Our Story!

Help us spread the word. . .

1) Help with a guide

This is a shout out to formerly incarcerated members who would like to share their experiences of transitioning after serving time. This is a collaborative and totally grass-roots project. The motivation and vision to do this came from several conversations among different people during our Statewide Gathering in October of individuals and organizations across the state of California doing anti-prison and prisoner advocacy and support work.

It will be an un-institutional sort of "For us, by us Guide" that will surround people getting ready to walk through the gates or in the process of adjusting to life on 'the outs' with love from women and transgender people whose voices are left out of so many conversations with so much wisdom to share.

This project aims to collect the stories of formerly incarcerated women in a story-telling and conversational form to create a directory of tips, wisdoms and suggestions for women getting out of prison by women who have been there.

We are also looking for ideas for a catchy title that is a far away from “resource guide” or “manual” as possible. Something vibrant and powerful!

For more information, write to CCWP Attn: Dana Ullman, 1540 Market Street, Suite 490, San Francisco, CA, 94102, or call the office at 415-255-7036 x4, or email

2) Fire Inside

BPH/Transition Hints: Our next issue of The Fire Inside quarterly newsletter will be on parole. We've had a lot of requests for a "helpful hints" article that can help people prepare for the parole process, including board hearings, building a parole campaign, what it's like once you're out, etc.

Some parts of what people may want to write for the “Guide” could be used in this article too, so feel free to contribute something ASAP as we are trying to get first drafts done for the Newsletter on December 15th.

General Contributions on Parole System and Life as a Lifer before and after release: We're also putting out a general call for any articles, stories or statements you all might like to write. They can be as short as a couple of sentences and as long as 500 words (a page or so). Your voices are really what keeps this newsletter vibrant and thriving and we want this issue to be HEARD by many people so we can bring people home and stop the parole madness!

This is an issue we have been building up to all year. It is an opportunity to put in print many of the ideas, struggles and inspiring accomplishments that were shared at the Statewide Gathering. We are prepared to publish a supplemental collection of people's writings, as we want to follow through on our mission to "put a face on" people's experiences of serving life sentences in California.

    < Legislative Hearings: Battered Women Speak
October 2000

by Janice Jordan, CCWP/San Diego

Day 2 of the Legislative Hearings started at CIW with a group of women who shared their stories about Battered Women's Experience/Syndrome. For the majority of those testifying, this had been their first arrest. They all have indeterminate life sentences (nine to life, twenty-five to life, etc.) The studies presented by the expert witnesses indicate that men accused of killing their partners only receive an average of sixteen years. Within the criminal injustice system women usually have to speak to male police, male lawyers, male judges and male psychiatrists about their abuse at the hands of men. Women kill in order not to be killed by their abusers; however they don't always do it in "the heat of passion" so it doesn't qualify as self-defense. Many of these women were not allowed to bring their history of domestic violence into their trials because they occurred before 1992 when the laws changed on this matter. The majority of the women had been eligible for parole for years and they urged the Parole Board to consider their history of abuse in deciding upon release as has been mandated by the law since 1996. We know that Theresa Cruz's recent parole denial is evidence of the lack of awareness and neglect which the Parole Board practices on an ongoing basis.

Sexual Abuse in Prison

The last segment of prisoner testimony came from women who had experienced sexual abuse and assault. One woman testified of assaults she experienced at Chowchilla and Valley State. The other, a former prisoner from CIW charged with a drug-related, non-violent crime told of her two weeks of abuse at the hand of the prison chaplain. "When you come to prison you're scared. You look to fit in somewhere" She didn't fit in anywhere but thought she'd be safe in the chapel. There are now four women who have a lawsuit against this chaplain.

I didn't reveal the names of the prisoners, not for privacy reasons, but because the more I heard, the more it was apparent that of the 11,000 women incarcerated in the California state prison system, any one of them could be represented by the few at the hearing. I want them to know we are carrying their stories wherever we go.

