Dedication

To all of you who have shared your stories, poetry and art over the past 10 years, this issue of The Fire Inside is dedicated to YOU. CCWP would not be what it is without your words, your thoughts, and your willingness to share your hopes, your fears, your disappointments and your successes. By sharing your words with each other and the ?free world? you have opened a window into the otherwise hidden world of women?s prisons.
We thank you for your past contributions and look forward to your future contributions, hoping that The Fire Inside continues to serve as a bridge between inside and out as well as a form of communication between prisoners.

Woman prisoner writes

Dear CCWP,
I look forward to every issue of The Fire Inside. So far in my personal journey in prison I am still getting used to the idea of being here.
Domestic violence is lethal. My only son died because the two men in his life, his father and my brother, hated me. There is no excuse for violence, not even hatred. There is no excuse for violence, not even jealousy. We women need to be persistent in our education and assurances to all (men and women) that it is OK for women to make our own decisions.
I am very worried about those of us who are long-termers. For the past year we have had an inactive longtermers organization, and I believe it has now been disbanded. We long-termers create the community here and I feel we need to make positive opportunities for ourselves. I want to join a longtermers organization.
Thank you so much for The Fire Inside and for caring about us.
Sincerely,
D.A., CCWF

Legal Corner: Correcting your sentence

by J. D., CCWF
It has been noticed by women at CCWF that Case Records often revises a woman?s original sentence ? the one imposed by the Judge ? and it ends up longer than it was. This may involve a confusion about how half-time or 85% time is calculated for violent or non-violent felonies. Or because the sentencing guideline in Penal Code 669 which says that if the court is silent about defining sentences to run concurrent or consecutive, the sentences must be run concurrently. The women have developed a simple protocol to follow if you believe that your original sentence has been increased for whatever reason.
Protocol for Correcting Sentences
1. Write to your sentencing court. Send them a ?Motion for Abstract of Judgment and Minute Order? (the law library has the form).
Address your letter to the Clerk of the Court.
Fill out the motion completely.
Make and keep a copy ? don?t rely on CCWF?s copy of Abstract of Judgment. If there was an error between the Court and CCWF, how will you know unless you get it yourself?
2. When you receive your Abstract of Judgment and Minute Order and there is a difference between the order and what CCWF is saying, go to the law library for help with filling out a 602.
3. If and when you receive your 602 back, if the sentence imposed is not corrected, here?s what to do. Do not argue with them about controlling case, etc. etc. This is usually what they cite to deny the 602. Simply repeat like a broken record ?The judge gave me _____ sentence, CCWF has imposed _____ sentence. Please correct.?
4. Keep going with the 602 to the Sacramento level. Again watch the time frames for response ? they are famous for losing them. That is why you must have a copy ready to go to the next level.
5. If they miss their time frame for response, write on it ?602 has not yet been responded to in time at the ________ level and is therefore considered denied per operation of the law. ? Then advance to the next level.
6. Make a copy of your copy (in case they also miss the next time frame). Send it in to the Appeals Coordinator.
Writing a 602 to Correct Your Sentence
Describe Problem
I was sentenced to______(time) on______(date) by Judge________ (name)
When I arrived at CCWF, case records calculated my sentence to be ______.
Action Requested
Correct my sentence to comply with the judge?s order.
Send to me the corrected face sheet and E.M.P.D.
Write on the bottom of the 602:
Cc: Judge Thelton Henderson
Judge ____________ (your sentencing judge)
Sara Malone, Ombudsman
Senator Jackie Speier
Senator Elaine Alquist
Assembly member Sally Leiber
Mail to each at the address below (plus any other legislators you wish)
Judge Thelton Henderson, US District Court
450 Golden Gate Ave., Box 36060
San Francisco, CA 94102-3661
Sara Malone
CDCR
PO Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 94283-0001
Senator Jackie Speier
400 S. El Camino Real #630
San Mateo, CA 94402
Senator Elaine Alquist
100 Paseo de San Antonio #209
San Jose, CA 95113
Assemblymember Sally Lieber
274 Castro Street, Suite 202
Mountain View, CA 94041
Remember: send original 602 to case records; send all copies via legal mail; keep a copy yourself and track the time frames. If they ?lose? the original, send a copy of your copy to the next level.

