Violence & Medical Neglect at CCWF

For Immediate Release – Monday, November 23, 2015

Imprisoned People, Family Members and Organizers Speak Out

Press Contact: Dolores Canales, Family Unity Network, (714)290-9077  or Hannah McFaull, Justice Now, (415) 813.7715

Sacramento – On November 11th, an imprisoned person at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), faced extreme violence at the hands of prison guards. Stacy Rojas and three others were detained, physically abused, sexually harassed, strip searched in the presence of male guards, and were kept without water, food or restrooms for eleven hours. The group was illegally kept in administrative segregation without a lock up order and have been denied health care support for the injuries caused by these officers. Requests to speak with members of the prison’s Investigative Services Unit have so far been ignored.I just want to let them know that we have been physically abused, sexually harassed,” said Stacy Rojas, “and that this was just wrong. They used excessive force, totally used excessive force against us and we need help.

The public acknowledgment of excessive use of force and deadly use of force by police has increased throughout the nation. Video recordings of interactions between the police and the public have increased significantly in recent years as technology has improved and the number of distribution channels has expanded. This is not an option open to people experiencing violence from guards behind prison walls and any attempt to speak out is often met with retaliation and increased force.

Our communities in and out of lock up have lived experiences with biased policing — ranging from racial profiling, to excessive, and sometimes lethal, use of force”, stated Patrisse Cullors co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter. “We hear about it more and more in the communities we live in, but rarely hear about the traumatic ways that it manifests in the California prison system. Stories like Stacy’s are happening everyday inside of California prisons and jails with little to no measures taken by authorities to keep people safe and hold law enforcement, such as prison guards accountable.”

Advocacy organizations working with people in women’s prisons are familiar with reports of abuse and violence, like that experienced at CCWF last week. The California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Justice Now, the Family Unity Network, the TGI Justice Project and others regularly provide legal and medical advocacy support following incidents of violence perpetrated by correctional officers at women’s prisons.This group of organizations and Stacy’s family members are requesting an independent investigation of the violence and excessive use of force used. They are requesting medical care and safe housing for Stacy and all those involved. The group also demands an end to the violence imposed on women, transgender people, gender nonconforming people, and communities of color within the California prison system.

“My sister is at the end of a fourteen year sentence and it seems as though some would wish to take that away. This has never happened [to Stacy] before. We have never had fear for my sister’s life”, said Adriana Rojas. “My sister Stacy Rojas’ constitutional rights have been violated by being stripped searched by male guards, assaulted by means of kicking and stomping, taken outdoors in near 40 degree weather, threatened with rape, humiliated, placed in holding cages for nearly 12 hours, and deprived of food and water.” Albert Jacob Rojas added, “They were denied medical attention and denied the right to speak to internal affairs. We ask that anybody who cares about human rights and women’s rights please join us in demanding justice for all.”Family members and advocates are calling for:

  • An immediate independent investigation into the violence and excessive force used by guards in this incident.

  • Suspension of guards involved pending investigation.

  • Comprehensive medical treatment for injuries sustained during the incident.

  • No retaliation for speaking out against this abuse.

20 Years of Speaking Truth To Power Countdown!

CCWP’s 20th Anniversary Celebration – Saturday Nov. 7th!

 As part of CCWP’s 20th Anniversary celebrations, we are counting down some of the ways that we have spoken truth to power over the years. Thank you to all who have helped create a movement through these actions. We invite you all to celebrate with us on November 7th at the Women’s Building in San Francisco. Go to Brown Paper Tickets to get your tickets now!

Countdown #20Countdown #19

No New SF Jail! Create Alternatives to a Jail Rebuild!

 Black Women in SF account for nearly 50% of the city’s arrests of women!
Dear Supporter,

On June 18, Supervisor Jane Kim will hold a public hearing on Alternatives to a Jail Rebuild. This is another opportunity for the community to express what is crystal clear: San Francisco needs to invest in affordable housing, residential treatment programs, outpatient mental health services, health care for all, quality schools, parks and recreation program, not more cages.

Take action to stop the criminalization and imprisonment of Black and Brown communities and poor people. A recent report by the Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice revealed that Black women in SF account for nearly 50% of the city’s arrests of women while they are only 6% of the women’s population in jail. This shocking statistic confirms the racism that we see operating on a daily basis in our work with women and transgender prisoners at SF County Jail. At the same time, we know that 84% of people in SF jail are pre-trial which means they haven’t been sentenced of a crime but simply can’t afford bail. Bail reform would eliminate the perceived need for a new jail.

Join us as we demonstrate that alternatives to jails and policing are what we need. It is scandalous that some Supervisors are proposing to significantly expand the SF police force. Wasting hundreds of millions of dollars into rebuilding a jail will only increase the violence of policing and imprisonment. This past week, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors suspended their jail construction plans to adequately assess community alternatives. San Francisco needs to follow their example now.