By the end of the second day's testimony, the systemic problems within the California prison system were more than obvious. The significance of the hearings will only be realized if the flood of testimony about problems is translated into actions which begin to remedy the drastic situation. And beyond these needed but limited steps recommended to correct the worst outrages, advocates for prisoners will continue to work for the abolition of a system based on control, punishment and warehousing of human beings.

To get a copy of the videotape of the hearings contact Senator Polanco's office at 916.334.6175.

    < Legislative Hearings: Speaking Truth to Power, October 2000
by Diana Block, CCWP/San Francisco, Donna Willmott, LSPC

Senator Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Prison Construction and Operations, opened unprecedented hearings on October 11 and 12 at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) and California Institution for Women (CIW) by thanking the women who had agreed to come forward to testify and emphatically warning prison staff, including Director of the California Department of Corrections (CDC) Cal Terhune, that retaliation by prison staff against those who were courageous enough to come forward would be met with severe consequences.

Delays in Treatment and Falsified Tests
Wednesday's session at VSPW in Chowchilla was attended by over 100 prison activists, lawyers, family members and media representatives in addition to several state legislators and their aides. Former prisoner Pat Shelton described how she was serving an eight month sentence for a parole violation when she discovered a lump in her breast. She was not seen by a doctor until five months later by which time the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She is now struggling with terminal bone cancer and came to testify in order to try and make a difference around how other women were treated in the future.

Several women prepare to testify at the hearings. Behind them sit CDC officials including Director Cal Terhune (since retired).
Several women prepare to testify at the hearings.
Behind them sit CDC officials including Director
Cal Terhune (since retired).

Charisse Shumate, the lead plaintiff in a class action law suit against the CDC filed in 1995, told how she lost sight in one eye because of delays in treatment of a sickle cell anemia related condition and implored the audience not to forget that "we are human beings."

Ellen Richardson detailed how the CDC ignores the particular problems of a population where one third of the women are over 40 and need help with osteoporosis, menopause and many other critical issues related to aging. "We are our own best doctors" she asserted.

Epidemic Hepatitis C

In a panel devoted to the life threatening problems of women living with HIV and Hepatitis C , Beverly Henry, a self-disclosed HIV+ woman, told how she accidentally discovered that she had Hepatitis C since the prison never notified her of crucial test results. She and Judy Ricci, also HIV+, painfully described watching friends die of Hepatitis C (which is epidemic with approximately 54% of the women infected) while prison staff disregarded obvious symptoms of distended abdomens and eyes "the color of pumpkins" and refused to provide necessary liver biopsies.

The medical section of the hearing concluded with a devastating description by Gloria Braxton of the way in which prolonged misdiagnosis and mistreatment of her uterine cancer led to her current terminal cancer which has been made even more excruciating because of the denial of medication for her chronic pain. Gloria insisted that she should be granted compassionate release, which by law she is qualified for, in order to be able to spend the last six months of her life at home.

Health Care away from CDC

At many points throughout the medical testimony the legislative panel appeared horrified by the stories they were hearing. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) said that the stories "curdled her stomach" and angrily concluded that "these women have been given two sentences - one by the court and one by the institution." "From what I've heard, cats and dogs are treated better than some of these people" Carl Washington (D-Compton) exclaimed. Dr. Corey Weinstein and other prisoner advocates called for a non-profit public health care institution to take over the provision of medical care for state prisoners and the legislative panel promised to consider these recommendations.

Tearing Mothers and Children Apart

The legislators also promised to look into recently issued CDC regulations which further undermine the fragile connection between women prisoners and their children. These "underground regulations" apparently are in violation of state laws, as they only allow 48 hours after delivery for women who give birth in prison to find a relative who can care for the baby before placing the child in a foster home. If no suitable relative is found, children are given away to foster/adopt homes in the county where the mother is incarcerated and the mother is not allowed to know the identity of the family who has her child. If she is unable to reunify with her child within six months (by being released) the child automatically becomes eligible for adoption.

