We dedicate this issue of The Fire Inside to Debbie Peagler, mother
and grandmother, domestic violence survivor, advocate, educator, singer, cancer survivor and dear Sister.
Debbie was released from Central California Women?s Facility in August, 2009 after 26 years of incarceration. She is rebuilding her life and is active raising awareness of domestic violence issues through her film Crime After Crime and
We send Debbie total love and support and wish her all the best in this next chapter of her amazing life!
As of January, 2010 many educational and vocational jobs were cut at Central California Women?s Facility (CCWF). Some classes will remain, but not any GED or ESL.
All our college classes are correspondence courses. We do have a person who hands out materials, allows us to watch educational videos, collects our homework, quizzes and final papers and sends them to the college. She was fired. It feels like one of the few paths to improve ourselves is being taken away. Just as they are starving our minds with cuts in education, they are also starving our bodies of nutrition.
I have been in Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) since 1996, when
I was 22. I acquired considerable employable skills. I have been able to give
back to the community and change my lifestyle. Often women have not had the opportunity to gain an education. With the educational and vocational programs we can be successful. Statistics show that female offenders have a low recidivism rate and are non-violent; but taking these programs from us will give us no avenues to work on ourselves. Many of us came to prison scared and without much hope. But we have the freedom to choose our future and the ability to change. Education and vocational programs work well because women can focus on themselves and prepare to be better citizens in the community.
I have been incarcerated for almost eleven years. When I first arrived I did not speak English. I was proud of my heritage and my roots. Thanks to the educational programs that were available I learned how to speak English, completed the GED, Vocational Eye Wear course and I also am involved in many self-help groups.
Through the classes, encouragement, and through our facilitators, we get a chance to work on ourselves. We discover new strengths. If the education and vocational programs in VSPW and other prisons are cancelled, how many mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and grandmothers will lose opportunities to learn and achieve some of their goals? This not only affects female offenders, but the families and the communities to which we are returning. ?Guadalupe Valle
I graduated from small engine repair / motorcycles, a vocational course that has been cut due to budget issues. The education department is supposed to be a form of rehabilitation, a set of tools to use upon our release so that we are able to function in society. With the cuts, many of us will not have the opportunity to take vocational classes or receive a high school diploma or GED. The accomplishment of obtaining my certification was so empowering. I write this in hopes of my voice being heard, my story somehow being felt, and possibly encouraging those responsible to change things so more people can use incarceration as rehabilitation.
I have been incarcerated since 1998. My most beneficial and rewarding job assignments have been in vocation and education. I completed Vocational Landscaping and Small Engines, and then requested to be placed in the
Calm Class. I was assigned to Calm II, with Mr. Carbajal as the instructor. Through the journaling taught in Calm classes, I gained not only personal insight, but also became more aware of the responsibility I had in regards to my life and my offense. Now as the clerk, I continue to listen repeatedly to the curriculum and get something new out of it every time.
I would not have gotten near as far as I have in my recovery and rehabilitation had it not been for my time in the vocation and Calm classes. I have gained
not only knowledge, but also a great deal of pride each time I learned skills which will help me be a positive citizen in the community. It is my firm belief that if you cancel many of our programs, giving women more idle time, then the violence will increase and intensify here.
I?ve been in prison for 14 years serving a sentence of Life Without Parole for a crime that my adult co-defendant committed when I was 16 years old. I completed all of the self-help groups offered and I am currently in the White Bison program. I receivedmy GED and I?m presently aiming for my AA in
Behavioral and Social Science with a Certificate of Achievement in Business. I
am on the Gang Intervention Panel working with a District Attorney and a Juvenile Judge from San Joaquin Valley, striving to make a difference
in preventing youth from going to prison. I?m not the only individual who has exhibited this type of personal growth and been able to reach maturity
in spite of overwhelming circumstances.
Kids cannot get the Death Penalty, but LWOP is indeed a death sentence. It allows no chance for us to prove that change has occurred. Even though I came to prison a young, scared and immature child, I have transformed into a responsible, caring, nurturing and helpful youth mentor. If you have not already considered SB399 I ask you to please support this bill. It motivates rehabilitation, education, restores self-esteem and self worth, which is what a system that promotes Rehabilitation should really be about.
