Chowchilla Freedom Rally!

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is converting Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) into a men’s prison in response to a U.S. Supreme Court order to reduce overcrowding. Instead of releasing people and closing VSPW, they are squeezing over 1,000 women and transgender people into the two remaining women’s prisons. The population of the other women’s prison in Chowchilla, Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) is dangerously close to 4,000 even though its maximum capacity is 2,000. The conversion has aggravated overcrowding, created dangerous conditions, and health care is already getting much worse. What’s more, they have added yet another men’s prison to their inhumane system. We’ve had enough! Come show support for all people locked up in Chowchilla’s prisons and tell the Federal Judges that overcrowding must stop now!

CHOWCHILLA FREEDOM RALLY

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rides available by bus and carpool.

Contact chowchilla.rally@gmail.com or 415-255-7036 x 314

Caravans leaving from MacArthur BART in Oakland at 10:30AM and Chuco’s Justice Center in Inglewood at 8:30AM. We will gather at 2PM at SE corner of Ave. 24 and Fairmead Blvd off Highway 99 in Chowchilla.

Rally begins at 3PM at VSPW.

OVERCROWDING = DEATH

BRING OUR LOVED ONES HOME!

COMMUNITY RELEASE PROGRAMS * PAROLE FOR ELDERS * RELEASE FOR MEDICAL REASONS * END LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE (LWOP)

Solidarity actions encouraged! If you cannot make the rally or do not live in California, we encourage you to organize a solidarity action on the same day in your community. Hold a demonstration in front of the DOC offices or the county jail, organize a speak-out against prisons in a public space, stand in solidarity the Chowchilla Freedom Rally! Please let us know how we can support you! Contact info@womenprisoners.org.

Interested in helping organize this event? Join our coalition! Our next meeting is Wednesday, January 2, 2013 from 6 – 8PM at the CCWP offices. 1540 Market Street, Suite 490, San Francisco. Or contact adrienne@womenpriosoners.org.

The Chowchilla Freedom Rally Coalition includes members from California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Justice NOW, All Of Us Or None, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, Fired Up!, Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project, Critical Resistance, Youth Justice Coalition, Global Women’s Strike, Occupy 4 Prisoners, Asian Pacific Islander Support Committee and the California Prison Moratorium Project.

State prison “realignment” falls short with plans for female ex-convicts

By Suzanne Bohan
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 03/01/2012 07:14:19 PM PST
Updated: 03/01/2012 09:48:43 PM PST
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law last year drastically changing the rules for oversight of low-level felons upon their release from prison, plans for handling the influx of female parolees fell between the cracks, say many experts.
“I’ve been screaming for a year, ‘What are we going to do with the women?’ ” said Edwina Perez-Santiago, who on Thursday opened one of the few services in the state for assisting “AB 109 women.” Her chief focus for the project, based in Richmond, is finding housing, a challenge heightened by laws barring felons from renting low-cost federal housing.
In April, Brown signed AB 109, a “realignment” bill that transfers oversight of felons exiting state prison for nonviolent, nonserious and nonsex crimes from the state to county probation departments. And effective Oct. 1, newly convicted “non, non, non” felons would be jailed in county facilities instead of state prison, part of an effort to reduce bulging populations at the prisons.
In exchange, the state pays counties for their increased load of prisoners and parolees.
Counties statewide have been scrambling to prepare for the influx, but the focus has been on aiding male felons in transitioning to stable lives with jobs and housing, or on jail accommodations for low-level felons convicted after Oct. 1.
“We’re all focused on the men,” Perez-Santiago said. “What about their mothers, aunties and everyone else?”
Women have unique needs, she explained, such as arranging child care or healing from the emotional scars of domestic abuse.
Advocates for female prisoners agree.
“Women are going to be impacted, proportionally, much more than men,” said Karen Shain, policy director with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children in San Francisco. She explained that more than half of the 7,500 women in state prison were convicted of low-level offenses. Typical crimes included drug use, credit card fraud or larceny.
By June, some 500 women released from state prison will fall under county oversight because of the new law, Shain said. “It’s a problem every county is going to be facing,” she said.
Counties have leeway in how they manage the new parolees, such as GPS monitoring, stays in drug-rehabilitation centers, house arrest or supervised release.
Perez-Santiago’s new service, the “Re-entry-Reunite Project,” is unique, said Terrance Cheung, chief of staff for Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, of Richmond.
Services for AB 109 women “are not as developed,” he said. “She’s the one solely focused on that.
“She’s a credible, formidable woman,” Cheung added. “She knows her stuff.”
Perez-Santiago said several women fresh out of state prison in Southern and Central California for low-level offenses want to relocate to Richmond, but she doesn’t have housing for them because of rents the women can’t afford and the restrictions on federal housing for felons.
Funding for the project now comes from private donations and Perez-Santiago’s own contributions, although she’s seeking county, state and federal funding for it.
A few of these women are in their 50s, she noted, and have been in prison since their teens. Once she does find housing, the nonprofit Reach Fellowship International, which she heads, will provide them with jobs, such as landscaping work. The organization also offers GED, ESL and other classes.
“But as long as I can’t get a roof over their head, it’s a little challenging,” Perez-Santiago said.
Contact Suzanne Bohan at 510-262-2789. Follow her at Twitter.com/suzbohan.
To learn more
What: Re-entry-Reunite Project
Address: 1662 Fred Jackson Way, Richmond
Phone: 510-289-7901
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday

New bills regarding the death penalty, juveniles and gangs

February 28th, 2012
The following article was sent to us by The Criminal Justice Information Network
At Deadline Legislature Introduces Hundreds of New Bills: Juveniles, Gangs, and the Death Penalty
Friday, February 24th was the deadline for legislators to introduce bills. More than 800 bill proposals were filed on the final 2 days. Here are a few bills of interest:
SB 1514 (Anderson R) Death sentences: automatic appeal.
Current law requires an automatic appeal to be made to the State Supreme Court in death penalty, or capital, cases. This bill would remove this right to an automatic appeal. The bill would instead allow for an appeal to be taken to an appellate court in the same manner as non-capital cases, except under certain circumstances. Click for the full language here.
SB 1363 (Yee D) Juveniles: solitary confinement.
Would require that juveniles shall not be placed in solitary confinement unless they are found to be a substantial and immediate risk of harm to others and all other less-restrictive options have been exhausted. When a juvenile is placed in solitary confinement under this bill, correctional facility staff must take certain precautions as regards to mental health. In addition, the youth must maintain their rights, such as the right to bed and bedding, education, and religious services, among others. Click for the full language here.
SB 1506 (Leno D) Possession of controlled substances: penalties.
This bill would reclassify simple drug possession offenses as misdemeanors instead of felonies, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year. Click for the full language here.
SB 1307 (Runner R) Criminal street gangs: registration.
Current law requires anyone who has committed a crime that the court finds is ?gang related? to register their residential address within 10 days of release from custody. This bill would require this registration to occur annually and for each time an address is changed. It would make it a misdemeanor to fail to register or update registration. Because this bill amends law that was enacted through Proposition 21, a citizen?s initiative that was approved in 2000, the bill will require a 2/3 vote. Click for the full language here.

STOP THE CONVERSION OF VALLEY STATE PRISON FOR WOMEN TO A MEN’S PRISON: FINAL PETITION READY TO SIGN

February 16, 2012
http://www.change.org/petitions/cas-gov-brown-cdcr-secretary-matthew-cate-judge-t-henderson-stop-the-conversion-of-valley-state-prison-from-a-womens-to-a-mens-prison
You may have already signed and that’s great. We have modified the wording and included the complete joint statement from people inside both women’s prisons in Chowchilla, CA.
Please pass it on and reply if your organization wants to be listed as an endorser.
Currently there are over 2,650 women and transgender prisoners housed at VSPW. Instead of releasing thousands who are eligible to go home, CDCR is planning to transfer them to the Central California Women’s Facility (159% over capacity) and California Institution for Women (139% over capacity.)
Our communities have endured and suffered forced removals and relocations of people openly and under false pretexts for generations. Even though no prison is where anyone wants to or needs to be, closing and moving women out of this one is yet another uprooting to the detriment, and against the will of, people rendered powerless and whose humanity is disregarded.