    < Legislative Hearings: Women Prisoners Tell It Like It Is
October 2000

by Diana Block, CCWP/San Francisco, Donna Willmott, LSPC

Twenty-two women sent statements to Sen. Richard Polanco for inclusion in a packet of materials for the Legislative Hearings on the Conditions of Confinement for California Women Prisoners, held at Valley State and California Institution for Women on October 11 and 12, 2000. Following are excerpts from a few of those statements. For a full set of documents submitted to the hearings, including all the prisoner documents, please send $15 to LSPC, 100 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102.

From "Creating a National Campaign for Women with HIV" by Sandra Massey:

"In our society it is the height of hypocrisy to relegate 'convicted criminals'--fellow humans who may or may not have committed a crime (an unconscionable percent are now publicly known to be factually innocent of the charges)--to horrifying and barbaric conditions and deliberate premature death. Further, it is the absolute height of idiocy for our society to expect 'prisoners' who have witnessed society's 'heart' firsthand to return to them with anything greater than a loathsome revulsion for the class of beings who publicly admit they don't care if a 'prisoner' lives or dies.

Christina Avilan spoke about the impossibility of recieving adequate medical care if a prisoner does not speak English.
Christina Avilan spoke about the impossibility of recieving adequate medical care if a prisoner does not speak English.
So long as our society does not experience pain and outrage that motivates change in state officials who not only have the audacity of deeming an individual of no social value, but also goes on to deliberately murder that individual, and as long as there is no demonstrable outrage at our elected officials who knowingly spend billions of dollars every year to prosecute, imprison, and in many cases execute citizens the officials know are factually innocent, then prison officials will continue to perform their passive executions of the prisoners in their custody regardless of the nature of the medical condition for which they deny life-saving medical treatment." From Asali Richardson: "I've experienced a lot of things in VSPW and while officers aren't perfect, the sworn oath should be upheld regardless of their personal opinions and views. As long as they get paid to do a job with professionalism, they need/should do the job. We females are mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, etc. Our punishment is the time sentenced and the setting away from family and society -- not the cruelness, bigotry, open hatred and the abuse applied by the very hands that are sworn to protect us.

From Patricia McCaskill:

"During an emergency appointment, I thought I had a lesion on my vagina. Dr. D___ put a plastic shield on covering his face and two pairs of rubber gloves. Before he attempted to check me he left the room, touching door knobs on several doors, and then returned to the examination table but was not willing to change the gloves! ...

There are groups of patients tested for serious conditions/diseases, including myself, who were not informed of positive results in a reasonable time span by the regular yard physician nor the doctor ordering a test. Some of us were informed by other physicians seeing us for other reasons. I was told my hepatitis C positive results eighteen months later by a relief physician. I still await explanation and recommendation for treatment if any is available."

From Judy Ricci:

"Why should any of you care about a bunch of prisoners that are safely locked away? Because each one of us is someone's grandmother, mother, child, wife or friend. Because it should not be about cost cutting over care giving. Because most of us are coming out to free society, sooner or later. Multiply the [HIV/Hepatitis C] infected population here times 32 other state prisons and the public health risk begins to look pretty frightening, and the need to do something significant becomes obvious. Imagine how many future infections in the community could be avoided if every infected prisoner were made aware of their status, learned the responsibility every human being with a communicable disease has to protect the next human being, was given information, monitoring and treatment if treatment is warranted. Bottom line, this issue needs to be aggressively addressed. If not now, when?

From Charisse Shumate:

This is not about me. This is about we. As I sit here trying to express these sad but true facts about the issues at CCWF...First of all, thanks to an inmate named Joann Walker, may she rest in peace, who put her life on the line to make the California Department of Corrections know how important it was to reach other inmates about the hard cold facts of HIV behind these walls. She spoke out loudly and clearly. She was a "we" person, not a "me" person. ... When I first came behind prison walls at the California Institution for Women (CIW), lifers worked in unity. They were big sisters to each other. We fought for the betterment of all inmates. We explained to the short timers on parole violations the importance of helping one another. ... Charisse Shumate knows no other way but "we." Will you please join the we and get the hell off of me. The real warrior is on a never ending battle. Pray for us as our lives are on the line.

