Vigil for Outreach and Justice

by Jodie Lawston
In September 2006, a 26-year old woman died in the Vista Detention Center in Vista, California. The circumstances for her detainment are still unclear, as are the circumstances of her death. As much as we can now make clear, she died of an asthma attack, which is both preventable and treatable. This woman, like so many of our sisters inside, is a mother: she has a 5-year old daughter. This is not the first time that a woman has died in custody, nor will it be the last given the atrocious ?healthcare? system of California?s jails and prisons.
This death was brought to the attention of two activist professors (Jodie Lawston and Sharon Elise, both in the sociology department) at California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM). In response, these professors and many concerned and angry students at the university organized a vigil for her and the other women who have died due to medical neglect inside of California?s prisons and jails. The vigil was held on December 2, 2006. There was a good turnout, with a formerly incarcerated woman who courageously spoke to the crowd about her experiences with medical neglect and abuse. We focused on outreach to family members who were going to visit their loved ones. One woman was visiting her granddaughter, and she stopped to tell us about her granddaughter?s horrendous experiences inside, such as not being given simple necessities like toilet paper.
As a group at CSUSM, we are going to continue our fight and begin to make contacts with women at CIW and Vista. CSUSM has a large body of students who have family in prison, know people in prison, or have been in prison themselves. Following the wonderful and crucial work that CCWP has done in the Bay Area, both students and several members of the faculty feel that it is imperative, being near both CIW and Vista, to have activist presence in these areas. We are in the beginning stages of our work but we plan to have visiting committees going to both CIW and Vista, as well as an educational committee. The December 2 vigil for outreach and justice is just the beginning of our work.