STOP THE CONVERSION OF VALLEY STATE PRISON FOR WOMEN TO A MEN’S PRISON: FINAL PETITION READY TO SIGN

February 16, 2012
http://www.change.org/petitions/cas-gov-brown-cdcr-secretary-matthew-cate-judge-t-henderson-stop-the-conversion-of-valley-state-prison-from-a-womens-to-a-mens-prison
You may have already signed and that’s great. We have modified the wording and included the complete joint statement from people inside both women’s prisons in Chowchilla, CA.
Please pass it on and reply if your organization wants to be listed as an endorser.
Currently there are over 2,650 women and transgender prisoners housed at VSPW. Instead of releasing thousands who are eligible to go home, CDCR is planning to transfer them to the Central California Women’s Facility (159% over capacity) and California Institution for Women (139% over capacity.)
Our communities have endured and suffered forced removals and relocations of people openly and under false pretexts for generations. Even though no prison is where anyone wants to or needs to be, closing and moving women out of this one is yet another uprooting to the detriment, and against the will of, people rendered powerless and whose humanity is disregarded.

A Call to Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence to Share Their Stories

This is a call for writings by survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence
ANTHOLOGY CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS:
Working Title: Challenging Convictions: Survivors of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Writing on Solidarity with Prison Abolition.
Completed submissions due: April 15, 2012.
Like much prison abolition work, the call for this anthology comes from frustration and hope: frustration with organizers against sexual assault and domestic violence who treat the police as a universally available and as a good solution; frustration with prison abolitionists who only use ?domestic violence? and ?rape? as provocative examples; and, frustration with academic discussions that use only distanced third-person case studies and statistics to talk about sexual violence and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). But, this project also shares the hope and worth of working toward building communities without prisons and without sexual violence. Most importantly, it is anchored in the belief that resisting prisons, domestic violence, and sexual assault are inseparable.
Organizers of this anthology want to hear from survivors in conversation with prison abolition struggles. We are interested in receiving submissions from survivors who are/have been imprisoned, and survivors who have not. Both those survivors who have sought police intervention, as well as those who haven’t, are encouraged to submit. We are looking for personal essays and creative non-fiction from fellow survivors who are interested in discussing their unique needs in anti-violence work and prison abolitionism.
Discussions of sexual assault, domestic violence, police violence, prejudice within courts, and imprisonment cannot be separated from experiences of privilege and marginalization. Overwhelmingly people who are perceived to be white, straight, able-bodied, normatively masculine, settlers who are legal residents/citizens, and/or financially stable are not only less likely to experience violence but also less likely to encounter the criminal injustice system than those who are not accorded the privileges associated with these positions. At the same time, sexual assault and domestic violence support centers and shelters are often designed with certain privileges assumed. We are especially interested in contributions that explore how experiences of race, ability, gender, citizenship, sexuality, or class inform your understandings of, or interactions with cops, prisons, and sexual assault/domestic violence support.
Potential topics:
· What does justice look like to you?
· Perspectives on police and prisons as a default response to sexual assault
· What do you want people in the prison abolition movement with no first hand experiences of survivorship to know?
· How did you overcome depression/feelings of futility when dealing with these systems?
· Critical reflections on why the legal system has or has not felt like an option for you
· Perspectives on the cops/PIC participating in rape culture
· Restorative justice and other methods for responding to sexual violence outside of the PIC? (if you are a settler be conscious of appropriations of indigenous methods)
· How have you felt about conversations you?ve had about the PIC?
· How sexual assault inside and outside of the PIC is treated by organizers against sexual assault, domestic violence, and the PIC
· Police and prison guards as triggers
· Responding to sexual assault and domestic violence when communities weren?t there for you
· What the legal system offers survivors and what it doesn?t
· Rants at manarchists, the writers/directors of televised cop dramas, and communities that let you down
· Survivor shaming for reporting and for not reporting to police
Please submit first-person accounts, critical reflections, essays, and creative non-fiction to survivorsinsoli@gmail.com by April 15, 2012 with ?Submission? as the subject line.
Please:
· One submission per person;
· 12 point Times New Roman font;
· Submit as an attached document (.doc files preferred, no .pdfs);
· English language (American spelling);
· Pseudonyms welcomed, as are name changes in the written piece.
Early submissions are encouraged. First time authors encouraged.
If you have questions, we welcome emails to survivorsinsoli@gmail.com with ?Question? in the subject line. We are looking for both shorter pieces of writing and longer pieces, but if your piece is more than 20 pages consider sending us an email to run the idea by us.
Please attach a short biography that you are comfortable sharing with the editors (200 word max.). This is not about your credentials, but getting to know you and where you are coming from. All information you provide will be kept confidential.
About selection and editing: Submissions will be reviewed by a group of readers who will consider if and how each written piece could contribute to the finished project. Each piece will be read by at least two readers who will contribute to the decision to accept/reject/edit the piece. Some of us working on this project have been made to feel alone as both survivors and abolitionists. Some of us have managed to carve spaces within these communities. Now we are looking to open the conversation and hear from people we?ve never met, who have struggled to practice politics in a rape culture and police state. We believe that the needs of survivors matter in these movements, and we don?t need someone else to speak for us or about us as case studies and numbers. We want to hear from you.
For more information please visit: http://survivorsinsoli.blogspot.com/
If you have questions, directly contact survivorsinsoli@gmail.com with ?Question? in the subject line.
Please distribute widely.