    < Locked up - Locked down: A mother’s love for her child
An article by an incarcerated mother about not giving up hope for her child.

    < Loving in the War Years: Black women loving women in the War on Drugs
An article by CCWP's own Christina Wilson, which was published in Arise Magazine.

    < Maafa Awareness Month Events Organized by CCWP Advisory Board Member Wanda Sabir
October is Maafa Awareness Month. Maafa is a Kiswahili term for disaster, calamity or terrible occurrence. This term has been used to describe the European Slave trade or the Black Holocaust. For the past 12 years, this month is a time for the San Francisco Bay Area community to reflect on the legacy of slavery, its economic, political and social impact on the region and nation, and the residual psychological effects on descendants: perpetrators, victims, and beneficiaries. Maafa Awareness Month is a time to look at how Africans or Black people, in particular, can heal from the trauma.

    < Mother Infant Facility Under Investigation
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Family Foundation Program in San Diego, which allows women prisoners to be incarcerated with their children, is under investigation for severe child neglect and abuse by the San Diego Police Department. The investigation began in January when incarcerated mothers and their family members contacted Legal Services for Prisoners with Children to report the severe lack of medical care for their children. Child Protective Services is also investigating Family Foundations for its treatment of the children living there.

    < No Pride in Davis' Prison State
On October 7, queers and their allies demonstrated against Governor Gray Davis' prison policies during a fundraiser at the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.

    < Protesters Rally Against No-Parole Policy, 2002
A report of a statewide protest demanding that Governor Davis release battered women prisoners and end his illegal no-parole policy.

by Diana Block

Over 200 people protested at Gov. Davis' offices in four cities across California last Tuesday, demanding that Davis release battered women prisoners and end his illegal no-parole policy. The protesters accused the governor of playing politics with the lives of those inmates who are eligible for parole and in some cases have been granted a parole date by the state parole board, only to have it snatched away by Davis.

Protesters were outraged by the fact that in 2002 alone, Davis reversed the parole recommendations for seven battered women in prison. On June 20 he denied release to Maria Suarez who had been sold into sex slavery at the age of 16 and was physically and sexually abused for five years before a neighbor killed her abuser and Maria was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Maria has spent 20 years in prison and was recommended for parole in January 2002, only to have her date taken by Davis.

Flozelle Woodmore was 13 when she met her batterer and 18 with no prior criminal history when she pled guilty to firing a single fatal shot to his chest. She has been in prison for 15 years and was recommended for parole in March 2002 but was denied by Davis on Aug. 2.

These incarcerated survivors are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the illegal parole policy in place in California. Since January 1999, there have been over 9,000 parole suitability hearings for "lifers" (approximately 20,000 prisoners with indeterminate life sentences), but only 123 (1 percent) have been recommended for parole by the Board of Prison Terms. Davis has reversed the parole recommendation in all but two cases, both of them battered women.

In San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego a wide range of people gathered to voice their anger about this state of affairs and to deliver hundreds of signed letters to Davis' representatives calling upon the governor to end his illegal no-parole policy. In San Francisco, over 100 people held signs with the pictures of battered women prisoners and listened to messages from the women inside as well as family members such as Paula Bunney, whose daughter Marcia has been in prison since 1981.

"My daughter was abused much of her life," said Bunney. "She’s had a good record in prison. She should be released."

In Los Angeles the crowd included many family members, representatives from the religious community and Rose Ann Parker, the only convicted murderer to actually be released under Davis’ administration. In San Diego the physical reality of abuse was represented by women "wearing" bruises, blood and scratches on their faces, necks and arms, who stood silently in front of Davis' offices handcuffed to each other with duct tape across their mouths. And in Sacramento a delegation met with representatives from the offices of Sens. Sheila Kuehl and Richard Polanco, who congratulated the organizers on their work and pledged their support on this issue.

