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.

US Supreme Court Declares that Requiring Mandatory Sentencing of Youth Under 18 to Life Without Parole is Unconstitutional.

On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that states may not impose mandatory life sentences without parole on juveniles, even if they have been convicted of taking part in a murder.
The justices ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that such sentencing for those under 18 violated the Eighth Amendment?s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling left open the possibility of judges? sentencing juveniles to life imprisonment without parole in individual circumstances but said state laws could not automatically impose such sentences.
CCWP recognizes this ruling as a small but significant step forward in the fight to eliminate Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentences. We will continue to work with women and trans prisoners with life sentences, and their allies, to stop all LWOP and life-term sentencing and to change the ways that youth are criminalized by the criminal legal system. For more, read the statement by the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth.

Continue reading

Great Piece by Victoria Law on Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm CST.

We Demand the Right to Vote: The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement Counters Voter Suppression
by Victoria Law

On Sunday, March 7, 1964, 600 civil rights activists attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the police murder of fellow demonstrator 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson and to demand their rights. As the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were brutally attacked by white state troopers, many of whom had been deputized that very morning. Seventeen marchers were hospitalized; the day became known as “Bloody Sunday.” After a federal district court issued a restraining order preventing a second march across the bridge, a third march was successfully organized and carried out. The bridge became a symbol of the Civil Rights struggle.

Nearly fifty years later, the dreams of the Civil Rights movement remain unfulfilled. Mass incarceration has replaced Jim Crow as a means of racial and social control: In the fall of 1965, in a special message to Congress, Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Crime: ?I hope that 1965 will be regarded as the year when this country began in earnest a thorough and effective war against crime.? In his 1973 State of the Union message, Richard Nixon vowed to continue and expand that war, linking the growing civil unrest to violent street crime. Reagan further intensified the amount of policing and prisons with his 1982 ?War on Drugs? launched three years before the 1985 emergence of crack cocaine. These “wars” came at a time when economic conditions were deteriorating, particularly in communities of color; both served to lock poor people, particularly poor people of color, away before they could organize and challenge social conditions and the social order.

On February 28, 2011, more than fifty formerly incarcerated people from around the country convened in Alabama. All had worked on issues affecting incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in their respective states. Over the course of the weekend, attendees asked themselves and each other, “How do we bring people together and align people with the work that they’re doing individually from a collective perspective?”

The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement emerged from this inaugural meeting. Its goal is to organize a national movement to restore formerly incarcerated people’s civil rights, halt prison expansion, demand an end to mass incarceration, eliminate prison abuses, and protect the dignity of family members and their communities. The organizers drew connections between the Civil Rights movement and their own movement for civil and human rights, illustrating the connection by walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

After returning to their home states, members of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement continued to build together. “We’ve held rallies and acknowledged prison actions. We’ve collectively held events on historic days. For instance, the War on Drugs was enacted on June 17, 1971. All of us held an event within our respective states around the War on Drugs. When the prisons in Georgia had their strike, we recognized that. We just recognized the fortieth anniversary of the Attica uprising. We’ve recognized the Pelican Bay hunger strike. We’ve recognized the common issues that people who have been incarcerated have stood up and fought against in building this movement. The commonalities in our collective actions have brought us together to end mass incarceration,” stated Tina Reynolds, co-chair of the NYC organization WORTH (Women on the Rise Telling HerStory), an organization of formerly and currently incarcerated women) and one of the original twenty people who began the discussion leading to the convening.

On November 2, 2011, the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement held its second national gathering in Los Angeles. Over 270 people from twenty states converged for a one-day conference to share their experiences and vision and to strategize fighting against policies leading to racial profiling, gang labeling, inhumane sentencing, voter disenfranchisement and hiring discrimination. They learned about the issues, organizing, and, in some cases, successes in other states.

