A Conversation with Piper Kerman

Piper Kerman (standing second to the left) with CCWP and Justice Now members

SAVE THE DATE – SUNDAY FEBRUARY 23, 2014

A CONVERSATION WITH PIPER KERMAN,

AUTHOR OF ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK,

AND OTHER FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE

Sponsored by California Coalition for Women Prisoners & Justice Now

Sunday, February 23, 2014

3-5 pm

Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland (between Telegraph and Broadway)

Wheelchair access on 28th St.

A Strategy Meant to Break Me Fuels My Passion for Human Rights

Amy Preasmyer’s powerful article was just published in the SF Bayview. CCWP has visited Amy for several years and supported her when she wanted to write about her recent terrible experience with Administrative Segregation at CCWF.

http://sfbayview.com/2013/a-strategy-meant-to-break-me-fuels-my-passion-for-human-rights/

A strategy meant to break me fuels my passion for human rights
October 16, 2013

by Amy Preasmyer

I am an inmate at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, California. In April 2013, I and another individual were falsely accused of sexual assault and placed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) immediately. I was forced to face the loss of my job assignment, property, good living quarters, placement and status in groups and organizations. I was forced to miss my scheduled final examinations for college and lost the privilege to shop, walk outside or even call home.

Chowchilla Freedom Rally 'CCWF is at 200 capacity w 4,000 people inside' 012613 by Wanda, web

This little girl and her grandmother and hundreds more traveled to CCWF, California’s main women’s prison, in January for the Chowchilla Freedom Rally to demand, “Bring our loved ones home.” Their sign highlights the dreadful overcrowding at CCWF, created in order to ease crowding in the men’s prisons. The situation has not improved. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

The federally mandated Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) protocols and the complexity of its consequences turned my world upside down in seconds.1 This protocol has no intelligence or consideration of the law or constitutional rights that the judicial system offers and in many cases merely lacks. Through PREA, I quickly learned the cruel conditions of Ad-Seg.

This false accusation under PREA meant I was abruptly removed from my bed late in the evening to face an extended wait and then a transfer to Ad-Seg. Upon entering my newly assigned chambers at 3 a.m., I found the toilet was backed up and a DD3 (EOP)2 had urinated everywhere prior to me, leaving extremely unsanitary conditions and aromas.

I was left with only a bedroll, a state issued muumuu and no panties. I was utterly distraught and in a mental state of haze and disorientation, not knowing the excessively degrading experience I would continue to face from that point forward.

The torture and anguish administered with each passing minute, the refusals, limitations, the sudden removal of rights and privileges, and the revisions established by prison officials reveals a clear abuse of authority and misuse of power.

CCWF Ad-Seg conditions and limitations include:

Inadequate (if any) legal assistance and resource access.
No phone access.
Canteen items removed from original packaging.
Absolutely NO educational or rehabilitation opportunities afforded.
No religious services.
No contact visits.
No means to properly disinfect and sanitize cells.
No sanitation in dayroom, hallways, and stairs even while escorts continually take place daily and frequently.
No efficient and proper mental health assessment, evaluation and tracking.
No razors to maintain feminine hygiene (30 day review).

And the list goes on.

I was subjected to this treatment for an investigation evidenced as false. I am forced to start over when thrown back into general population, and CDCr holds no accountability, doesn’t right their wrong, nothing.

They remain unaccountable and unmoved by the loss, humiliation and set-back I endured those countless days and nights. They failed to offer guidance, leadership or assistance in reinstating my original program, assignment and the positive participation within my community I was once commended for.

Further, the cost to arrest, charge, investigate and re-house us was absurd. No precautions were taken toward California’s budget and its continued economic crisis. Nonetheless, I was guilty until proven innocent, a constitutional right broken and overseen based on “protocols,” but in reality, it is because everything changes behind these walls.
I was subjected to this treatment for an investigation evidenced as false. I am forced to start over when thrown back into general population, and CDCr holds no accountability, doesn’t right their wrong, nothing.

