by Heidi Strupp, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
On November 14, 2000 a group of determined family members and advocates successfully testified before the Board of Prison Terms (BPT) and won a recommendation for the compassionate release of a Lifer incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF). Twenty-nine year old Gina Marie Muniz suffered from an aggressive form of cervical cancer that medical staff at CCWF failed to properly treat. She spent three months totally bedridden and in constant excruciating pain. When her family learned that Gina had only a few weeks left to live they decided to fight for a compassionate release, a law that allows for the early discharge of terminally ill prisoners who meet the strict requirements.
Because Gina was serving an indeterminate sentence, her case had to go before the BPT for approval. After nearly forty minutes of moving testimony, including Gina’s courageous seven year old brother, the BPT decided to support her plea for a compassionate release. This represents a major victory in fight for Lifers against the repressive decisions handed down by the Board. In California, only three Lifers have ever been granted a compassionate release! Gina was released and died in her own home surrounded by loved ones in late November.
For more information about Compassionate Release, please contact Cynthia Chandler of Justice Now. (Also see the article about Justice Now in this issue of The Fire Inside.)