The conference included not only seasoned organizers, but also those who were new to prison justice organizing. “Pilar,” a formerly incarcerated woman, remembered that she had never before been in a public space with hundreds of people who shared her experience. Even those already organizing in their home states like Mercedes Smith, a formerly incarcerated woman and current organizer with WORTH, were impressed. “I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever heard?a movement that was made up of nothing but formerly incarcerated people. It had to be a powerful movement and I wanted to be a part of it,” she recalled. “Once I got there, it showed me how important the work is that I do and it made me eager to come home and jump back into it.”

The one-day convening was packed with trainings on juvenile justice and youth organizing, Ban the Box , voter disenfranchisement, gender issues and other issues. Attendees also adopted a national platform, addressing fourteen points related to incarceration:

I. We Demand an End to Mass Incarceration;
II. We Demand Equality and Opportunity for All People;
III. We Demand the Right to Vote;
IV. We Demand Respect and Dignity for Our Children;
V. We Demand Community Development, Not Prison Profit;
VI. End Immigration Detention and Deportation;
VII. End Racial Profiling Inside Prison and In Our Communities;
VIII. End Extortion and Slavery In Prisons;
IX. End Sexual Harassment of People In Prisons;
X. Human Contact is a Human Right;
XI. End Cruel and Unusual Punishment;
XII. We Demand Proper Medical Treatment;
XIII. End the Incarceration of Children;
XIV. Free Our Political Prisoners.

“While the platform points are broad, we believe we’ve at least touched on all of the aspects that people have experienced while doing time in prison and beyond,” Reynolds noted, adding that, although ratified by the conference attendees, the platform is still a work-in-progress. “The issues addressed in the platform are the basic foundational issues involving the inhumane and oppressive treatment within the criminal justice system. We are taking a stand and saying that we’re going to stop it, that things need to change.”

By the end of the conference, attendees set a goal of registering one million voters in 2012.

Smith, who attended a training session on voters’ rights at the conference, returned with a resolve to help formerly incarcerated and convicted people know their rights. “I’m going to put a training together for voters’ rights and get voter registration cards so that people can register to vote. We’re also going to tell people who are formerly incarcerated how to go about being able to vote.” Smith notes that, in New York State, former convictions are not barriers to voting: “As long as you’re on parole, you can’t vote, but if you have your Certificate of Relief, you can vote while you’re on parole. For women who don’t have their Certificate of Relief, I want to tell them how to get it so that they can vote. Once you’re off parole or if you have a misdemeanor, you can vote.”

The movement is also including people who are currently behind bars in their mass registration campaign: “If you’re sentenced to a year and a day and you have to go upstate on a misdemeanor charge, you’re allowed to vote. If you’re in jail and you haven’t been sentenced, you’re allowed to vote,” Reynolds explained. “Why aren’t these people given their right to vote?”

So what are the next steps towards this goal?

“Our first step is to hold a training on voters’ rights,” Smith explained. “Before we go out, we need to know what we’re going out to say and do?I’m going to try to go to as many organizations and give them the training that I receive. I’m going to take voter registration cards with me and have everybody get people registered to vote. When I agreed to get people registered to vote, I took it seriously. I wouldn’t have raised my hand if I hadn’t taken it seriously. I raised my hand and I’ve been on it since I’ve come back. By the time the election comes, they’re going to be registered to vote. I’m going to tell them that you can’t just complain about who’s in office. Learn who wants to be in office, learn if that’s who you want to be in office to work with. You can’t just complain about them and not want to change things or do anything about it. Learn your rights about voting, get registered to vote!”

However, registering one million formerly incarcerated and convicted people is just the beginning: “I’m going to work on some other things, but one thing at a time,” Smith stated. “One of the things I learned at the convening was that people have worked on issues such as Ban the Box and they have been successful in their states. It makes you say, ‘If they could pass that law there, we can pass that law here.’ Before, I would say, ‘I don’t want to work on that. That’s too hard.’ Now I feel the fight is worth it. As a formerly incarcerated person, I want all of that?not only for myself, but for all my sisters and brothers that are formerly incarcerated. I want them to be able to vote, to be able to get a job, to get housing, to be treated like human beings.”

