Support the Family of Denise Gomez!

denise-gomez

Please join CCWP in helping Denise Gomez’ family raise money for her funeral. Denise died by suicide two weeks ago while incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility.

CCWP had the honor of partnering with Denise on a health-fair at CCWF last year. Denise spoke powerfully at the health-fair and contributed to her community in many ways. We join a large network of people inside and outside of prison grieving Denise’s loss and demanding an end to prison conditions that continue to lead to tragic and preventable deaths.

Please donate to support Denise’s family in their grief and help them honor Denise as they wish. They hope to raise enough money to pay for a viewing so they can see Denise one last time. www.gofundme.com/to-bury-my-aunt-denise-gomez-2udutyc4

Proposition 62 and The Other Death Penalty

62_statementquote-1A Collective Statement

This statement was produced by A Living Chance: a storytelling project of California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), created with women and transgender people serving Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentences. This statement reflects conversations with our partners inside prison whose voices are too often omitted from public discourse on measures that directly affect them.

On November 8, 2016, Californians will vote on two propositions regarding the Death Penalty. Prop 62, the Justice That Works Act, would abolish the death penalty by replacing it with Life Without Parole (LWOP). Those currently on death row would lose their rights to use the appeal process and legal habeas to get their cases reviewed. Prop 62 would also require all people serving LWOP to pay 60% of their wages to a victim’s fund. Prop 66, the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act would speed up the review and decision process for death row appeals, resulting in a faster timeline for executions. It would also require more lawyers to take on capital appeals, whether or not they have experience with capital cases.

We strongly oppose the death penalty. We believe it is racist, classist and ableist, condemns many innocent people to death, and neither deters violence nor promotes rehabilitation. The Vision for Black Lives agenda accurately characterizes the death penalty as “designed to bring lynching into the courtroom” and as impacting primarily Black, Brown and poor people. We stand firmly against Prop 66.

We also strongly oppose LWOP, called “the other death penalty” by people serving this sentence. We believe LWOP is also racist, classist and ableist, condemns many innocent people to a slow living death, and neither deters violence nor promotes rehabilitation. The majority of people serving LWOP in California’s women’s prisons are survivors of abuse and were sentenced to LWOP as aiders and abettors of their abuser’s acts. We believe that LWOP relies on the intersections of racial terror and gendered violence.

For voters who oppose all forms of death sentences including LWOP, the choice between an initiative that replaces one form of death with another (Prop 62) and an initiative that speeds up executions (Prop 66) is hardly a choice at all. It is morally compromising to vote for Prop 62, which further criminalizes and demonizes our loved ones and creates a false hierarchy between forms of state-sanctioned death. However, we recognize that a decision to vote against Prop 62 is complicated by fear that Prop 66 will win. Ending the death penalty in California could be a powerful symbol for the rest of the country and represent a growing awareness of the injustices and inhumanity of incarceration and the criminal legal system as a whole. Every person who votes will need to make a difficult decision about two very problematic propositions.

We believe that both the death penalty and LWOP should be recognized as unjust and eliminated. One of our LWOP partners in prison, Amber states: “To reassure people that LWOP is a better alternative to death is misleading.” Rather than facing executions, people with LWOP will die a slow death in prison while experiencing institutional discrimination. People with LWOP cannot participate in rehabilitative programs, cannot work jobs that pay more than 8 cents an hour, and will never be reviewed by the parole board. We agree with the Vision for Black Lives policy goal to abolish the death penalty and we believe that true abolition of the death penalty includes abolishing LWOP and all sentencing that deprive people of hope.

When the death penalty was temporarily banned from 1972 to 1976 by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling all people then on death row had their sentences overturned or converted to life. Many of these people successfully paroled and are now contributing to their communities. We believe that as a society we must choose to reject death penalties of all forms. Although we are dismayed that this option is not on the November 2016 ballot, no matter what happens on election day we will continue the fight to abolish the death penalty and LWOP!