I was hired as a peer health educator at CCWF. I am honored to be a part of this extraordinary program. The peer education program is run by an outside
organization called Centerforce and provides incarcerated women with a unique sense of freedom through knowledge. As peer health educators, we reach out to
and speak to our peers about a wide variety of health related topics, risky behaviors, prevention methods, and serve as sounding boards. This program isn?t just about HIV prevention and safe sex, it?s so much more. It lays down a foundation strong enough to foster growth, unity, and positive change for anyone. I encourage everyone to visit the peer office, or seek out the peer volunteers in your housing units.
The college program at VSPW is amazing. The opportunity to earn a GED, high school diploma or college diploma is planting a seed for future success. Many women enter the system broken and/or with addicitions. We need programs and forums to create the tools to change in life. I sincerely hope you carefully consider gender equity when calculating future changes. It not only
affects us, but those to whom we are returning.
?Lynn M. Noyes
Frankly, I do not see how the state can afford not to educate its prisoners. The prison is full of men and women who lack skills training. We are a part of our community.
I have been fortunate to be a participant in two vocational training
programs. My instructors were patient and worked tirelessly to help us become better people. I am thankful for my training and I hope in the future that our state will see the value of education and vocation programs within the prison system.
?Charlotte A. Key
Closing down education is a big loss, especially for those seeking a GED or needing ESL. It will make it worse for those of us who are uneducated or who don?t speak English. Without educational opportunities some will get further in trouble. There is a lot of time to do nothing. It will be even harder to get a job here, with all the cuts. And it will certainly be a lot harder to get a job out there, where unemployment is already so high.
Women participating in college courses are also affected. College courses help us explore opportunities we did not know about. They help us know how the world is changing. We fought for those courses! It was prisoners who found colleges that were willing to offer correspondence courses and even come
up with some scholarship money for tuition and books. How can the prison take away things they have not provided for us? Without education, what is ?correction? and what is ?rehabilitation? in CDCR? What happens to our learning abilities when education is cut? How do we connect with society? How can we reach any of our dreams? Or develop ambitions?
Cutting education budgets all over the country, but especially here in California, is wrong. It hurts our children and it hurts the whole society.
The cuts in prison education are also wrong. How can you expect to get a job when you get out without an education? If you leave prison with tools to make it in society, you will have a chance at a successful life. Without them you are more likely to come back to prison.
I took the GED test 2 days ago. It was facilitated by the Alternatives
to Violence Project. I want to keep doing what I have to do in here to meet my date in 2010. I want to have something under my belt when I come out.
Education and many self-help groups are very needed here. I amtrying to get the GED because I have kids I want to take care of when I get out. I dropped out in 9th grade. I only had 5 high school credits then. Now I have 180 credits.
In the free world I want to work with kids either in a day-care or a hospital. I do that now, taking careof kids who come to visit. I make flash cards for them to play with, etc.
Learning is important throughout life. I want to keep learning. I owe it to myself to learn. I want to learn from my kids, too. For them, I don?t want to sell myself short anymore. A lot of women come in young and discouraged. They just live for today. You have to have some hope. If you have a life sentence, what
are you going to do with yourself? I used to be angry all the time, to fight in response to most situations. I had to learn other ways of thinking?about myself and about others.
Teachers were the heartbeat of our future. Now they?re hitting the beat, looking for employment elsewhere. Recidivism? Women are nurturers. Most of the time they are the only parent. With skills they would not have to continue a welfare lifestyle. They could raise their children.
by Allegra Funsten, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children legal intern
Article 5 of the California Constitution clearly affirms the duty of the State to provide free, publiclyfunded elementary and secondary schools. In 1992,
the State Supreme Court wrote that California ?has assumed specific responsibility for a statewide public education system open on equal terms to all,? and must ensure education equality.
California statutes mandate education for people in state prisons. The CDCR Secretary must appoint a Superintendent of Education to administer prison
education programs and must create and implement a system of incentives to increase participation in and completion of academic and vocational programs.