“It’s not just about them having the right to vote,” reflected Reynolds. “It’s having an opportunity to be a part of this movement because here is an opportunity for us to talk about the movement, to talk about a political analysis, to talk about education, to talk about the history of incarceration and how it’s impacted us over the last forty years with the War on Drugs. There is life after prison; there are rights that we are supposed to have. If we’re not seeking them, why aren’t we seeking them? Why aren’t we fighting for our rights as far as what is available to us?”




Victoria Law is a writer, photographer and mother. She is the author of “Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women” (PM Press 2009), the editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison and a co-founder of Books Through Bars – NYC. She is currently working on transforming “Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind,” a zine series on how radical movements can support the families in their midst, into a book.

Join us to Make Valentines Day Cards for Prisoners

Join SF Pride at Work, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Artists of the 99%, and TransGender Intersex Justice Project for a fun and fabulous Valentines Day Card-Making Party for Prisoners.
Making valentines day cards is not only a fun creative way to spend your evening but is one way to support people currently locked up. Prisons are cold and isolating places meant to make people feel totally alone, especially for queer and trans prisoners. Sending someone a bright & cheery card is one way we can start to break that isolation.
Prisoner support and advocacy organizations have had similar events in the past and in 2012 we want to open up the opportunity for people in the Bay Area to join others around the country to send love to folks locked up. We want them to feel the love of the community and know that they are not forgotten.

Thursday, February 9th 6 – 9PM
Mission SRO Collaborative
938 Valencia Street

$3-10 donation to help pay for envelopes and postage. No one turned away.
Bring your card making supplies (we will provide supplies as well), creativity, love, and passion for justice, abolition and community. Not Allowed: glitter, glue, staples, tape, (anything with adhesive), polaroids. Allowed: construction paper, printer paper
Sponsored by Black and Pink, CCWP, TGI Justice Project, and Artist of the 99%
For more information, see
http://www.blackandpink.org/valentinesday
RSVP on https://www.facebook.com/events/223750181045547/
or email Charlie Fredrick at charliefredrick83@gmail.com

State high court revises parole appeal guidelines

“Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, December 30, 2011
California courts have been too quick to second-guess decisions by the parole board and the governor that deny release to convicted murderers and other life prisoners, the state Supreme Court said Thursday.
The court was responding to a series of lower-court decisions that followed its last major ruling on parole review standards, in August 2008. In that ruling, the state’s high court said both the Board of Parole Hearings and the governor, who has veto power over the board’s decisions, could deny release of a parole-eligible prisoner only if the evidence showed the prisoner was still dangerous, and could not rely solely on the facts of the earlier crime.
Judges and appellate courts have relied on that ruling to overturn dozens of parole denials, finding no evidence that a prisoner was currently dangerous and questioning conclusions by the board and the governor that the inmate lacked “insight” into his or her past criminal conduct.
But in Thursday’s decision, in a case from San Diego County, the justices said courts must accept the board’s findings on lack of insight, or any other basis suggesting the prisoner is still dangerous, if there is any evidence in the record to support it.
“The executive decision of the board or the governor is upheld unless it is arbitrary or procedurally flawed,” said Justice Carol Corrigan in an opinion signed by four of her colleagues. “The court is not empowered to reweigh the evidence. … The scope of judicial review is limited.”
The ruling clarifies standards for hundreds of suits filed each year by life prisoners challenging parole denials. In one such case, a state appeals court ordered a new parole hearing Dec. 21 for a San Francisco man who fatally stabbed a pregnant woman in 1984, saying the parole board had not presented any evidence that he was still dangerous.
The ruling will make courts “very reluctant to overturn the governor or the board, even more reluctant than they are now,” said Michael Beckman, lawyer for a prisoner in Thursday’s case. Beckman contended it would allow the board, which approves parole in only a small fraction of the cases, “to continue breaking the law” that says parole should normally be granted.
Beckman’s client, Richard Shaputis, was 50 when he fatally shot his wife, Erma, at their El Cajon home in January 1987. He claimed it was an accident, but the court said he had beaten her many times in the past and had abused his former wife and molested one of his daughters. He was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 17 years to life.
Shaputis, now 75, has a spotless record in prison, has taken part in rehabilitation programs, is in ill health and was judged by private psychologists to pose a low risk of violence. The parole board denied his parole in 2009.
A state appeals court overruled the board. Thursday’s ruling blocked Shaputis’ parole.
The ruling can be viewed at links.sfgate.com/ZLFT.”

