The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement held a national convening in Los Angeles on November 2nd, 2011. Please check out their powerful national platform on their website, and feel free to share with others!
Countless women in California’s prisons are serving life sentences as a result of being abused by an intimate partner; some were convicted for their involvement in the death of an abusive partner while others were forced by an abusive partner to participate in or confess to a violent crime. Most have no prior criminal record and have already spent half their lives in prison. Some of these women have a legal basis to challenge their original convictions, but are provided no legal resources to present their case and obtain their freedom.
In our view, it is criminal that a change in law that could apply to someone serving a prison sentence does not automatically include access to legal assistance from the state to present that evidence. Instead, this system and our society are comfortable allowing people to spend decades in prison serving unduly harsh sentences due to a lack of resources. Who are these people in prison? The majority are people of color and/or those with little economic power.
Their only recourse is to rely on the good will of those law firms who do pro bono work to represent them in parole hearings and with writs of habeas corpus under Penal Code section 1473.5, on the basis that the intimate partner battering they experienced was never considered by a court. These efforts can take years and require diligent and intensive legal work.
Groups like the California Habeas Project and our project Free Battered Women are the link on the outside to educate people and do outreach to lawyers. Through the efforts of the Habeas Project, 31 women have been released from prison since the passage of P.C. 1473.5 in 2002. However, even with these efforts there are 17 women who are still waiting for legal help.
We also know many other life-term prisoners who desperately need pro bono or low cost attorneys for representation at parole board hearings and with other legal matters. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can help.
Additionally, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners is grateful for the remarkable contributions of the following firms: Arnold & Porter; Bingham McCutchen; Covington & Burling; Davis Wright Tremaine; Dechert LLP; Foley & Lardner; Gibson Dunn; Heller Ehrman; Howrey LLP; Katten Muchin Rosenman; Kazan, McClain, et al; Keker & Van Nest; Kirkland & Ellis; Jones Day; Latham & Watkins; Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell; Manatt, Phelps & Phillips; Morgan Lewis; Morrison & Foerster; Nixon Peabody; O?Melveny & Meyers; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Paul Hastings; Perkins Coie; Pillsbury Winthrop; Proskauer Rose; Reed Smith; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom; Squire, Sanders & Dempsey; Wilson Sonsini; Winston & Strawn; and numerous solo practitioners.
Who are we as a people?
Who are we as a people if we cannot forgive our children?
Who are we as a people if we cannot help teach our children?
Who are we as a people if we cannot speak out for our children?
Who are we as a people if we cannot help our children?
Who are we as a people if we cannot fight for the rights of our children?
Just who are we as a people?
Who are we as a people to look a child in the eye and say “you deserve to be looked at as an adult even though you are a child”.
Who are we as a people not to see, that child could be your child.
Who are we as a people to judge a child for his actions and not his heart?
Who are we as a people to determine that a child life is over without giving him/her a second chance?
Who are we as a people to ignore that the child is really just a child.
Who are we as a people to sit back as if nothing is going on with that child?
Just who are we as a people?
How can we be as a people and for the people if we cannot realize that something is going on with our children today?
How can we as a people turn our backs on our children!
My child! Your child! Our child! God’s child!
Who are we as a people not to want to help our children! God’s children!
Written and read by former prisoner La Keisha Burton at CCWP’s screening of Juvies on May 13th, 2011. La Keisha was given a life sentence after she was arrested at 15 years old, and served 18 years at the California Institute for Women, an adult correctional facility. To listen to Wanda Sabir’s radio interview with La Keisha, please click here.
Criminal Justice Reform Faith Letter
The undersigned faith organizations are committed to ending mass incarceration in the United States. Our intent is to work with Congress to pass criminal justice reforms that refocus our energy and efforts on the restoration of individuals, families, and communities affected by crime through prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs, and appropriate accountability. This focus will increase public safety, strengthen families, and reduce the enormous social and economic costs of maintaining such a large prison population.
We represent millions of Americans, many of whom provide pastoral care for prisoners while they are incarcerated, provide direct services for those reentering society after incarceration, and sponsor various drug and crime prevention services and programs for our constituencies and the community at large. These ministries often exist because of many congregations which are made up of in part or entirely by individuals impacted by the criminal justice system, whether they are formerly incarcerated individuals, victims of crime, or impacted family members. Thus, our organizations have a direct interest in the state of the criminal justice system and are mobilized to advocate and work for common sense reforms . . .
Patricia Wright currently has Stage IV terminal cancer and is trying to obtain compassionate release from California Correctional Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla. She is working towards 5,000 signatures in support of her release. Please click here to sign her petition.
To read Patricia’s article on living conditions at CCWF please click here. Thank you.
17 January 2011
After serving over 19 years in prison, Mary Shields was released on parole on Martin Luther King’s birthday!
This was a long struggle for Mary who was first granted parole in 2006 and then had her date snatched back from her when the California Governor recommended against her release and the Parole Board rescinded the date. Mary did not give up and neither did her family, friends and supporters around the country who supported her with funds, letters and love. CCWP continued to visit and work with Mary and she was represented at her last Parole Board hearing by a wonderful pro bono lawyer, Krys Burgess. Again, she was found suitable for parole and this time it went through!
Mary sends her tremendous gratitude for all the support she has received over the years.
Prisoners unjustly sentenced to death for the Lucasville (OH) prison uprising recently went on hunger strike, to demand that they be placed on Death Row rather than be held in solitary confinement (and to initiate a campaign that will hopefully lead to executive clemency).
Here is a recent update:
“Denis O’Hearn 4:33pm Jan 15
Folks, I have a short report on today’s rally at OSP in support of the three men on hunger strike. But, first, I can now report to you the wonderful news that all three have resumed eating because they achieved a victory. The prison authorities have provided, in writing, a set of conditions that virtually meets the demands set out by Bomani Shakur in his letter to Warden Bobby . . . .
The hunger strikers send you all thanks for your support and state that they couldn?t have won their demands without support from people from around the world. But they add to their statement the following: this time they were fighting about their conditions of confinement but now they begin the fight for their lives. They were wrongfully convicted of complicity in 1993 murders in Lucasville prison and have faced retribution because they refused to provide snitch testimony against others who actually committed those murders. Now, because of Ohio’s (and other states’) application of the death penalty, they still face execution at a future date. Ohio is today exceeded only by Texas in its enthusiasm for applying the death penalty. We need to take some of this energy that was created around the hunger strike to help these men fight for their lives.
So, we may celebrate a great victory for now. Common sense has prevailed in a dark place where there appeared to be no light. But watch this space for further news on their ongoing campaign.”
Sara Kruzan was sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) at the age of 16. Due to a diligent grassroots campaign her sentence was recently commuted to 25 years to life. Although CCWP believes that Sara, and all those living behind bars, should be freed, we celebrate this victory in the hope that Sara will now have a chance of spending part of her life free.
This video tribute to Marilyn Buck is wonderful and inspirational. To watch the video, please click here. Thank you.
We recommend Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. On Wednesday, October 6th, we had an enlightening discussion about chapters 2 and 4, and we hope that everyone gets the chance to read the book in its entirety. Spontaneous book discussions are welcomed!