The 1989 Prisoner Literacy Act states the intent of Legislature to increase the percentage of prisoners who are literate because illiteracy is correlated with
recidivism. This law mandates literacy programs designed to insure that prisoners achieve a 9th grade reading level by the time they parole. The CaliforniaPenal Code also defines funding prison education at a specified rate per student per year.
Title 15, Article 3, section 3040 also affirms that CDCR will offer an education program when it states that prisoners may be assigned to ?work, education,
or other programs, or to a combination.? The California Education Code acknowledges the State?s responsibility to provide ?equal rights and opportunities in the educational facilities of the state.? Both federal and state courts have ruled that individuals do not lose their right to equal protection
when incarcerated. In 1970, 1972 and 1979 California Supreme and Appellate Courts ruled that budget concerns may not be used to exclude women from equal protection of the laws or restrict fundamental rights. Courts in other states have also ruled that disparate educational or vocational programs for prisoners based solely on gender violate equal protection.
The 2007 Youth Bill of Rights guarantees people in juvenile facilities an equal education. This law also insures that young people will continue to receive
educational services and vocational training even while on disciplinary or medical status. These services must be: comparable to education outside of
prison, age appropriate, and must include GED and high school graduation plans.
CDCR has a legal duty to provide educational and/or vocational classes and cannot use budget cuts as an excuse to deny education to prisoners. It?s the
Note: If you would like the case law citations used for this article, please write us.
Chi Chi Locci, vocalist, CCWF
For many years now at CCWF I have been fortunate to be a part of Arts-in-Corrections, a program that has nurtured some of the most amazingly talented women in the state of California. It offers drawing, pottery, guitar, sculpturing,
music and painting. While often recognized for their community bowl fundraisers, the program offers much more! As part of the rehabilitation process, we have created a venue to continue our dreams and passions. Veteran musicians including guitarist Rickie Soria, Destiny Mardisch on flute,
vocalists ChiChi Locci and Gia McClain have come together with new members, bassist Sara Dutra, keyboardist Toni Song and Heaven Watson on drums. We cover different genres of music from Rhythmn-Blues to the latest Alternative
and Hip Hop. Something I haven?t heard since the Escorts in San Quentin many years ago?
Planning our summer concert series, our band would appreciate any invitations or requests. We also want to thank the Warden and Staff for allowing us such an
opportunity?although we are enclosed with barbwire, we are still spiring ROSES.
by: Pamela Fadem
On March 31, 2010, the US Supreme Court upheld the rights of immigrants in the criminal justice system in the Padilla v. Kentucky decision. This decision
centered on the case of Mr. Jose Padilla, a U.S. Vietnam War veteran, green card holder and long-time U.S. resident who faced deportation after pleading
guilty to a drug charge.
Angie Junck, an attorney at the San Francisco Immigrant Legal Resource
Center (and member of CCWP?s Advisory Board) said, ?The Padilla decision
sends a clear message that in a state like California, immigration issues cannot be ignored in the representation of noncitizen defendants. Even though the law in California already dictates that lawyers accurately advise their clients
on the immigration consequences of criminal pleas, this decision further
ensures that defense counsel consider the potentially dire consequences of a criminal case on a noncitizen.?
The Supreme Court?s decision in this case acknowledges that as a result of the 1996 immigration laws, even low-level offenses?such as one-time shoplifting or marijuana possession?can lead to deportation for immigrants, including
green card holders. In many of these cases, immigration judges are not even allowed to consider immigrants? length of time in the country, U.S. citizen
spouses and children, or other equities.
For more information contact:
Resource Center, 1663
Mission Street, Suite 602,
San Francisco, CA 94103.
Phone: (415) 255-9499 Fax: (415)
tradució por Terra Mickelson
El gobierno estatal de
California, en el nombre de
?balanceando el presupuesto,?
está elminando prácticamente
todos los medios por los cuales
la gente en la prisión puede
salir y permanece afuera y
libre. En enero 2010, la dirección
de estado hecho por Gob.
Schwarzenegger anunció un
?cambio de prioridades? en California
por medio de proponiendo
una enmienda constitucional
que ?garantizaría? un cambie de
puesto en la financiación de las
prisiones a la educación.