Commentary on Prop 62 From People Serving Life Without Parole

“There are women and men on death row who didn’t commit their crime and it would be an injustice to speed up the court process. LWOP is another death penalty sentence, a slow death. I want everyone to know that everyone on LWOP in the state of California [already] pays restitution. Funds are taken from the wages of an inmate or monies that are sent in from family and friends.” – Tammy

“If I had to choose one, I would choose Prop 62 but only because it is the lesser of two evils. Prop 66 just can’t be constitutional. As a practical matter, I hope neither passes.” – Amber

“I don’t think either [proposition] is enough. Last time death row [was abolished] inmates became lifers and some of those lifers are free today…so, why Life Without Parole? Why does society see LWOP as a suitable replacement? It’s still a death sentence. If death row becomes LWOP then LWOP should become life with a chance of parole.” – Amy

“We already work. Working a low wage like 8 cents an hour makes a tiny dent in restitution and only makes those working more dependent on the state to survive daily needs. An indigent LWOP would rely on the state or family (if still alive) for daily hygiene and basic needs. Higher restitution forces inmates to engage in criminal activity to tend to basic needs. Plus, a job is not rehabilitation. I’d rather have the requirement of self-help. Let’s rehabilitate human beings not treat them as trash.” – Amy

“If [Prop 62] passes anything [else] will fall upon deaf ears because [the lawyers] already feel victorious and like they have really assisted us. It stops the conversation because they feel like they’ve given us something. Lawyers and death penalty opponents can show they are fully engaged in the LWOP plight by working on another bill [for] LWOPs.” – Rae

“I don’t think [replacing Death Penalty with LWOP] is a solution. The ladies on death row sit there forever. LWOP…is an easier way to say death penalty.” – Sue

“I would like to see all bills pass for everyone. I believe everyone needs a second chance.” – LaToya

“Prove that this [proposition] is changing the system. This kind of change scares me. I’ve lost everything a long time ago. People that aren’t in prison need to sit down and listen. These sentences make us suicidal, make us go off the deep end. We are medicated to be manageable.” – Angel

“Yes, I would like to see the “Justice That Works Act” pass because nothing is solved by taking another life. Unless you’re in a losing situation (which I am as an LWOP) nothing is worse than knowing that this is forever. That no matter what, how hard you try and how much you’ve changed, you will still die in here…” – Boualy

“I feel that [replacing Death Penalty with LWOP] would work because it is a change and more people will rehabilitate and work towards giving back to society.” – Boualy

“[I’d like to see] legislation that actually works on rehabilitation or reform— we, as a society, are still focused on vengeance in my opinion.” – Amber

“LWOPs have never gotten any attention and I don’t see that changing. 60% restitution is just more punishment.” – Judith

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Vigil at CIW Saturday Oct. 1st, 2:30 pm

Shout their names townhall group photoFacebook event invite

NO MORE DEATHS!  BRING OUR LOVED ONES HOME, ALIVE!

Please come out to support families & friends who have lost loved ones to the abuse & neglect at CIW state women’s prison in Chino, CA.

Join the families of several young women who recently died in custody for a public vigil at CIW on Saturday, October 1st at 2:30 pm (2 pm meet-up nearby place TBD). Please RSVP for carpools, directions & prep: ciwvigil@gmail.com.

Demand that the State of California, the Corrections Department (CDCR) & CIW be held responsible for the rampant abuse, neglect & deaths in custody. Demand answers about the premature death of so many young women of color in particular.

Speak out against isolation, abuse & state-sanctioned death!
Rally with us in support of the survival & release of people currently incarcerated at CIW.

Bring our loved ones home, ALIVE!

#ShayleneGraves #ErikaRocha #AliciaThompson #ShadaeSchmidt #StephanieFeliz #MargaritaMurugia #LauraAnnRamos #GuiFeiZhang

#SayHerName #InvestigateCIW #EndSolitary #Criminalized2Death #BlackLivesMatter

Organized by the families of Erika Rocha, Shaylene Graves, Black Lives Matter IE & the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. Please email info@womenprisoners.org to endorse.

SHOUT THEIR NAMES – A TOWN HALL

shout their names graphic

Dear Community,

In response to another preventable and tragic death, advocates at the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) are reaching out to ally organizations in the Bay to call further attention to the ongoing crisis occurring at California Institution for Women (CIW). CIW is at 130 percent capacity and has a suicide rate that is 8 times the national average for people in women’s prisons, and 5 times the rate for all California prisons.  We will be holding a Town Hall on Sunday, July 31st at the Eastside Arts Alliance in Oakland and want to invite your organization to endorse and be part of it.