Please Sign Prop 9 Petition- Do Not Sentence YOUTH to Life Without Parole!

The following is an E-mail sent to us by Gail Patrice:
Hi,
Right now, juveniles in California can be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. It is a sentence to die in prison. The US is the only country in the world that applies this punishment to youth under the age of 18.
Several hundred teens have been sentenced to life without parole in California. Under the current law, not one of them will ever have the opportunity to demonstrate that they have turned their lives around and can safely re-enter society.
If Senate Bill 9 is enacted, California will set up a strict process for a judge to examine these individuals? lives when they are older and determine if they are rehabilitated and remorseful. If so, they will then have a chance to earn parole after serving a minimum of 25 years.
We ask our legislators to pass this important bill during the upcoming vote.
That’s why I signed a petition to The California State House, which says:
“As a concerned Californian, I urge you to give youth the possibility of a second chance. Please pass Senate Bill 9.”
Will you sign this petition? Click here:
http://signon.org/sign/youth-deserve-a-second?source=s.em.mt&r_by=2444778
Thanks!

Tell Tom Ammiano to Repeal AB 900


San Francisco –
CALL and EMAIL Assemblyperson Tom Ammiano and demand an end to Prison and Jail expansion!


Right now, California residents are preparing for catastrophe as millions of dollars are being released through the notorious AB 900 legislation to be used to build more and bigger jails. We know more jails means more of our loved ones, coworkers, and neighbors locked up, and less resources for meaningful work, good schools, decent housing, and reliable healthcare.
Join CURB in demanding an end to the largest prison expansion project in world history. Help us pressure and encourage elected officials to take a stand against further devastation of our communities. We are encouraging San Francisco residents of Tom Ammiano’s district to call his office and strongly encourage him to listen to the people and repeal AB900.
By making use of our collective voice and power, we can lead the way in repealing this monstrous legislation.
We will begin burning up the phone lines and sending flurries of emails starting Friday, Feb. 10th and want to keep going strong through Friday, Feb. 17th!

