Fighting Abuse and the Criminal Injustice System

by Teresa Cruz, CIW
My name is Theresa Cruz, and I am a battered woman serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole after seven years. I was convicted of attempted murder: my child’s father was shot in the legs five times by another male. He is not dead, crippled or maimed. His life continued and resumed to normal. I was not the perpetrator, but I am responsible for him being shot.
How long will society continue to ignore the incarceration of individuals that made decisions under duress as a result of domestic violence? Don’t misunderstand me. I accept ownership for my participation in a dysfunctional relationship, but like community property, I am only entitled to half.
Domestic violence first came into my life like an undetected disease. It started out slowly. The objective was control over the body and the mind. The end result was total control of one individual by another. When the objective was not met, or fell short of being met, the result was out of control behaviors.
Living in a domestic violence situation is one of the most painful situations one could live in. He beat me and stalked me. I moved five times in three years. He left cards in my mailbox signed “Black Friday the 13th,” signed “Your Ex – Carlos.”
His final threat was to take my child. For five straight years I sustained a lot of abuse, but this final threat pushed me over the edge. I had never been separated from my children, and I cannot even begin to describe the feeling and fear I felt. In reality it was a syndrome that built and built and then exploded. When it came to my children, I lost control of my mind and let my emotions take control. After he was shot the domestic court found him for what he truly was and refused to take custody away from me. I was out on bail for two years and was no threat to society but still had to answer for a crime I had committed.
In April 1995 my children went to Sacramento, California, to testify for a proposed law, AB231, today known as Penal Code Section 4801.* My children took police reports of varous break-ins, photographs of varous beatings and the original cards he’d leave in our mailbox. My children testified about the incidents that led up to my crime. In October 1995, Governor Pete Wilson signed the bill and it went into effect January 1, 1996. My case was a major factor in achieving the passage for this bill, but to this day I have been given no consideration under the new law.
On May 22, 1996, I went for my first consideration hearing for parole. I was commended for my G.E.D., my 18-month Vocational Data Processing Course, and all of my achievements. The parole board did state that my case was a very sad example of domestic violence, how it can get out of control and how this was a tragedy for me and my children. The records prove he stalked me and abused me. At the end I was denied parole and told to return in two years (May 1998).
I am not looking for excuses or for anyone to condone what has happened, for nothing justifies violence. I am asking for mercy, forgiveness and compassion. My children were ages 4 months, 6 1/2, 9 and 10 years old when I came to prison. If looking into your own children’s eyes every weekend and seeing the pain in their eyes and having to say good-bye over and over again for six years isn’t punishment, then I don’t know what is. To hear my child say “If I would have never been born, you wouldn’t be in prison, Mama” is a guilt that I can’t describe. To see the hurt and guilt and resentment he carries towards his father is a pain that can’t be described.
If you support my release, please write to Governor Pete Wilson and James W. Nielsen, Chairman of the Board of Prison Terms. God bless you and thank you.
Theresa Cruz, W-10058
Miller A 32L
Frontera, CA 91720
*AB231 states that the Board of Prison Terms (parole board) can consider evidence of the effects of physical, emotional or mental state abuse upon the beliefs, perception or behavior of victims of domestic violence where it appears that the crimnal behavior was a result of that victimization” when commuting or paroling women being held for violent crimes performed in retaliation for spousal abuse.
The Children of Theresa Cruz Write
Our mother is not a career criminal, she is an abused and battered woman who was pushed to the edge. Our mother’s abuser went to her parole hearing to say that if my mother was paroled his life would be in danger. For years this man abused our mother and now he is the so-called “victim” and has the right to say when my mother should be free. With all our hearts, we want to thank you for taking the time to write two letters.
Send letters to
James W. Nielsen, Chairman
Board of Prison Terms
428 J Street, 6th floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Governor Pete Wilson
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Theresa’s family is trying to raise money to hire a lawyer to represent Theresa at her parole hearing. They are asking everyone who can to write a check for $10 to the Defense Fund for Theresa Cruz. The account number 6832 217806 must be written on the check and it should be mailed to Wells Fargo Bank, Bonita Office, 4180 Bonita Rd., Bonita, CA 91902.