In a world of hardened minds, poverty, misunderstandings and violence, PREA offers a tool for manipulation of the system, its institutions, and all of those within it.3 What is disturbing is that the woman who filed the accusation under PREA sought – and ultimately was rewarded with – a transfer to California Institute for Women (CIW), the only other institution where a woman serving a life sentence term can be housed. In addition, there was no disciplinary action for her false allegation or restitution for expenses incurred behind it.

I was sentenced as a juvenile to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), and there was an enormous capacity for me to change my life as I matured from adolescence to middle age.4 It is unnerving that my opportunity for rehabilitation and education was jeopardized and challenged by a protocol set forth by CDCr, the very department that stands firm on their claim for rehabilitation and education.

Yet, those are among the first things denied when we are placed in Ad-Seg and hold the greatest ramifications on our future successes. These are all a result of the system’s damages.
In a world of hardened minds, poverty, misunderstandings and violence, PREA offers a tool for manipulation of the system, its institutions, and all of those within it.

Must we wait for more victims before we seek and support a change? Or is CDCr simply waiting until PREA is manipulated in a way that damages them, society’s example of law-abiding citizens?

Had this woman falsely accused an officer, would that officer have been arrested and forced to relinquish rights pending results of the investigation into the accusation? Would the employee suffer a wage loss? Would disciplinary action and consequences be rendered to the accuser once charges turned out to be baseless? Are you waiting until you have to rebuild your life or are you supporting to seek change now?

After being subjected to this methodical strategy meant to break me for a mere investigative purpose based on false allegations by another inmate later evidenced, I have chosen to embark on another journey to overcome and refuse to be their puppet or their statistic. I will not allow CDCr policies or standard operating tactics to make me stray from rehabilitation, education and future re-entry into society. As many say – that is NOT an option!

I defy the daily systematic obstacles set in place to make struggles become failures. There is no expectation of success and, through this ignorant assumption, I am empowered and influenced. What was intended to discourage has fueled the passion and participation in the Human Rights Movement for humanity and peaceful resolutions when faced with resistance behind bars and in the systems of injustice.

If we believe, we can achieve. Together we can make a difference. Support restoring lives and the need for change NOW.

Send our sister some love and light: Amy Preasmyer, X-29459, CCWF 511-19-4U, P.O. Box 1508, Chowchilla CA 93610. This story will appear in The Fire Inside, the newsletter of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

Fire Inside’s editorial notes:

1.Enacted by Congress in 2003, PREA (P.L. 108-79) sets protocols to prevent, identify, respond to and monitor sexual abuse of incarcerated or detained people in custody. PREA aims to address sexual abuse as it may occur between inmates or may be perpetrated by correctional facility staff. Grant funding is available at both the state and local level of government to implement PREA. PREA also mandates that information on rape and sexual abuse be collected and made available as part of the monitoring provision of the act. For more information, see http://nicic.gov/prea.
2. EOP stands for Enhanced Outpatient Program, a program designed for inmates who are categorized as having a disability that makes it difficult for them to interact with the general population in prison but not so serious that they require inpatient care. DD3 is a designation within the EOP classification.
3: This occurs in a context of severe overcrowding following the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) to a men’s prison, as over a thousand women and transgender prisoners were transferred from VSPW to either CCWF or California Institute for Women (CIW) in Corona, outside of Los Angeles. CCWF is currently functioning at close to 200 percent of its design capacity.
4.: According to the ACLU, there are approximately 2,570 children sentenced to LWOP in the United States, including children sentenced as young as 13 years old. The United States is the only country in the world that sentences youth to LWOP. See https://www.aclu.org/blog/tag/juvenile-life-without-parole.

 

Chowchilla Freedom Rally Media

The Chowchilla Freedom Rally made big waves in the local media! Below is a compiled list of the media coverage of the rally including radio interviews, television segments local to the Central Valley and articles written about the solidarity actions held in Santa Clara, Philadelphia and London.

