On Thursday, July 31st, people from across California gathered in McFarland to protest the opening of a new GEO women’s prison and to demand an end to immigrant detention and deportation.
Women and children who were marching in the 300-mile Trail for Humanity for comprehensive immigrant justice connected with anti-prison advocates and Central Valley community members to build vital links between these struggles.
We listened to a letter from women and transgender prisoners which pointed out that the CDCR could easily implement release programs to reduce overcrowding rather than open a new women’s prison. We marched past blocks of barbed wire fences and felt their destructive presence in this small city (there are two GEO prisons in McFarland, which has a population of 13,745. Together we strengthened our determination that the millions of dollars poured into razor wire walls and militarized borders should instead be spent on education, health, and services for our communities!
The McFarland rally was an important step forward in the fight to close the GEO women’s prison. Local media was forced to cover issues that are usually kept invisible to the public. But women are beginning to get sent to McFarland prison and we need to step up the pressure on the decision makers now.
Take Action – Click Below and Tell your legislators to direct the CDCR to cancel the contract with GEO, close the McFarland women’s prison and implement existing release programs instead.
Letter signed by women and trans prisoners at CCWF and CIW
STOP THE MCFARLAND GEO WOMEN’S PRISON!
We the undersigned incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) and the California Institution for Women (CIW) are outraged that CDCR has signed a contract with the GEO Group, the 2nd largest private, for-profit prison corporation in the U.S. According to the contract, GEO will open a new women’s prison in McFarland, CA by fall of 2014.
We call upon California State Legislators to direct CDCR to cancel the contract with GEO and implement existing release programs instead of opening a new prison!
Once again we are shuffled around without regard for our well-being or our human rights. Since VSPW was converted to a men’s prison in January 2013, we have been subjected to overcrowding at historically high levels (CCWF is now at 185% capacity), even while the state is under court order to reduce the prison population. This is discrimination against people in women’s’ prisons! As a result of this overcrowding, health care, mail services, food and education have greatly deteriorated. We are locked down more frequently, leading to heightened tensions, drug overdoses and suicides. The prison staff has responded by locking more people into solitary, further violating our human rights.
CDCR could easily implement existing programs to reduce overcrowding, such as: Alternative Custody Programs (ACP); Elder and Medical Parole; and Compassionate Release. Instead, on April 1, 2014 GEO announced its new contract with CDCR to open a 260 bed women’s prison with an “enhanced rehabilitation and recidivism reduction program.” This is nothing but a bad April Fool’s joke! The 260 women who are “chosen” to go to McFarland could be released through one of these other programs instead. None of us should be hauled off to showcase a so-called “gender responsive” prison and to put money in the pockets of GEO investors.
GEO is a private corporation whose business makes profit from imprisoning primarily people of color and immigrants. GEO’s press release about the new prison reports expected revenue of $9 million in McFarland’s first year. Think of how much $9 million could do for providing community-based re-entry services!
GEO has been the subject of numerous lawsuits around the country about atrocious, unconstitutional conditions. Private prisons are notorious for operating with even greater secrecy than the CDCR: assaults are 49% more frequent; racist behavior and sexual abuse by staff are widespread.
GEO is responsible for human rights violations at many of their facilities. In 2012 GEO was forced to close the Walnut Grove, Mississippi youth detention Center after being condemned for allowing, in the words of Fed. Judge Carlton Reeves, “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”
- In March 2014, 1200 people detained in GEO’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA (for immigrants) went on hunger strike to protest the grossly inadequate medical care, exorbitant commissary prices and low or NO pay for work within the center. Other GEO prisoners have since gone on hunger strike at detention facilities in Conroe, Texas and Stewart, Georgia.
- In January of 2014, Governor Jerry Brown’s reelection campaign reported $54,400 in donations from GEO Group. GEO Group has spent $7.6 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the U.S. in the last decade.
GEO lobbied strongly to advance laws that increased the time served for drug convictions and other non-violent crimes through mandatory minimum sentencing, three-strikes laws, and truth-in-sentencing laws. GEO was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) when the model bill that became AB 1070 (profiling immigrants in Arizona) was drafted. These legal changes resulted in significant profits for GEO.
- In McFarland, CA, GEO has signed a contract incentivizing prolonged incarceration over release by charging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation less per prisoner if the facility is more than half full.
- GEO operates reentry facilities around the state, including the Taylor Street Center at in San Francisco and the Oakland Center in Oakland. Residents experience these facilities as “re-entry prisons” that are structured to threaten and punish people rather than providing support for people to reenter community life. .
It is shameful that CDCR is about to open a for-profit “boutique prison” that does nothing positive to solve the disproportionate overcrowding in the women’s prisons at this time. Assembly Members and Senators, please intervene! Stop the GEO prison from opening. Instead use this $9 million to fully implement existing release programs immediately and fund community-based (not for-profit) reentry programs.
Thank you for listening to this urgent request,
Natalie DeMola, CCWF
Jane Dorotik, CIW
Fonda Gayden, CCWF
Anne Marie Harrison, CCWF
Valerie Juarez, CCWF
Terah Lawyer, CCWF
ChiChi Locci, CCWF
Maydee Morris, CCWF
Amy Preasmeyer, CCWF
Patrice Wallace, CCWF