The injustice and conditions of abuse and violence at CIW are happening inside and outside of prison walls across the country. Too often, lives are being lost to state violence and the majority of lives stolen are Black and Brown, queer and transgender. At CIW, people are dying as a result of direct neglect by cops, and from medical and mental health neglect. Outside, women are being killed by police. In 2013, Kayla Moore, a Black trans woman was killed by the Berkeley police in her home. On May 19, 2016, a Black woman named Jessica Nelson Williams was killed by San Francisco police in the Bayview neighborhood. There are no shortage of examples of punishing people and communities who have survived generations of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia with policing, incarceration and neglect.

Just a few weeks ago Shaylene Graves, a 27 year old Black woman, died from this state violence. She was six weeks away from her release. Before Shaylene, Erika Rocha committed suicide. Erika was 35 years old and had been incarcerated for 21 years. She was one day away from her Youth Parole Hearing. Last November, five people at the CCWF women’s prison were physically abused, sexually harassed and placed in solitary confinement by prison guards. They are planning to bring a suit against the CDCR.

Legal advocates with CCWP are working with and supporting survivors inside and family members outside to get much needed attention and support to those suffering behind these walls. We are reaching out to you because more needs to be done.

We hope that the Town Hall Meeting on Sunday, July 31st, 2016 from 3-5pm at the East Side Arts Alliance can help us connect these struggles and bring more attention to the ongoing crisis at CIW. We hope that you will endorse the event, share the information with your networks and come to Eastside Arts Alliance on July 31st. To endorse the town hall, please email info@womenprisoners.org.

Join us in demanding justice for Shaylene, Erika and all lives stolen by the CDCR and the police. BRING OUR LOVED ONES HOME ALIVE!

In Solidarity,

California Coalition for Women Prisoners

 

REST IN POWER SHAYLENE

Shaylene GravesDear community,

Yet another young woman of color died at the California Institution for Women (CIW) two weeks ago today. Her name is Shaylene Graves and she was 27 years old and 6 weeks away from returning home to her loving son, family and friends. CCWP is working with Shaylene’s family to hold the CA Department of Corrections (CDCR) and CIW responsible for her death. In the wake of Shaylene’s death, the prison continues to mistreat her grieving family and friends and to evade responsibility for failing to save lives.

We are writing to ask for your continued support in demanding an end to the dehumanization, abuse & preventable deaths at CIW.

Help us demand an investigation into the preventable deaths at CIW, including the ongoing suicide crisis. We encourage connecting this push to mobilizations to #SayHerName (gathering tomorrow in Detroit), #BlackLivesMatter, and the #StateOfWomen summit in DC this week (last one for the stretch).

Also, if you have personal connections with members of the CA Senate Rules Committee, the Assembly Speaker, and/or the Governor — please also make a call in honor of Shaylene Graves, Erika Rocha, as well as the many people who have attempted suicide at CIW this year alone, and ask them to support our demand for an investigation. (These 3 gov’t bodies are now the only authorized to order a state prison investigation.)

Thank you so much for your support,

California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP)

Links:

Petition for CIW investigation: bit.ly/InvestigateCIW

Petition update re Shaylene: bit.ly/ShayleneGraves

Sample tweets:

  • #SayHerName #ShayleneGraves #BlackLivesMatter #ShutDownCIW #CareNotCages bit.ly/ShayleneGraves [Upload Image]
  • Hold CDCR responsible for #ShayleneGraves death #SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter #ShutDownCIW bit.ly/ShayleneGraves [Upload image]
  • “The prison system failed to protect her life” – #ShayleneGraves’ mom @Shaysfight #BlackLivesMatter #SayHerName [Upload image w/quote]
  • Crisis continues at CIW w/more preventable deaths #ShayleneGraves #ErikaRocha #ShutDownCIW bit.ly/InvestigateCIW [Upload image]
  • #ShayleneGraves #ErikaRocha End the dehumanization, abuse & deaths NOW #ShutDownCIW #BringOurFamilyHomeALIVE [Upload image]
  • Shaylene was planning to start an org to support ppl coming home from prison, follow @Shaysfight support her dream [Upload image]
Hashtags:
#ShayleneGraves
#SayHerName
#BlackLivesMatter
#ShutDownCIW
@Shaysfight @womenprisoners

 

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.