Sin embargo, la propuesta
del Gob. financiaría la educación
al expenso de prisioneros,
privatizando prisiones y
recortiendo más programas de
rehabilitación en las prisiones,
¡incluyendo los del salud y la
educación! En vez de reduciendo
el presupuesto de las prisiones
por medio de recortar el
desarrollo de bienes inmuebles
de las prisiones o por medio de
liberar los miles de prisioneros
quienes deben estar en casa, el
Gob. y el CDCR están eliminando
todos los programas restantes
que ayudan a preparar a gente
para apoyar a ellos mismos
y sus familias ya cuando son
puestas en libertad, incluyendo
los que dan prisioneros con
condena-a-vida la oportunidad
para conseguir una fecha en sus
audiencias de tablero de libertad
Estemos claros?el estado de
California está desmantelando la
educación pública en total, adentro
y afuera de las prisiones.
Y como a las condiciones en
comunidades afuera, hay una
impacta desproporcionado para
gente de color y toda la gente de
sueldo bajo en prisión.
Los programas de capacitación
de habilidades básicos
de trabajo y autoayuda, tales
como los cursos de GED y
ESL, manejo del temperamento,
cursos para la educación de
padres, y programas para la
drogadicción, se están cortando
o eliminando. Hasta programas
dirigidos por voluntarios, cuales
requieren que personal esté presente,
se están cortando a la vez
que se reduce la personal de la
prisión. Se han dicho recientemente
al grupo de condenas largas
en CCWF que ya no tienen
un miembro de personal para
supervisar el programa. Recursos
como libros, armarios, salas
de reunión, y posiciones del
entrenamiento se están cortando
también. El gobierno federal
también se retiene recursos para
la educación pública cuando
se excluye a gente con convicciones
de delito mayor por drogas?
hasta después de que son
puestos a libertad y regresados
a la comunidad?de recibiendo
becas Pell de educación.
Han habido siempre, y
siempre serán, educadores de
par adentro de la prisión?personas
que se enseñan uno a otro
inglés, como leer y escribir, intercambian
información sobre la
SIDA y HepC, y discuten como
ser padres y personas mejores.
Este tipo de educación occure
porque el gente adentro tiene
la dedicación y la corazón para
enseñar y apoyar uno a otro, sin
paga ni reconocimiento. Ningunos
pueden parar esta energía humana
para enseñar y aprender.
Sin embargo, la educación del
par no cumple los requisitos de
programas de CDCR que son
necesarios para libertad condicional,
y no es suficiente para
capacitar a gente para trabajar.
Educación es un derecho
humano. El estado de California
ha decidido que una porción
grande de nuestra población se
merece nada más que siendo
puesta en una celda y lanzando
lejos la llave. CCWP se junta
con diez de miles de estudiantes,
educadores y activistas
de comunidad en los dos lados
de las paredes de las prisiones
quien se oponen las cortas en la
educación adentro y afuera de
las prisiones. Decimos, ?¡FUNDA
LA EDUCACION, NO LA
by the Fire Inside Editorial Collective
California State government, in the name of ?balancing the budget,? is eliminating virtually all means by which people in prison can get out and stay out. In January 2010, Gov. Schwarzenegger?s state address announced a ?change in priorities? in California by proposing a constitutional amendment that would ?guarantee? a shift in funding from prisons to education.
The Governator?s proposal would fund education on the backs of prisoners by privatizing prisons and further cutting prison rehabilitation programs, including health and education! Instead of reducing the prison budget by cutting prison development or by releasing the thousands of prisoners who should be going home, the Gov. and CDCR are eliminating all prison programs that help prepare people to support themselves and their families once they are released.
This includes programs that give term-to-life prisoners a chance to get a date at their parole board hearings.
Let?s be clear?the State is dismantling education overall, inside and outside of prison. And similar to conditions in communities outside, there is a disproportionate impact on people of color and all low income people in prison.