Human Rights Watch Releases New Report that Shows Juvenile Lifers are Suffering in Solitary Confinement

January 3, 2012
by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

http://solitarywatch.com/2012/01/03/new-report-shows-juvenile-lifers-suffering-in-solitary-confinement/

The United States is the only national in the world that doles out life sentences for crimes committed while the offender was below the age of 18. According to a report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch, ?approximately 2,570 youth offenders serving life without parole sentences in adult US prisons,? and as inmates they ?experience conditions that violate fundamental human rights.?
The report ?draws on six years of research, and interviews and correspondence with correctional officials and hundreds of youth offenders serving life without parole,? and presages the Supreme Court?s upcoming review of juvenile LWOP. ?Youth offenders are serving life without parole sentences in 38 states and in federal prisons,? HRW reports. ?Prison policies that channel resources to inmates who are expected to be released often result in denying youth serving life without parole opportunities for education, development, and rehabilitation.?
Among the report?s shocking findings is the fact that ?nearly every youth offender serving life without parole reported physical violence or sexual abuse by other inmates or corrections officers.? Unsurprisingly, ?Youth offenders commonly reported having thoughts of suicide, feelings of intense loneliness, or depression. Isolation was frequently compounded by solitary confinement. In the past five years, at least three youth offenders serving life without parole sentences in the United States have committed suicide.?
In its section on ?Protective and Punitive Isolation,? the report finds that ?Youth offenders often spend significant amounts of their time in US prisons isolated from the general prison population. Such segregation can be an attempt to protect vulnerable youth offenders from the general population, to punish infractions of prison rules, or to manage particular categories of inmates, such as alleged gang members. Youth offenders frequently described their experience in segregation as a profoundly difficult ordeal.?
It continues: ?Life in long-term isolation usually involves segregating inmates for 23 or more hours a day in their cells. Offenders contacted by Human Rights Watch described the devastating loneliness of spending their days alone, without any human contact, except for when a guard passes them a food tray through a slot in the door, or when guards touch their wrists when handcuffing them through the same slot before taking them to the exercise room or for a shower once a week. Youth had the same experience and feelings whether they had been isolated to protect or to punish them.?
The report?s findings on the use of solitary confinement on juvenile lifers (with corresponding footnotes) appears below. You can also read the full report?which includes a series of recommendations to the president, Congress, corrections officials, and judges? online or as a PDF.
Protection that Harms
A growing consensus views protective isolation as acceptable only as a last resort and interim measure. [56] Yet isolation is commonly used by prison officials as a quick solution to protection challenges­including the challenge of keeping a young person safe in a prison full of adults.
Youth offenders reported to Human Rights Watch that they sometimes sought out protective custody to avoid harm. Occasionally, prison authorities recognize the problems a youth offender is having and take corrective measures. Jeffrey W., who entered prison at age 17, wrote:
At the beginning, the focus was on surviving?. Naturally, I was the target of sexual predators and had to fight off a couple rape attempts?. These were hardened, streetwise convicts who had been in prison 10, 15, 20, 30 years and I was a naive 18-year-old who knew nothing about prison life?. Because of the rape attempts on me ? state prison officials [said] I should have been classified as needing protection. I was soon sent to the state?s protection unit?. I stayed there for seven years until I was returned to the general population­older, wiser, and capable of surviving general population. [57]Unfortunately, segregation can exacerbate the lack of opportunities for programs described in more detail later in this report:
Right now I?m not receiving no schooling or counseling due to being in ASU Administrative Segretion Unit. They have no schooling for me or etc. They are way out of conduct here. I been asking to receive some GED work but I haven’t receive no response. I wish to receive schooling. I learn how to read and write in prison and I want to be successful. I might get out one day. [58]Prolonged periods of isolation can be devastating for anyone, but are especially devastating for young offenders. [59]
Punishment with a Permanent Impact
Youth offenders are often placed in long-term isolation or super-maximum security confinement as a disciplinary sanction. Dennis Burbank, an administrative officer at Colorado State Penitentiary, offered an explanation for why youth offenders serving life without parole often end up confined in long-term isolation:
One [factor] is age­when you come in at a young age with life without, there?s not a whole lot of light at the end of the tunnel. Also, it?s kind of a guy thing: the young ones come in with a lot of fear, anxiety, paranoia, and they want to make a name for themselves­so they have a tendency to act out?. They say [to themselves] ?I?ve got to impress everyone with what a bad-ass I am.? [60]Long-term isolation can have lasting negative effects on inmates. Troy L. came to prison at age 16 after committing first degree murder at the age of 15. He spent ?something like 300 days in an isolation cell? when he was awaiting trial and had been transferred to isolation several times since for ?different reasons.? [61] Troy said he had spent so much time in isolation that he was unable to feel comfortable relating to and living around other people, especially now that he was housed in the general population barracks:
If you just see what these barracks are like, they got us piled in there like some cockroaches. And I?ve spent so much time over the years ? in just cells and lockdown for different reasons. And it?s hard for me to deal with just having so many people around. So much­I can?t think­you know what I mean? [62]Human Rights Watch has systematically documented and advocated against the human rights violations inherent in the incarceration of individuals in super-maximum security prisons throughout the United States. [63] Segregated living also has long-term psychological implications. [64]
Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 863-9977
www.Freedomarchives.org
Questions and comments may be sent to claude@freedomarchives.org