Chowchilla Freedom Rally: It Just Ain’t Right, Interchange Blogspot, 2/2/13

Despite realignment efforts, numbers are still high in California’s women’s prisons, FSRN 1/31/13

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle with Ida McCray, Adrienne Skye Roberts, Windy Click, Community Video 1/30/13

Many speak out against possible CIM expansion, Daily Bulletin 1/30/13

CCWP member, Windy Click and Youth Justice Coalition Organizer Leslie Mendoza on Monday Morning Mix, KPFA (min 28) 1/28/13

Officials insist inmates’ needs are being met at Central California Women’s Facility, Merced Sun-Star 1/29/13

Inside the women’s prison in Chowchilla, CBS 1/28/13

Protest against prison overcrowding draws hundreds, KSBY 1/27/13

Manifestación de la Libertad, Univision 1/27/13

VIDEO: Hundreds of prison protestors rally outside of Chowchilla, Merced Sun-Star 1/26/13

Thousands Rally Against Prison Overcrowding, KSEE 1/26/13

Protest Against Overcrowding Held Outside Philadelphia Women’s Prison, CBS 1/26/13

Protest against prison overcrowding draws hundreds, The Tribune 1/26/13

Protest Against Overcrowding Held Outside Philadelphia Women’s Prison, CBS 1/26/13

Group to Protest Outside Jail Saturday, Redwood City Patch 1/26/13

Op-Ed: Angela Davis/Windy Click: Rallying to end women’s prison crisis in California, Fresno Bee 1/25/13

Chowchilla Freedom Rally to draw hundreds of Bay Area residents to Central Valley to protest women’s prison, SF Bay View 1/24/13

Groups set to protest crowding at Chowchilla women’s prison, Merced Sun-Star 1/24/13

Mumia Abu-Jamal Speaks Out Against Crowding More Into Chowchilla Rally Jan, Prison Radio 1/16/13

Chowchilla Freedom Rally!

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is converting Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) into a men’s prison in response to a U.S. Supreme Court order to reduce overcrowding. Instead of releasing people and closing VSPW, they are squeezing over 1,000 women and transgender people into the two remaining women’s prisons. The population of the other women’s prison in Chowchilla, Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) is dangerously close to 4,000 even though its maximum capacity is 2,000. The conversion has aggravated overcrowding, created dangerous conditions, and health care is already getting much worse. What’s more, they have added yet another men’s prison to their inhumane system. We’ve had enough! Come show support for all people locked up in Chowchilla’s prisons and tell the Federal Judges that overcrowding must stop now!

CHOWCHILLA FREEDOM RALLY

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rides available by bus and carpool.

Contact chowchilla.rally@gmail.com or 415-255-7036 x 314

Caravans leaving from MacArthur BART in Oakland at 10:30AM and Chuco’s Justice Center in Inglewood at 8:30AM. We will gather at 2PM at SE corner of Ave. 24 and Fairmead Blvd off Highway 99 in Chowchilla.

Rally begins at 3PM at VSPW.

OVERCROWDING = DEATH

BRING OUR LOVED ONES HOME!

COMMUNITY RELEASE PROGRAMS * PAROLE FOR ELDERS * RELEASE FOR MEDICAL REASONS * END LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE (LWOP)

Solidarity actions encouraged! If you cannot make the rally or do not live in California, we encourage you to organize a solidarity action on the same day in your community. Hold a demonstration in front of the DOC offices or the county jail, organize a speak-out against prisons in a public space, stand in solidarity the Chowchilla Freedom Rally! Please let us know how we can support you! Contact info@womenprisoners.org.

Interested in helping organize this event? Join our coalition! Our next meeting is Wednesday, January 2, 2013 from 6 – 8PM at the CCWP offices. 1540 Market Street, Suite 490, San Francisco. Or contact adrienne@womenpriosoners.org.