According to Olivia Wang, coordinator of the California Coalition for Battered Women in Prison, which initiated the protest, "Without remorse or compassion, Davis is sacrificing battered women for his own political goals." The rallies indicate that many members of the community no longer find this position tolerable and are ready to act to insure an end to this travesty of justice.

For more information, call (415) 255-7036 ext. 6 or visit

    < Rally for Prisoner Releases Friday December 19th 8:30 AM
On Tuesday, November 18th the Federal three-judge panel began a month of hearings in San Francisco to deal with the continuing issue of prison overcrowding and the cruel and unusual conditions it creates for people imprisoned in California. We had an amazing rally on the first day of the trial with roughly 50 former prisoners, loved ones of prisoners, and our supporters demanding prisoner release and an end to the inhumane treatment of people inside.

This Friday December 19th will be the last day of these hearings and we want to make sure the voices of our loved ones inside are heard and let them know that the only solution to prison overcrowding is prisoner release!

The overwhelming defeat of Proposition 6 (he so-called "Safe Neighborhoods Act") sent a strong message that the public does not want to spend millions of more dollars on a failed prison system. Proposition 9, billed as a victims rights initiative, passed but only due to a well-funded media campaign filled with misleading information. Unless we challenge it now, prisoners will be incarcerated well beyond their mandated sentences.

Join loved ones, friends and advocates for people in California's prisons to demand:





For more information about the rally, contact us at 415-255-7036 x314 or

For more information about the hearings, see the following news articles:

San Francisco Chronicle-November 18th, 2008-Prison Overcrowding Blamed for Health Woes

New York Times-December 7, 2008-Judges to Decide Whether Crowded California Prisons Are Unconstitutional

San Francisco Chronicle-December 15th, 2008-Jammed By Neglect

    < Save the Date!

    < Statement of Solidarity with Georgia Prisoner Strike, December 2010
CCWP and many other organizations have signed the Statement of Solidarity with the Georgia Prisoner Strike, which was the largest prisoner strike in the history of the United States. Please click the above link to read the statement in its entirety. Also, visit this site: to view the current signers of the Solidarity Statement and to add your signature.

    < The Scott Sisters are Free! Sign their Welcome Home Card!
December 2010

"Gladys and Jamie Scott are returning home for the first time in 16 years.

This evening, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour suspended their sentences -- handed down in the extreme and biased ruling of Judge Marcus Gordon that condemned each of the women to double life sentences for an $11 robbery.

The moment I landed in Jackson, Mississippi, Governor Barbour called to tell me about the suspension. And as I prepare to meet with him tomorrow, along with Derrick Johnson, President of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, I want to be clear about one thing: This vindication is because of you.

The Scott sisters have read your notes and letters of support. Now please join me in welcoming them home. Sign the NAACP's welcome home card to Gladys and Jamie:

Welcome Home card

Jamie and Gladys always described the moment the police arrested them as a nightmare. Not just for themselves, but for their family -- for their children.

So we united together. We fought the injustice -- just as the NAACP has done for more than 100 years.

When we couldn't visit the Scott sisters, we wrote letters and notes to let them know we remembered them. When we wouldn't be heard by the political and judicial powers that be, we spoke louder. And because of that perseverance -- because of your perseverance -- the nightmare is finally over.

Celebrate this victory for Gladys and Jamie, and also for the NAACP community, by sending them a welcome home message. They would love to hear from you.

Last time I was in Mississippi was to file the petition for clemency with the Scott sisters' lawyer, Chokwe Lumumba, and Charles Hampton, Vice President of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP.

Today, thanks to you, I get to return to show the world that the NAACP will not stand idly by as our sisters and brothers are wrongfully accused.

I am humbled by how far your support has taken the Scott sisters on the road to justice and freedom. And with every step forward, we will secure a brighter future for their children, our children and our children's children.