All of Us or None Wins a Victory over Employment Discrimination in San Francisco

San Francisco, CA?In a victory for civil rights advocates everywhere, formerly-incarcerated activists with All of Us or None and officials in the San Francisco Department of Human Resources collaborated to reach an agreement that significantly reforms the City?s hiring process, to reduce prejudice and discrimination against people based on past convictions.
All of Us or None is a grassroots civil rights organization of formerly-incarcerated people, prisoners, and their families. They kick-started their organizing with a number of Peace and Justice Summits (see Fire Inside #29) CCWP has been an active part of All of Us or None since its formation.
The proposals put forth by All of Us or None will be integrated into the current comprehensive reform of the City?s hiring process. These changes include:
1. The question, ?Have you been convicted by a court?? will be removed from the initial application for the City/County of San Francisco.
2. No disclosure of past convictions will be required until the finalist stage of the application process for most jobs.
3. Applicants will have an opportunity to explain conviction history and to submit evidence of rehabilitation during an interview at the finalist stage of the process.
4. Only convictions with a rational relationship to job responsibilities will be considered.
5. Appeal rights will be guaranteed if the applicant perceives discrimination.
6. If there is a statutory bar restricting someone with a conviction from employment at a specific job, this information will be listed on the job announcement. (Anyone applying for these jobs will be required to disclose conviction history at the beginning of the process.)
What this means is that people with past convictions attempting to rebuild their lives will have equal opportunity for a job with the City and County of San Francisco. Millions of people have past convictions in this country and the number is constantly growing. In light of this fact, it is imperative that our society creates true equal opportunity and support for the ever-increasing number of formerly incarcerated people. It is a matter justice, equality and public safety. ?All of Us or None doesn’t view this as a conclusion but the beginning of a struggle to end discrimination throughout the state of California,? said Dorsey Nunn, one of the All of Us or None organizers. It is very appropriate that San Francisco is leading the way.

USF Creative Justice Art Show

On February 3, 2006 University of San Francisco?s Equal Justice Society hosted a Creative Justice Art Show whose proceeds were donated to CCWP, specifically to the Family Visiting Day program (see “Family Visits”).
USF EJS Co-Chair Jerry Hempler said that the response from the artistic community was enthusiastic, with the number of entries nearly tripling from last year. “We were pleasantly surprised with the large number of artists vying for spots in the show” Hempler noted.
Several pieces of women prisoners? art were exhibited. CCWP thanks USF EJS, Jerry Hempler and all the people who put on the show and all who attended it.
Thank you!

It?s All About Us: Getting Ready to Get Out

by Yvonne/Hamdiya Cooks
During my 20 years of incarceration I witnessed many women come, go, and a lot of times, come back. Those of you still inside know what I?m talking about. Whenever one of our sisters was released, our spirits shared in her victory leaving those prison gates. It was almost like a part of us was leaving as well. We were always so happy to hear stories of different sisters successes outside and not so happy when we heard sad stories or other disappointments. Despite everything, when news hit the compound of how a formerly-incarcerated sister was doing it was always a big deal. Those memories are what inspired me to create this column. I want to share the stories of sisters who are living on the outside after surviving what we lived through. We weren?t meant to survive. The criminal justice system is not designed to deliver us back into society as healthy, whole, and complete human beings. It is by the grace and mercy of God that I was able to leave prison after 20 years and be somewhat whole. While inside, we must do whatever it takes to nurture our spirits and keep our bodies and minds healthy. I will continue to keep you informed of my joys and struggles as well as other sisters who survived after being away from society for such a long time. We hope to feature stories of sisters you have lived with for many years as well.
It is not without damage that we succeed; we just continue to struggle and believe above all that life is worth living. Thank you for the opportunity to share these stories.
Directly prior to my release and for about two months after I kept a daily journal detailing every single moment so I would never forget. I would like to start ?It?s All About Us? by sharing one of those experiences with you. The following words are my actual journal writings.
3 days before release?Preparing to leave this environment is a BIG event for me. Praise be to Allah (God). I am very calm in spite of the madness. Today the mailroom officer talked very crazy to me, asking specifics about why I was expecting a release box, where was I going and when. I answered all her questions with the patience of ?Job.? She further goes on to say that ?my family? is driving them crazy, calling the institution twice today. I politely asked what member of my family kept calling and for what reason. She rudely tells me she didn?t know who was calling but they?re wanting to know what happened to my release box. I told her they may be concerned because I told my friend the release box had not arrived here as of last Friday. It was mailed UPS and delivered to the institution on Thursday 7-18-02, however, the mailroom did not receive it until today, Monday, 7-22-02.
To be continued…