Great Piece by Victoria Law on Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm CST.

We Demand the Right to Vote: The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement Counters Voter Suppression
by Victoria Law

On Sunday, March 7, 1964, 600 civil rights activists attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the police murder of fellow demonstrator 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson and to demand their rights. As the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were brutally attacked by white state troopers, many of whom had been deputized that very morning. Seventeen marchers were hospitalized; the day became known as “Bloody Sunday.” After a federal district court issued a restraining order preventing a second march across the bridge, a third march was successfully organized and carried out. The bridge became a symbol of the Civil Rights struggle.

Nearly fifty years later, the dreams of the Civil Rights movement remain unfulfilled. Mass incarceration has replaced Jim Crow as a means of racial and social control: In the fall of 1965, in a special message to Congress, Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Crime: ?I hope that 1965 will be regarded as the year when this country began in earnest a thorough and effective war against crime.? In his 1973 State of the Union message, Richard Nixon vowed to continue and expand that war, linking the growing civil unrest to violent street crime. Reagan further intensified the amount of policing and prisons with his 1982 ?War on Drugs? launched three years before the 1985 emergence of crack cocaine. These “wars” came at a time when economic conditions were deteriorating, particularly in communities of color; both served to lock poor people, particularly poor people of color, away before they could organize and challenge social conditions and the social order.

On February 28, 2011, more than fifty formerly incarcerated people from around the country convened in Alabama. All had worked on issues affecting incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in their respective states. Over the course of the weekend, attendees asked themselves and each other, “How do we bring people together and align people with the work that they’re doing individually from a collective perspective?”

The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement emerged from this inaugural meeting. Its goal is to organize a national movement to restore formerly incarcerated people’s civil rights, halt prison expansion, demand an end to mass incarceration, eliminate prison abuses, and protect the dignity of family members and their communities. The organizers drew connections between the Civil Rights movement and their own movement for civil and human rights, illustrating the connection by walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

After returning to their home states, members of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement continued to build together. “We’ve held rallies and acknowledged prison actions. We’ve collectively held events on historic days. For instance, the War on Drugs was enacted on June 17, 1971. All of us held an event within our respective states around the War on Drugs. When the prisons in Georgia had their strike, we recognized that. We just recognized the fortieth anniversary of the Attica uprising. We’ve recognized the Pelican Bay hunger strike. We’ve recognized the common issues that people who have been incarcerated have stood up and fought against in building this movement. The commonalities in our collective actions have brought us together to end mass incarceration,” stated Tina Reynolds, co-chair of the NYC organization WORTH (Women on the Rise Telling HerStory), an organization of formerly and currently incarcerated women) and one of the original twenty people who began the discussion leading to the convening.

On November 2, 2011, the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement held its second national gathering in Los Angeles. Over 270 people from twenty states converged for a one-day conference to share their experiences and vision and to strategize fighting against policies leading to racial profiling, gang labeling, inhumane sentencing, voter disenfranchisement and hiring discrimination. They learned about the issues, organizing, and, in some cases, successes in other states.

The conference included not only seasoned organizers, but also those who were new to prison justice organizing. “Pilar,” a formerly incarcerated woman, remembered that she had never before been in a public space with hundreds of people who shared her experience. Even those already organizing in their home states like Mercedes Smith, a formerly incarcerated woman and current organizer with WORTH, were impressed. “I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever heard?a movement that was made up of nothing but formerly incarcerated people. It had to be a powerful movement and I wanted to be a part of it,” she recalled. “Once I got there, it showed me how important the work is that I do and it made me eager to come home and jump back into it.”