In thanks,


Benjamin Todd Jealous
President and CEO

    < Unjust Life Sentence
From Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

Why did Michelle Taylor get such an excessive sentence? Nevada law imposes a mandatory life sentence (with parole eligibility after 10 years) for the crime of lewdness with a minor under 14. The prosecutors had discretion to charge her with any number of crimes that carried different penalties, but they chose to prosecute her under this law. The prosecutors also refused to offer Michelle a plea deal. No one knows why.

Click here to watch a portion of the sentencing hearing.

    < Wanted - Justice in the Desert
The Struggle Continues for Humane Treatment inside the Skilled Nursing Facility at Chowchilla

"I have witnessed several things that are so inhuman that I just couldn't continue to stand by and not speak out."
-- Central California Women's Facility prisoner

The Central California Women's Facility (CCWF) claims to play an integral role in the California Department of Corrections (CDC) by providing "specialized mental health and appropriate medical services commensurate with community standards." Unfortunately, the actual experiences of some prisoners within CCWF differ greatly from the prison mandate. Tucked away in the California desert, the Chowchilla facility houses the state's only Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF), where many women incarcerated there are terminally ill and sometimes critically mistreated.

Prisoners, prisoners' rights activists, health care workers, the legal community, and scholars have long lamented the conditions in CCWF's Skilled Nursing Facility. Over the years, many changes have been recommended to improve the quality of care. Last April nearly 100 protestors brought the fight to the prison gates. Among those in attendance were LSPC, Critical Resistance, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, California Prison Focus, Prison Moratorium Project, Amnesty International, and Justice Now.

However, despite national attention from the media and tireless work by prisoners and their advocates, the conditions within the SNF have not markedly changed. Accordingly, LSPC has been working with our incarcerated clients and other Bay Area prison groups to compel the state's Department of Health Services (DHS) to investigate the SNF. The concerns raised include:
  • Physical and sexual assault by SNF staff
  • Delays in administering vital medications
  • Emergency call buttons are consistently ignored
  • Frequent lock-downs of up to twenty hours a day
  • Sheets are not regularly changed-one patient's sheets were not changed for six weeks
  • Diaper changing does not happen on a regular schedule
  • Certified Nursing Assistants do not regularly brush patients' teeth
  • Food is taken away before patients have finished eating
  • Retalition directed at patients who speak out

It is of paramount importance that independent investigations are launched because the 602 appeals process–originally enacted to afford prisoners the opportunity to air their grievances–is acutely flawed. Prisoners have reported their 602s missing, tampered with, or ignored. Perhaps most egregious, an appeal may take up to a year to reach its final destination of the CDC Director's office in Sacramento. For patients in the SNF–some of whom are terminally ill–time is of the essence. Sadly, some may never see the culmination of their courageous efforts.

Furthermore, patients in the SNF who lodge individual complaints often face serious retaliation. Recently, a diabetic who lives in the SNF where she is supposed to receive regular monitoring of her blood sugar levels spoke to a DHS representative about the facility's quality of care. The following day she was placed in the general population and, shortly thereafter, suffered a hypoglycenic attack because her blood sugar levels were not properly managed. She has also reported to LSPC that on one occasion she approached the infirmary doctor to receive her insulin shot, only to be told that she needed a pap smear. After reminding the physician that she had been given one the previous month, he responded, "no pap smear, no insulin." In March, Justice Now lodged a complaint on behalf of a SNF patient who was physically assaulted by a male nurse while having a seizure. After informing the nurse that she would report him, she was remanded to Administrative Segregation.

Patients in the SNF who have been the victims of retaliation often feel bullied into silence. But some prisoners, like Dee Garcia who suffers from multiple illnesses, have been courageously outspoken. After filing several complaints concerning her treatment in the SNF, prison officials transferred Ms. Garcia to Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) located across the street from CCWF. This prison does not house a SNF and, therefore, is ill-equipped to render long-term patient care. En route, Ms. Garcia's oxygen supply ran out, prompting her to experience severe chest pain. Once inside VSPW, prison staff prevented her from meeting with attorneys from Justice Now who, upon arriving there, were informed that Ms. Garcia had refused their visit. On another visit, LSPC staff discovered that Garcia had no personal property; missing were her eye glasses, writing materials, and legal paper work. Only after a letter writing campaign mounted on her behalf was she transferred back to CCWF. (NOTE: At the time of this writing, Ms. Garcia has once again been moved back to VSPW.)