SB 391 has been withdrawn!

5 January 2012
SB 391 was introduced late in the legislative session by Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) and he has now withdrawn the bill! If passed, SB 391 would have allowed parole commissioners to deny parole to any life term inmate based SOLELY ON THE LIFE CRIME, no other reasons needed.
Please take a few minutes to read more on the Life Support Alliance website. Thank you!

Photos from the 15th Anniversary of The Fire Inside and Art Auction

The Fire Inside 15th Anniversary Celebration was powerful and energizing. Thank you to so many people . . . all of our generous and wise performers and speakers, volunteers, sponsors, donors, supporters, everyone who attended the celebration and more!
Here are a few photos from the event, and we look forward to posting many more soon!
Sistahs of the Drum2.jpg
Sistahs of the Drum performing at 15th Anniversary Event
ConnieWandaKeishaDeirdre
Connie Keel, MC Wanda Sabir, Keisha Burton and MC Deirdre Wilson at 15th Anniversary Event
Angela Davis and Wanda Sabir
Dr. Angela Davis and MC Wanda Sabir at 15th Anniversary Event
Melanie DeMore and Patricia Wright Photo.jpg
Singer/Songwriter Melanie DeMore with photo of Patricia Wright at 15th Anniversary Event
Photo credit: Scott Braley

Take Action to Stop Prison and Jail Expansion

23 December 2011
Several members of CCWP participated in Californians United for a Responsible Budget’s (CURB’s) Lobby Day in Sacramento on December 12, 2011, with a focus on a moratorium of jail and prison expansion. The day was quite productive, but just the beginning, with much more work to be done. Please see CURB’s website for ways to get involved and to sign petitions opposing more jail beds in Los Angeles, Riverside and Sacramento Counties. Thank you!