In solidarity,

Hafsah Al-Amin
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Member of Californians United for a Responsible Budget and No New SF Coalition 


Mariposa & the Saint announcement

Join CCWP for two benefit performances of Mariposa & the Saint and a conversation about the shocking conditions in California’s women’s prisons and what can be done to change them.

Thursday, May 7th at Stagewerx, 446 Valencia St. at 16th, San Francisco

$15 advance thru Brown Paper Tickets, $20 at the door, no one turned away for lack of funds

Doors open at 7:00, Play begins promptly at 7:30

Sunday, May 10th at La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley

$15 advance thru Eventbrite, $20 at the door, no one turned away for lack of funds

Doors open at 7:00, Play begins promptly at 7:30

In 2012, Mariposa was sentenced to fifteen months in solitary confinement. In 2015 she is still in a special confinement unit. Through letters with longtime friend Julia Steele Allen who met her through a CCWP prison visiting team, Mariposa brings her experience to the stage.

Written by Sara (Mariposa) Fonseca & Julia Steele Allen

Directed by Noelle Ghoussaini

A Benefit for the California Coalition for Women Prisoners,

For more information contact CCWP, 415-255-7036 x 4



Act Now to Free Kelly Savage!

Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout

Petitioning Attorney General Kamala Harris

This petition will be delivered to:

Attorney General Kamala Harris

Free Kelly! Domestic violence survivor serving her 19th year in prison for a crime committed by her abusive husband.

California Coalition for Women Prisoners

Kelly is a domestic violence survivor serving her 19th year in prison for a crime she did not commit. In 1995, Kelly’s abusive husband killed her son Justin after she put her children to sleep and left the house to run errands in preparation to leave him with her children the next day. Her ex-husband has since confessed his responsibility for Justin’s death, telling Kelly in a letter he wrote from prison last year that “I should of let you all get away from me.”

Kelly’s trial and conviction rested on the prosecution exploiting myths and misconceptions of survivors of abuse. Even Kelly’s own defense attorney told the jury that she was negligent for not leaving her abusive husband, a damaging and inaccurate argument that hurt her case. Kelly’s history of abuse began when she was less than four years old. She sustained a lifetime of rapes, beatings and other abuse by a succession of family members, acquaintances and two husbands, including the husband who killed Justin.

Kelly was not present for her son’s killing, but the DA blamed her for not escaping and saving her children sooner, ignoring the very real and documented dangers associated with attempting to leave an abusive partner. The DA also exploited Kelly’s history of abuse to suggest that she didn’t run because she enjoyed the beatings, and sacrificed her son to “please” her abusive husband. Kelly was convicted of first-degree murder for “aiding and abetting” her abusive husband, and sentenced to Life Without Possibility of Parole.

California’s Intimate Partner Battering legislation allows Kelly to petition for a review of her conviction by introducing expert testimony about her abuse that was not allowed in her trial. Kelly’s defense was severely harmed by the absence of expert testimony to explain how prolonged intimate partner battering was relevant to her case. Kelly’s lawyer and trial judge fought her request for an expert in domestic violence who could have testified on her behalf.

In prison, Kelly has the respect of prisoners and prison staff alike. She keeps her heart and spirit strong by focusing on helping other prisoners. Since learning more about domestic violence and the cycle of abuse, Kelly leads support groups for others. Kelly also works hard to raise money within the prison. She helps raise more than $9000 a year to send to a low-income school in Madera, paying for basic school supplies and computers for local kids. Kelly is also one of few approved caregivers in a Comfort Care program, where she gives needed support to dying and incapacitated prisoners.

Through the California Habeas Project and Free Battered Women, now the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), Kelly secured legal help from pro-bono attorneys at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Kelly’s petition is currently held up in the appeals court process and the Attorney General is opposing her chance at a fair hearing.

Join us in asking our Attorney General, Kamala Harris, to withdraw her opposition to Kelly’s habeas petition and tell the court to grant her a fair hearing. Domestic violence survivors need care and support, not prison!

For more info:

Facebook: please join the group “FreeKelly!”

Twitter: @womenprisoners (#FreeKelly)

Read Victoria Law’s article about Kelly on Truth-out:

Why Is California Keeping Kelly Savage in Prison for a Crime She Didn’t Commit?


On Thursday, July 31st, people from across California gathered in McFarland to protest the opening of a new GEO women’s prison and to demand an end to immigrant detention and deportation.

Women and children who were marching in the 300-mile Trail for Humanity for comprehensive immigrant justice connected with anti-prison advocates and Central Valley community members to build vital links between these struggles.