In a letter to LSPC, Ms. Garcia writes: "If we were [on the outside] we'd be protected by the law. But we're in here where no law exists to keep us alive."

Early this year LSPC received a letter from a prisoner at CCWF indicating the extent of the inhumane treatment within the SNF. She wrote: "As a human being I could not stand by and watch my fellow inmates suffer and be placed in situations that deny them medical attention to the point of death." According to the porter, a terminally ill patient was denied a breathing machine. Some have been misdiagnosed. Others have been denied medication: an outside specialist prescribed a specific medication, only to have the order changed by the internal prison staff.

Unfortunately, abuses within the SNF are not new. Complaints about the quality of care date back to CCWF's inception in 1990, culminating in the 1995 class action lawsuit Shumate v. Wilson (see tribute to Charisse Shumate). Shumate charged that the medical staff at CCWF and the California Institute for Women in Frontera (CIW) displayed a "deliberate indifference" to the health concerns of prisoners tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment. The suit was settled in 1997 and the state was exculpated from any wrongdoing in exchange for agreeing to upgrade the prison health care system.

The post Shumate progress, however, was barely discernible. In 1998, CCWF and CIW were cited for various violations, and ultimately failed an inquiry by state-appointed evaluators. Despite opposition from plaintiff's counsel, the case was dismissed in August 2000. Later that year, after a rash of nine deaths occurred in just eight weeks, CCWF received national attention from, among others, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Mother Jones magazine. One death involved a thirty-three year old woman with chronic asthma. Doctors at the University of California-Davis said this death could have been prevented if the woman's inhaler had been accessible to her or if CPR been administered more quickly.

However, there has been some progress made in wrongful death suits. Represented by Justice Now, the family of CCWF prisoner Rosemary Willeby received a $225,000 settlement this year. Willeby, who died on October 22, 1999 suffered from Hepatitis C and liver disease. Although she presented no symptoms, Willeby was placed in a tuberculosis program by the CCWF staff and was prescribed anti-TB medications that have proved toxic to some patients afflicted by various liver diseases. Cynthia Chandler and Cassandra Shaylor, co-directors of Justice Now, have said that the CCWF staff ignored Willeby's repeated requests to see a specialist until ten days before she died.

Additionally, there has been some progress in mounting class action suits. The settlement of Plata v. Davis—the largest class action lawsuit on prison conditions to date—was filed on January 29, 2002, claiming that state officials operating the largest prison population in the nation displayed a "deliberate indifference" to prisoners' health care needs. The settlement stipulates a total reevaluation of the state's procedures, including a significant allocation of funds over the next several years in order to meet the standards set by an independent medical panel that has been empowered to oversee the state's progress. This suit was brought by several named plaintiffs representing all prisoners who are currently, and will be in the future, the custody of the CDC (with the exception of Pelican Bay State Prison).

However, while the Plata settlement appears to have far-reaching implications, none of the named plaintiffs was a woman so medical care issues specific to female prisoners such as gynecological/ pregnancy concerns (particularly for those also living with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C) were silent in the settlement. In response, LSPC filed an objection and remains committed to addressing systematic deficiencies within the CDC health care system in general, and redressing the medical-related abuses suffered by incarcerated women in particular.

Incarcerated at CCWF, Dee Garcia has asked: "I was wheeled in here in an ambulance. Will I be wheeled out in a hearse?" LSPC will focus on these issues until the women of CCWF and those housed at all California prisons will not have to ask this question. We hope that one day, women confined to the Chowchilla desert—far away from both their families and the world that exists outside the prison walls— will no longer want for justice in the SNF.

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