Advocates Demand Justice for Erika Rocha!

ErikaRocha

CCWP Calls Attention to Abuses and Escalating Suicide Crisis in California Women’s Prison!

Erika Rocha was 35 years old and one day away from her Youth Parole Hearing when she committed suicide on April 14, 2016 at the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona. Since her death, the suicide crisis at CIW has only worsened. Erika was 14 years old when she was charged as an adult in LA County. As a Latina youth, she was 43% more likely to be tried as an adult. Interrogated by police and prosecutors and threatened with a double life sentence for attempted murder, she pled to 19 to Life. Erika was 16 years old when she was sent to state prison in Chowchilla. Prison staff placed her in solitary to “protect her” until she was 17, but she told CCWP that guards admitted they kept her there to protect the prison because she was too young to legally be there.

At the time of her death, Erika was serving her 21st year of incarceration. She suffered from deplorable treatment for mental health issues attributable to her incarceration as a youth, including at least four indefinite terms of 2-3 years each in solitary confinement. Erika sought support for her mental health and trauma throughout her incarceration. CCWP continues to gather information, but we know that in the weeks before her death, Erika was transferred to suicide watch at least three times. The day before her death, she was released from suicide watch and placed in a mental health unit.

In 2015, the suicide rate at CIW was more than eight times the national rate for people in women’s prisons and more than five times the rate for all California prisons. In January 2016, a court-ordered suicide prevention audit concluded that CIW “continued to be a problematic institution that exhibited numerous poor practices in the area of suicide prevention.”

We are very concerned about the conditions that led to Erika’s death, as well as its impacts on the escalating crisis at CIW. In the week since Erika’s death, another suicide was reported and at least 22 more people transferred to suicide watch. The suicide watch unit is overcrowded and CIW is placing people on “overflow” in the SHU (“Security Housing Unit”). Given extensive documentation of the harmful impacts of solitary confinement on mental health, CIW’s decision to place people in crisis in solitary shows a continued failure to properly address its extremely high suicide rates. People experiencing mental health crisis in prison need intensive support, but CIW is instead endangering their lives further by placing them in solitary confinement.

CCWP Program Coordinator, Windy Click, who met Erika in prison when she was 19, said, “Erika was always seeking help, she was lost inside an adult facility not knowing what the future held. When she asked for help they didn’t bother to help her.” Upon hearing the news of Erika’s suicide, a friend of Erika’s who was also sent to state prison at 16, said “Erika’s death is a painful example of how the criminal justice system is broken and therefore breaks people. They did this to her. She obviously couldn’t see any future for herself.”

We hold the State of California, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the California Institution for Women (CIW) responsible for Erika’s death. Erika had a devastating story to tell about the abuses she suffered in the custody of the State of California. She hoped to be involved in youth justice work once she was released.

Despite decades of lawsuits to remedy prison health care and court orders to reduce prison overcrowding, the ongoing inhumane conditions lead to tragic and untimely deaths. To reverse the crisis at CIW, CCWP calls for the following immediate actions:

  • Conduct a full investigation into the ongoing crisis and high suicide rate at CIW. We ask the California Governor and Legislature to order the Office of the Inspector General to take action immediately.

  • Increase oversight by the court-ordered Special Master on the CDCR’s ongoing failure to improve conditions for people receiving mental health treatment at CIW.

  • End CIW policies and practices that deny people access to lifesaving support on suicide watch. Provide people safe access to mail, phone calls, legal visits, social visits, and the Compassionate Companions peer support team. Isolating people in mental health crisis and denying them access to available support increases their chance of death.

In honor of Erika, we ask that supporters of youth justice:

As President Barack Obama wrote earlier this year about Kalief Browder’s suicide post-incarceration, “How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people?”

We are devastated and enraged that we did not get the opportunity to welcome Erika Rocha back into our communities. We demand justice for Erika and an end to the suicide epidemic CIW has created for its most vulnerable people inside.

#FreeBlueSky Parole Update

Rickie Blue-Sky

This week the California Board of Parole Hearings denied Rickie Blue-Sky parole for the 5th time. We come together outraged by how the State of California continues to punish Blue-Sky for maintaining his innocence and criminalize him for existing as a Native American transgender elder. Blue-Sky told us that they used his “refusal to admit the crime” and his “unstable childhood” to argue that he lacks insight and is therefore a threat to public safety. He said that when the board assessed him under the “Elderly Parole Program” they found that even though he is 70 years old, “he looks so young” and therefore is still a public safety risk.

Thanks to your support with Blue-Sky’s petition, the DA did not use transphobic arguments against him. However, Blue-Sky is still caught in a system designed to keep people endlessly caged.

We ask for your continued solidarity with imprisoned trans people. Please stay in touch with our coalition of legal advocacy & organizing groups listed below for updates on how to keep showing up for the survival and freedom of Blue-Sky and other imprisoned trans people in California and beyond.

From Blue-Sky: “I wish to thank everyone who supported me by signing the petition, and a special thanks to all those who wrote personal letters of support. I hope you will continue to support me.”

TGI Justice Project, http://www.tgijp.org  

California Coalition for Women Prisoners, http://womenprisoners.org

National Lawyers Guild, Prisoner Advocacy Network, http://www.nlgsf.org/prisoner-advocacy-network

Justice Now, http://www.jnow.org

Transgender Law Center, http://transgenderlawcenter.org

 

 

 

No to Physical & Sexual Assault on People in Women’s Prisons!

On November 11th, five imprisoned people at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) endured extreme violence at the hands of prison guards. They immediately filed grievances against the officers and called for an independent investigation, but so far none of their requests have been met. They have now developed a more comprehensive set of demands listed in the letter below.

Family members and a coalition of organizations – the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Justice Now, the Family Unity Network, and the TGI Justice Project – are asking your help. in pressuring the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Senate Public Safety Committee to respond to their demands.

Please click on the link below to TAKE ACTION to pressure the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Senate Public Safety Committee to respond to their demands. And let these officials know that their is widespread public concern about this incident! 

Please help spread the word on your email lists and through social media.


http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51040/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18444

No to Physical & Sexual Assault on People in Women’s Prisons!

On November 11th, five imprisoned people at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) endured extreme violence at the hands of prison guards. They immediately filed grievances against the officers and called for an independent investigation, but so far none of their requests have been met. They have now developed a more comprehensive set of demands listed in the letter below.

Family members and a coalition of organizations – the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Justice Now, the Family Unity Network, and the TGI Justice Project – are asking your help. in pressuring the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Senate Public Safety Committee to respond to their demands.

Please click on the link below to TAKE ACTION to pressure the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Senate Public Safety Committee to respond to their demands. And let these officials know that their is widespread public concern about this incident! 

Please help spread the word on your email lists and through social media.

 http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51040/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18444

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 dol1canales@gmail.com  or Hannah McFaull, Justice Now, (415) 813.7715 hannah@justicenow.org

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!   http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2207494

Countdown #20Countdown #19