The Chowchilla Freedom Rally Coalition includes members from California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Justice NOW, All Of Us Or None, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, Fired Up!, Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project, Critical Resistance, Youth Justice Coalition, Global Women’s Strike, Occupy 4 Prisoners, Asian Pacific Islander Support Committee and the California Prison Moratorium Project.

STOP THE CONVERSION OF VALLEY STATE PRISON FOR WOMEN TO A MEN’S PRISON: FINAL PETITION READY TO SIGN

February 16, 2012
http://www.change.org/petitions/cas-gov-brown-cdcr-secretary-matthew-cate-judge-t-henderson-stop-the-conversion-of-valley-state-prison-from-a-womens-to-a-mens-prison
You may have already signed and that’s great. We have modified the wording and included the complete joint statement from people inside both women’s prisons in Chowchilla, CA.
Please pass it on and reply if your organization wants to be listed as an endorser.
Currently there are over 2,650 women and transgender prisoners housed at VSPW. Instead of releasing thousands who are eligible to go home, CDCR is planning to transfer them to the Central California Women’s Facility (159% over capacity) and California Institution for Women (139% over capacity.)
Our communities have endured and suffered forced removals and relocations of people openly and under false pretexts for generations. Even though no prison is where anyone wants to or needs to be, closing and moving women out of this one is yet another uprooting to the detriment, and against the will of, people rendered powerless and whose humanity is disregarded.

Hunger Strike Update

16 October 2011
The second recent hunger strike by California prisoners has come to an end. As prisoners throughout California continue their struggle for human rights and against torture, we must keep up the pressure on Governor Jerry Brown and the CDCR as the 5 core demands have only been minimally addressed.
Please visit this website for a more complete update regarding the Hunger Strike: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com,and click here for listings of upcoming actions in the US and Canada.
These videos capture the entirety of the public hearings on August 23rd, brought about as a result of prisoners going on hunger strike and the mass wave of the pressure across the country that followed. Part 1 of 2, Part 2 of 2.
To sign an online the petition in support of the hunger strike, please visit: http://www.change.org/petitions/support-prisoners-on-hunger-strike-at-pelican-bay-state-prison.

To view a video of the July 18th Sacramento demonstration, please click here.

Continue reading

Take Action California

Take action at Take Action California: a virtual, one-stop, for political activism, action alerts, fact sheets, and events in support of grassroots advocacy throughout California. By increasing our collective capacity for e-advocacy, we hope to advance our shared agenda for social change, through criminal justice reform and human rights advocacy for disadvantaged and low income communities and people of color throughout the state.

Help Free Sara Kruzan!

From the Free Sara Kruzan website : “There are approximately 225 juveniles in California serving a life without parole sentence. California has the worst racial disparity rate in the nation for sentencing juveniles to life without parole. Black youth are given this sentence at 22 times the rate of white youth.
One such case involves Sara Kruzan, now 31. She was raised in Riverside by her abusive, drug-addicted mother. Sara met her father only three times in her life because he was in prison.
Since the age of 9, Sara suffered from severe depression for which she was hospitalized several times. At the age of 11, she met a 31-year-old man named G.G. who molested her and began grooming her to become a prostitute. At age 13, she began working as a child prostitute for G.G. and was repeatedly molested by him. At age 16, Sara was convicted of killing him. She was sentenced to prison for the rest of her life despite her background and a finding by the California Youth Authority that she was amendable to treatment offered in the juvenile system.
‘As a society we?ve learned a lot since the time we started using life without parole for children,’ said Elizabeth Calvin, a children?s rights advocate with Human Rights Watch. ‘We now know that this sentence provides no deterrent effect. While children who commit serious crimes should be held accountable, public safety can be protected without subjecting youth to the harshest prison sentence possible.’”
In January 2011, Sara’s sentence was commuted to 25 years-to-life by the California governor. To sign a petition supporting her release, please click here. Thank you.