Se trata de nosotras: Preparándose para salir

por Yvonne/Hamdiya Cooks
Durante mis 20 años de encarcelamiento vi a mujeres entrar, salir y muchas veces volver. Ustedes que aun están adentro saben de lo que hablo. Cuando alguna de nuestras hermanas era liberada nuestros espíritus compartían su victoria al dejar las puertas de la prisión.
Era casi como si una parte de nosotras se fuera también. Siempre nos ponía contentas escuchar las historias de los éxitos de nuestras hermanas afuera y nos sentíamos afligidas al escuchar historias tristes y otras decepciones. A pesar de eso cuando una noticia llega acerca de la situación de una ex-prisionera siempre es importante.
Esos recuerdos son los que me inspiraron a escribir esta columna. Quiero compartir con ustedes historias de hermanas que están afuera después de sobrevivir lo que vivimos. Nosotras no estábamos destinadas a sobrevivir.
El sistema de justicia criminal no esta diseñado para devolvernos a la sociedad como seres humanos saludables y completas. Es gracias a la gracia y compasión de Dios que pude salir de prisión después de 20 años y estar de alguna manera completa, mientras que adentro debemos hacer todo lo posible para nutrir nuestros cuerpos y mentes sanos.
Continuare informándoles mis luchas y alegrías así como otras hermanas que han sobrevivido luego de estar lejos de la sociedad por tanto tiempo. Esperamos también resaltar las historias de mujeres con las que hayan vivido mucho tiempo.
No hemos triunfado sin daño alguno, solo continuamos luchando y creyendo por sobre todo que vale la pena seguir viviendo. Tengo tanto que quisiera decirles, gracias por la oportunidad de compartir estas historias.
Antes de salir de prisión, por dos meses mantuve un diario detallando cada momento para no olvidarlo. Me gustaría empezar ?Se trata de nosotras? compartiendo algunas de esas experiencias con ustedes. Las siguientes palabras son escritos de mi diario.
Tres días antes de ser liberada-Prepararme para dejar este ambiente es un GRAN evento para mi. Alabado sea Allah (Dios). Estoy calmada a pesar de la locura. Hoy la encargada del correo me hablo muy extrañamente preguntándome por que esperaba un ultimo paquete, a donde iba y cuando, le respondí todas sus preguntas con mucha paciencia.
Después me dice que ?mi familia? la esta volviendo loca llamando a la institución dos veces al día, educadamente le pregunte que miembro de mi familia había estado llamando y con que motivo. Ella me dijo de mala manera que no sabía quien había estado llamando pero que querían saber que había pasado con mi último paquete.
Yo le dije que de repente estaban preocupados por que le conté a una amiga que hasta el viernes pasado aun no llegaba, lo mandaron por UPS y lo dejaron en la institución el jueves 7-18-02, pero la oficina de correspondencia no lo recibió hasta hoy día, Lunes 7-22-02.
Continuará…

Freedom

by Yvonne/Hamdiya Cooks
Freedom finds me waiting
A few more minutes
Waiting
Waiting for me
I will greet her with love and longing
I will respect her with dignity and grace
I will smell her sweetness and breathe her reality
I will accept her as a friend and offer her a loyal and
sincere heart
And, most of all, I will thank Allah who made her possible.
3-29-00

Letters for Liberation

by Anonymous, CCWF
A group of inmates are spearheading a letter writing campaign to legislators. This campaign involves two projects:
1. Release women from prison;
2. Return family boxes, eliminate vendor boxes and amend the new matrix to include reasonable requests.
We are asking all inmates to get involved. We will provide model letters and news articles (where available) addressing concerns.
Ladies, there is strength in numbers.
Please join together so we may be heard on these very important issues!