The one-day convening was packed with trainings on juvenile justice and youth organizing, Ban the Box , voter disenfranchisement, gender issues and other issues. Attendees also adopted a national platform, addressing fourteen points related to incarceration:

I. We Demand an End to Mass Incarceration;
II. We Demand Equality and Opportunity for All People;
III. We Demand the Right to Vote;
IV. We Demand Respect and Dignity for Our Children;
V. We Demand Community Development, Not Prison Profit;
VI. End Immigration Detention and Deportation;
VII. End Racial Profiling Inside Prison and In Our Communities;
VIII. End Extortion and Slavery In Prisons;
IX. End Sexual Harassment of People In Prisons;
X. Human Contact is a Human Right;
XI. End Cruel and Unusual Punishment;
XII. We Demand Proper Medical Treatment;
XIII. End the Incarceration of Children;
XIV. Free Our Political Prisoners.

“While the platform points are broad, we believe we’ve at least touched on all of the aspects that people have experienced while doing time in prison and beyond,” Reynolds noted, adding that, although ratified by the conference attendees, the platform is still a work-in-progress. “The issues addressed in the platform are the basic foundational issues involving the inhumane and oppressive treatment within the criminal justice system. We are taking a stand and saying that we’re going to stop it, that things need to change.”

By the end of the conference, attendees set a goal of registering one million voters in 2012.

Smith, who attended a training session on voters’ rights at the conference, returned with a resolve to help formerly incarcerated and convicted people know their rights. “I’m going to put a training together for voters’ rights and get voter registration cards so that people can register to vote. We’re also going to tell people who are formerly incarcerated how to go about being able to vote.” Smith notes that, in New York State, former convictions are not barriers to voting: “As long as you’re on parole, you can’t vote, but if you have your Certificate of Relief, you can vote while you’re on parole. For women who don’t have their Certificate of Relief, I want to tell them how to get it so that they can vote. Once you’re off parole or if you have a misdemeanor, you can vote.”

The movement is also including people who are currently behind bars in their mass registration campaign: “If you’re sentenced to a year and a day and you have to go upstate on a misdemeanor charge, you’re allowed to vote. If you’re in jail and you haven’t been sentenced, you’re allowed to vote,” Reynolds explained. “Why aren’t these people given their right to vote?”

So what are the next steps towards this goal?

“Our first step is to hold a training on voters’ rights,” Smith explained. “Before we go out, we need to know what we’re going out to say and do?I’m going to try to go to as many organizations and give them the training that I receive. I’m going to take voter registration cards with me and have everybody get people registered to vote. When I agreed to get people registered to vote, I took it seriously. I wouldn’t have raised my hand if I hadn’t taken it seriously. I raised my hand and I’ve been on it since I’ve come back. By the time the election comes, they’re going to be registered to vote. I’m going to tell them that you can’t just complain about who’s in office. Learn who wants to be in office, learn if that’s who you want to be in office to work with. You can’t just complain about them and not want to change things or do anything about it. Learn your rights about voting, get registered to vote!”

However, registering one million formerly incarcerated and convicted people is just the beginning: “I’m going to work on some other things, but one thing at a time,” Smith stated. “One of the things I learned at the convening was that people have worked on issues such as Ban the Box and they have been successful in their states. It makes you say, ‘If they could pass that law there, we can pass that law here.’ Before, I would say, ‘I don’t want to work on that. That’s too hard.’ Now I feel the fight is worth it. As a formerly incarcerated person, I want all of that?not only for myself, but for all my sisters and brothers that are formerly incarcerated. I want them to be able to vote, to be able to get a job, to get housing, to be treated like human beings.”

“It’s not just about them having the right to vote,” reflected Reynolds. “It’s having an opportunity to be a part of this movement because here is an opportunity for us to talk about the movement, to talk about a political analysis, to talk about education, to talk about the history of incarceration and how it’s impacted us over the last forty years with the War on Drugs. There is life after prison; there are rights that we are supposed to have. If we’re not seeking them, why aren’t we seeking them? Why aren’t we fighting for our rights as far as what is available to us?”




Victoria Law is a writer, photographer and mother. She is the author of “Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women” (PM Press 2009), the editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison and a co-founder of Books Through Bars – NYC. She is currently working on transforming “Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind,” a zine series on how radical movements can support the families in their midst, into a book.