by Marcie Monroe, CCWF
Many of us find ourselves doing our time without the support of family and friends. We cry, complain and act out improperly due to our pain and anger. We fail to look right in front of us for support, from our own fellow inmates.
One woman I have had the honor to know, Ms. Charisse Shumate, has taken the initiative to fight against the kind of medical treatment we inmates have been subjected to by C.D.C. Yet we fellow female prisoners are doing her plight an injustice by ignoring the proper use of our grievance procedures in order to ensure C.D.C. complies with the court’s orders.
I hear the complaints and see the tears. I’m crying them myself. Yet we refuse to use our pens, and our families’ and friends’ pens to fight for our right to proper medical treatment.
“Short-termers” use the excuses “I’m not going to be here long enough” or “the appeal process doesn’t work anyway, so why should I bother?” I’ll tell you why. We may be going home in a few months or years, but what happens to those who are serving long terms or life? What if you were to come back? Or your mother, sister, aunt, daughter or friend find themselves in prison and they aren’t getting the necessary medical treatment they need, and they die? Who will you blame? C.D.C. is only doing what we, the society, have allowed them to get away with.
I have a back condition, of which I informed CCWF when I arrived. I was not taken seriously by medical, they just ignored me and gave me muscle relaxers. I was thus deemed capable of full duty and placed in the kitchen. Due to the severe pain my duties resulted in, I began to refuse to perform them. After I received four serious disciplinary actions for refusing to perform duties I physically could not, the x-rays were finally ordered and the hermiated disk and neck were verified. But it was too late because C.D.C.’s 115’s had already been heard and I was found guilty of refusing to program. I was to go home this July, yet because I was ignored by medical, and security staff thought they were qualified to make medical diagnosis, I may not go home until January 2001.
Well, not if I can help it! I’m using my appeal and grievance procedure, and I’m fighting these injustices. I may not win, but at least I know that I did everything I could within my power to shed light on the hideous indiscretions we women are constantly subjected to while we are incarcerated.
For me, it will not stop when I finally do go home, whether it’s July or next year. I’m taking this further and in the process changing my life. I intend to return to college and earn a law degree. When I do, I will continue the fight for women prisoners’ rights. I will no longer be the victim as I was programmed to be by my family, ex-husband and society in general. I will reclaim my life, and in turn help others to achieve justice in their lives, whether it means getting a cavity filled, a bandage for a cut or chemotherapy by a qualified physician.
Use your tools! Don’t permit C.D.C. to continue to make us victims. Use your pen, follow through to Sacramento and beyond if necessary. Unite with your sisters and see the positive we can achieve together. Remember the saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.” Look to the men, they get what they need. Use your pens, report the injustices and feel better for trying to make a difference-even if you are going home tomorrow.