The Fire Inside received the announcement above anonymously. We support this great effort to get all prisoners, families and friends involved in letter writing.
We cannot print the names of all the state legislators, but here are the websites where you can find out specific information about your state senator or assembly member:
http://www.senate.ca.gov/~newsen/senators/senators.htp and
http://www.assembly.ca.gov/acs/acsframeset7text.htm
If you don?t have access to the web, please contact CCWP at: 1540 Market St., #490, San Francisco, CA 94102. We wii send you contact infornation for tyour elected officials.
Below is a list of the names of the current Public Safety Committee members. This Committee is responsible for overseeing the penal code and the prisons administration and therefore it is particularly important to let these legislators know what women prisoners think.
Mark Leno, Chair
Jay La Suer, Vice-Chair
Rebecca Cohn
Mervyn Dymally
Jackie Goldberg
Todd Spitzer
The central address for all legislators is:
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249
Sample Letter:
Dear Legislator,
We encourage you to adopt sweeping reforms to the Youth and Adult Correctional Authority. One immediate step that would save hundreds of millions of dollars would be to adopt legislation similar to that which Massachussetts (and twenty five other states) have passed.
Release low level non-violent offenders, especially women, back into the community. Many organizations (such as the Justice Policy Insititute) indicate this move would not increase public risk. In fact, it would improve public safety because taxpayers? dollars could be directed to more effective community-centered programs to promote education, job training, and self-help. The states fiscal resources, could be put to much better use.
Sincerely,

Are We the Lost?

by Angelina Rodriguez, Death Row, CCWF
For the son of man has come to seek and save that which is “lost”. ?Luke 19:10
Who are these “lost”? My name is Angelina Rodriguez. I have been on California’s Death Row for a little over a year now. For the past 4 years I have met hundreds of these “lost”. I am one, too.
U.S. society inflicts torment, false arrests and imprisonments. Innocents are executed. Sexual, physical, mental, verbal, and emotional abuses are rampant. Desperate cries for help issue from correction facilities where Americans are unjustly persecuted. Corruption in government leads to cruelty towards men, women and children.
Do you find yourself angry that these things are happening and want them to stop?
You are familiar with rights in the criminal justice system such as innocent until proven guilty, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, due process of law, no cruel and unusual punishment, Miranda rights must be read before being interrogated, and persons may not be tried twice for the same offense. But the truth is our courts, judges, prosecution teams, attorneys, jailers, and civilian personnel disregard any and all of our rights in order to win a conviction.
Here is a rundown of some of the violations of legal rights I have endured throughout my four-year battle:
No telephone access permitted, even to my attorney.
My legal documents, crucial for my defense, were removed from my cell by LAPD deputies and thrown out!
For 3 years I was locked down 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a tiny cold, dirty, and infested cell with no windows.
The prosecution used what California courts call “non charged offenses” against me. This is where a defendant accused of a serious offense can be found guilty of charges that they were not tried for, or were tried and then dismissed due to a hung jury. Non-charged offenses are used to increase convictions and to impose the harshest sentence.
So here I am, convicted and sitting on the California women’s death row. Thousands of other prisoners in the general population are also here because of such violations of their legal rights!
I am currently enrolled in a paralegal correspondence course (blessed by my beloved step-dad), applying what I learn to work on my case and advocacy work for others. There are many others who are pursuing education and using their skills to achieve the same purposes ? to change the country’s correctional systems. I hope that you will see we are determined to work as hard and long as it takes.
There truly are very few organizations and individuals who stand up for the incarcerated. Thank God we are blessed with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. It is these angels who give us a bit of comfort in knowing both that we are being heard through them, and especially, that we are not alone. So we thank you CCWP. I thank the women prisoners who share their thoughts and give added support, comfort and companionship.
I will continue praying; will stand up in one way or another to help stop our own concentration camps of hell. Please add your prayers and voices, too. We need not be “lost.”