Basic job skills training and self-help programs such as GED and ESL classes, anger management, parenting classes, and substance abuse programs are
being cut or eliminated. Even volunteer-run programs, which all require staff to be present, are being cut as prison staffing is reduced. The Long-termers group at CCWF was told they no longer have a staff member to oversee the program. Resources such as books, lockers, meeting rooms and training positions are also
being slashed. The federal government also withholds education resources when they exclude people with felony drug convictions?even after they are released into the community?from receiving Pell education grants.
There always have been, and always will be, peer educators inside prison?people who teach each other English, how to read and write, exchange information about HIV and HEP C, and discuss how to be better parents and better people. This kind of education occurs because of the commitment and heart of the people inside to teach and support each other, with no pay or recognition to show for it. No budget cuts can stop this human energy for teaching and learning. However, peer education doesn?t meet the CDCR
requirements for programming that is necessary for parole, and it isn?t sufficient to train people for jobs and employment.
Education is a human right. Apparently the state of California has decided that a large part of our population deserves nothing more than being put in a cell
and throwing away the key. CCWP joins with tens of thousands of students, educators and community activists on both sides of the prison walls who oppose
the cuts to education inside and outside of prisons.
We say, ?FUND EDUCATION, NOT INCARCERATION!?
The Fire Inside interviewed Melody about the
beautiful friendship and peer mentor she had with
Darlene while incarcerated at CIW. Melody?s mentor
helped her learn job skills, but more importantly
helped Melody to heal and grow as a human being.
FI: Darlene was a peer counselor to you. What did
that relationship look like?
Melody: You can sit across from a professional
and open your heart and spill out your soul and the
closest you?re going to get to any kind of compassion
or sympathy is an occasional ?and how did that make
you feel.? Talking to Darlene was talking to someone
who had been abused, knew first hand what it was like
to be lost, trapped, to feel alone with no help in sight.
She didn?t have to ask how something made me feel,
she already knew. To hear that there was hope from
some one that had been through the same hell made all
the difference to me.
It helps me stay clean remembering that Darlene
took time from her life to teach me things my own
family and friends wouldn?t. She shared her heart and
soul with me and the unconditional friendship she
gave me is something I will cherish forever. The only
way I do even half for her of what she has done for
me, is to be out here fighting for her release.
FI: What kind of job and life skills did you learn
Melody: Computers and running. I knew absolutely
nothing of either one and by the time I left I knew
enough computer stuff to start my business and help
others, and I can do a 5k or 10k run. I have always
felt that emotionally and health-wise you have to be
straight, you need that to be strong.
I also learned coping skills, such as writing down
things that I was holding inside. Those that had hurt
me and the anger I couldn?t let go of, I learned to
express what I felt and how they had hurt me. I would
write and lash out on paper, rather than through actions
like I had in the past. I was able to release that
emotion in a positive way.
Darlene helped me get a good job at CIW in a department
that required excellent computer skills, and
I didn?t even know how to turn one on at that time.
Darlene taught me everything she could to help me
advance. I learned to create Power Point presentations
that were shown to all staff at CIW. I learned how to
create a monthly magazine that went to every employee
at CIW, as well as a copy to every institution in
California. Today I use the skills Darlene taught me to
make brochures, fliers, notifications and postcards for
my own business.
FI: How have you used the knowledge you learned
from Darlene to help others?
Melody: There?s always someone better off than
someone else and there are others less fortunate as well.
Envy, jealousy, and being judgmental are three things
that will always hold you back. I learned from Darlene
how to learn from those who may be better off, and
then take that and teach those less fortunate than me.
I share with my daughter that everyone makes
mistakes. Some people make bigger mistakes then
others, but that doesn?t make them less of a human being.
Everyone has a heart and soul; they have feelings
that can be hurt. It?s what you do after the mistake that
makes the difference in how you change or how you
In March 2010 CCWP said
goodbye to our dear friend
and CCWP Program Coordinator
Shawna Sanchagrin after
many years of her dedication
and hard work. With her own
experience of growing up with
a parent in prison, Shawna
first came to CCWP as a student
intern, stayed on as a volunteer
and then became staff.
Shawna was always there to
assist someone just being released
from prison, and helped
CCWP to better understand
and respect the importance of
gender identity in prison. We
wish her well in the next steps
in her life and look forward to