by Cynthia Scott
The sky threatened rain in San Francisco on the evening of April 23. Yet even the threat of rain couldn’t dampen the spirits gathered at the headquarters of CCWP. It was Volunteer Night, and a small but able group of people had come to eat, watch a video, and listen and learn about the growing movement for women prisoners. Volunteer Night, held every fourth Wednesday of the month, was organized by Christina Wilson, CCWP program coordinator to broaden a base of volunteers. Volunteer Night, says Wilson, is aimed “to build a mutually respectful, fun space for individuals to come and do some kick-ass work.”
The last Volunteer Night in April certainly reflected that spirit. Eleven people in all were in attendance, including Wilson, Doris Mitchell, former prisoner outreach coordinator, and staff attorney, Cassie Pierson. The rest were volunteers, such as long-time volunteer Virginia Velez. During the meeting, take-out Chinese food was provided and a half-hour video called “Tulia, Texas: Scenes from the Drug War” was shown. Then, there was a discussion about the video and CCWP’s work in the movement for women prisoners. Next, came introductions. Everyone introduced herself, why she came to Volunteer Night and CCWP’s work, and expressed a movement to go along with her name. While a majority of the people there were long involved in the cause for women prisoners rights, there were a few others, such as myself, who were newcomers, both to CCWP and the movement.
The atmosphere that night was loose, friendly, cheerful, and good-natured, but there was also serious work getting done. Volunteers were immediately broken up into committees for public education and outreach, prison visits, letter writing, and initiating new volunteers. Since CCWP is dependent on voluntary support, Volunteer Night is an important tool in building active participation and support in the movement for women prisoners and their families. “We are doing our best to develop comprehensive orientation materials and trainings so that the organization can support as broad a base of individuals as possible from different walks of life,” said Wilson.
Volunteer Night is still new, and so far, it is a success. “As far as it’s going, I’m really pleased,” said Wilson. “Close to twenty new people have made commitments to the organization in the past two months.”