We listened to a letter from women and transgender prisoners which pointed out that the CDCR could easily implement release programs to reduce overcrowding rather than open a new women’s prison.  We marched past blocks of barbed wire fences and felt their destructive presence in this small city  (there are two GEO prisons in McFarland, which has a population of 13,745.  Together we strengthened our determination that the millions of dollars poured into razor wire walls and militarized borders should instead be spent on education, health, and services for our communities!

The McFarland rally was an important step forward in the fight to close the GEO women’s prison. Local media was forced to cover issues that are usually kept invisible to the public.   But women are beginning to get sent to McFarland prison and we need to step up the pressure on the decision makers now.

Take Action – Click Below and Tell your legislators to direct the CDCR to cancel the contract with GEO, close the McFarland women’s prison and implement existing release programs instead.

 Letter signed by women and trans prisoners at CCWF and CIW


 We the undersigned incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) and  the California Institution for Women (CIW) are outraged that CDCR has signed a contract with the GEO Group, the 2nd largest private, for-profit prison corporation in the U.S. According to the contract, GEO will open a new women’s prison in McFarland, CA by fall of 2014.

We call upon California State Legislators to direct CDCR to cancel the contract with GEO and implement existing release programs instead of opening a new prison!

 Once again we are shuffled around without regard for our well-being or our human rights. Since VSPW was converted to a men’s prison in January 2013, we have been subjected to overcrowding at historically high levels (CCWF is now at 185% capacity), even while the state is under court order to reduce the prison population. This is discrimination against people in women’s’ prisons!  As a result of this overcrowding, health care, mail services, food and education have greatly deteriorated. We are locked down more frequently, leading to heightened tensions, drug overdoses and suicides. The prison staff has responded by locking more people into solitary, further violating our human rights.

CDCR could easily implement existing programs to reduce overcrowding, such as: Alternative Custody Programs (ACP); Elder and Medical Parole; and Compassionate Release. Instead, on April 1, 2014 GEO announced its new contract with CDCR to open a 260 bed women’s prison with an “enhanced rehabilitation and recidivism reduction program.” This is nothing but a bad April Fool’s joke! The 260 women who are “chosen” to go to McFarland could be released through one of these other programs instead. None of us should be hauled off to showcase a so-called “gender responsive” prison and to put money in the pockets of GEO investors.

GEO is a private corporation whose business makes profit from imprisoning primarily people of color and immigrants. GEO’s press release about the new prison reports expected revenue of $9 million in McFarland’s first year. Think of how much $9 million could do for providing community-based re-entry services!

GEO has been the subject of numerous lawsuits around the country about atrocious, unconstitutional conditions. Private prisons are notorious for operating with even greater secrecy than the CDCR: assaults are 49% more frequent; racist behavior and sexual abuse by staff are widespread.

GEO is responsible for human rights violations at many of their facilities.  In 2012 GEO was forced to close the Walnut Grove, Mississippi youth detention Center after being condemned for allowing, in the words of Fed. Judge Carlton Reeves, “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”

  • In March 2014, 1200 people detained in GEO’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA (for immigrants) went on hunger strike to protest the grossly inadequate medical care, exorbitant commissary prices and low or NO pay for work within the center.  Other GEO prisoners have since gone on hunger strike at detention facilities in Conroe, Texas and Stewart, Georgia.
  • In January of 2014, Governor Jerry Brown’s reelection campaign reported $54,400 in donations from GEO Group. GEO Group has spent $7.6 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the U.S. in the last decade.

 GEO lobbied strongly to advance laws that increased the time served for drug convictions and other non-violent crimes through mandatory minimum sentencing, three-strikes laws, and truth-in-sentencing laws. GEO was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) when the model bill that became AB 1070 (profiling immigrants in Arizona) was drafted. These legal changes resulted in significant profits for GEO.

  • In McFarland, CA, GEO has signed a contract incentivizing prolonged incarceration over release by charging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation less per prisoner if the facility is more than half full.
  • GEO operates reentry facilities around the state, including the Taylor Street Center at in San Francisco and the Oakland Center in Oakland.  Residents experience these facilities as “re-entry prisons” that are structured to threaten and punish people rather than providing support for people to reenter community life.  .

It is shameful that CDCR is about to open a for-profit “boutique prison” that does nothing positive to solve the disproportionate overcrowding in the women’s prisons at this time. Assembly Members and Senators, please intervene!  Stop the GEO prison from opening. Instead use this $9 million to fully implement existing release programs immediately and fund community-based (not for-profit) reentry programs.

Thank you for listening to this urgent request,

Natalie DeMola, CCWF

Jane Dorotik, CIW

Fonda Gayden, CCWF

Anne Marie Harrison, CCWF

Valerie Juarez, CCWF

Terah Lawyer, CCWF

ChiChi Locci, CCWF

Maydee Morris, CCWF

Amy Preasmeyer, CCWF

Patrice Wallace, CCWF