CIW VIGIL THURSDAY JUNE 1- 7 PM

CIW Vigil 2

THURSDAY JUNE 1, 7-8:30 PM

CALIFORNIA INSTITUTION FOR WOMEN – 16756 CHINO-CORONA RD, CHINO

Please join us for a Vigil at CIW on the first anniversary of the death of Shaylene “Light Blue” Graves. Join CCWP & the families of Shaylene Graves, Erika Rocha, Alicja Thompson and currently incarcerated people at CIW in demanding an end to state-sanctioned death, abuse & neglect.

Please join us at 6:00 pm at American Heroes Park (6608 Hellman Ave, Eastvale, CA 92880), just a couple miles from CIW. We’ll gather together at the park and head over to the prison as a group before 7 pm.

At 7 pm we will march in front of CIW to honor those still in prison with drums and chanting, and then circle up for a speak-out by family members & formerly incarcerated people who have lost loved ones at CIW. We are planning a peaceful, legal demonstration.

LWOP COMMUTATIONS FOR SUE RUSSO & KEN HARTMAN!

CCWP welcomes Governor Brown’s granting of 72 pardons and seven commutations on April 15, 2017 (See more information)  We are especially glad that he commuted the LWOP sentence of Kenneth Hartman who has long led the fight against LWOP as “the other death penalty,” and the LWOP sentence of Sue Russo, a survivor of domestic violence, who CCWP works with and has served almost twenty-three years at CCWF.  Our hearts go out to all the other people with LWOP sentences who were hoping for commutations at this time.  We are committed to moving forward CCWP’s campaign to win Commutations for All people with LWOP and to put an end to this cruel but far too usual sentence completely.

 

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CCWP 2016 Highlights- Please donate today!

When I faced the hardest situation of my life, CCWP was there for me. The very day I received the tragic news of the death of my daughter, Shaylene Graves, in a California state women’s prison, CCWP reached out to me and my family. Through CCWP’s tireless efforts, my family has been given the strength to ?ght for justice and seek answers in Shaylene’s death. Through CCWP, I have been introduced to other families that share my grief and struggle. All of our families have been given a voice through CCWP’s incredible organization and dedication. – Sheri Graves

Dear CCWP Community,

SHOUT THEIR NAMES! NO MORE DEATHS! BRING OUR LOVED ONES HOME ALIVE!  These calls of grief and rage reverberated through a Town Hall in Oakland this past July and two months later at a vigil directly in front of the California Institution Women (CIW).  CCWP organized these events working closely with family members of people who have died at CIW due to overcrowding, solitary confinement, lack of mental health services and racist neglect.  After three years of insisting that the epidemic of suicide and death at CIW could not be ignored by the prison authorities or the California legislature, we finally succeeded in winning an independent investigation of CIW by the State Auditor, one step towards needed change. Our continued pressure also helped push the dysfunctional wardens at CIW and CCWF into early retirement.

We raised our demands to prison officials and the legislature through media, hearings, vigils, and town halls.  At the same time, we expanded our visits to the people inside, encouraging their courageous efforts to support each other.  We partnered with the women at CIW to respond to the traumatic impact of repeated losses.  We let family members and loved ones know that they did not have to deal with this crisis alone.  We were able to sustain this struggle against the callous disregard of the prison authorities and the lawmakers because we built community at the same time as we advocated for systemic policy changes.

Other major highlights of 2016 include:

  • A Living Chance multi-media storytelling project was included as part of a major exhibit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. A Living Chance uses storytelling and art to educate about the injustice of Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentencing.
  • Participation in the national Survived & Punished network which helped to publicize and mobilize people to support Bresha Meadows, a young Black woman who was arrested for defending herself and her family from her father who had a long history of abusing them.
  • Participation in the Trans Advocacy Group, a collaborative of organizations working to support incarcerated transgender people in California. CCWP helps the group coordinate more consistent support for trans men held in women’s prisons, and advocates for trans women in CA prisons.
  • Participation in the SF No More Jails coalition which defeated a proposed SF county jail rebuild in December 2015.Participation in the city’s working group for alternatives to incarceration.
  • Continuation of our Fired Up! empowerment group in the SF County jail, our Spitfire Speakers’ Bureau and The Fire Inside Newsletter, now in its twenty-first year of publication.
  • Sustaining five visiting teams that provide legal advocacy and support at all the women’s state prisons on a bi-monthly basis and expanding out L.A. team to respond to the CIW crisis.

We cannot do this without you, our community!  Please donate today.

  • Support CCWP’s work in 2017 on a foundational level by becoming a monthly sustainer.
  • If you can’t commit to a monthly donation, please make a generous one-time contribution.
  • Please also consider planning a legacy gift for the future through a bequest, a living trust or a beneficiary designation.

Your contribution will support:

  • Salaries for our two dedicated part-time staff members.
  • Expenses for prison visits including car rentals, gas and food for the people we visit.
  • Stipends for the formerly incarcerated members of our Speakers’ Bureau.
  • Printing and mailing costs for The Fire Inside newsletter.

Please donate today.

In this grim political moment, we join with people across the country in preparing to resist escalating racist, sexist and economic attacks from a new ultra right-wing administration.  Heightened criminalization and imprisonment of immigrants is one of the many planned assaults that we intend to fight. Together, collectively, we will stand firm on our core principles of justice and love.
Hafsah Al-Amin & Windy Click
Program Coordinators

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