Governor Brown Grant More LWOP Commutations for Mother’s Day!

Dear friends,
Please join with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners in asking Governor Brown to commute more women, men and transgender people with LWOP sentences for Mother’s Day 2018.  Below is a short message you can email to the Governor’s office at the address below, or create your own message.  Please bcc info@womenprisoners.org on your message.   

Dear Governor Brown,

In the spirit of all mothers who give birth with love and hope in their hearts, I ask you to offer a living chance to the 5,000 people in California’s prisons who have been sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP).

I applaud the historic number of LWOP commutations that you have granted and hope that you will continue to recognize that people have the capacity to change, grow and be rehabilitated, which an LWOP sentence denies. This powerful new video speaks to the urgent need to #DROP LWOP!
I look forward to your Mother’s Day 2018 Commutations!

Thank you,

Community Applauds Governor Brown’s Historic Easter Commutations and Pardons

Panel at DROP LWOP Townhall, March 24, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 31st, 2018

Contacts:

Deirdre Wilson, CCWP, 415-255-7036 x 4

Amber-Rose Howard, CURB, 909-717-8520

The California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) and the Californians United for a Responsible Budget Coalition (CURB) applaud Governor Brown for commuting the sentences of 14 people and pardoning 56 to mark the Easter holiday, among them 7 were serving Life Without Parole (LWOP). These commutations follow the 19 commutations and 132 pardons granted by the Governor at Christmas. These commutations follow the 37 commutations the Governor has granted during his term, 17 for people serving LWOP.

“These unprecedented commutations indicate that the Governor recognizes that people have the capacity to change, grow and be rehabilitated, which an LWOP sentence denies.” noted Adrienne Roberts of CCWP.  “We are hopeful that over the course of his last year in office, Brown will continue to grant pardons and commutations, especially to the thousands of people serving LWOP sentences. Such a bold stance could serve as a model for commutation and sentencing reform throughout the country.”

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, over 5,000 people in California are serving LWOP.  Roberts continues “Life Without Parole sentencing is increasingly being challenged and limited across the United States. We believe that all people in California serving the inhumane LWOP sentence should be commuted to parole-eligible, allowing people a chance to go before the Parole Board.  UItimately, LWOP, a living death sentence, needs to be eliminated from the penal code.”

Ivette Alé of CURB points out that, “Black and Brown people are disproportionately sentenced to LWOP, revealing prosecutorial bias and racial discrimination. Of the nearly 200 people serving LWOP in California’s women’s prisons, the overwhelming majority are survivors of abuse, including intimate partner battering, childhood abuse, sexual violence and sex trafficking. Hearing the news of the Easter commutations offers a sense of hope in the direction of dropping LWOP sentences for good.” Today’s commutations included 3 people in women’s prisons, 2 serving LWOP.

 

A group of people with LWOP sentences at the Central California Women’s Facility reacted with excitement at news of the Easter commutations. “We are extremely humbled by Governor Brown’s act of grace. We have believed and persevered through despair and now we feel that a miracle of hope is transforming our lives.”

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For more information watch our new video and share widely!

DROP LWOP! LETTER TO GOVERNOR BROWN

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

We are writing to ask you to join with California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) in our statewide campaign to DROP LWOP and secure sentence commutations for all those serving Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP). LWOP is an inhumane sentence which denies people the possibility to rehabilitate and change.

We are asking Governor Brown to use his executive powers to commute the almost 5,000 people serving LWOP sentences — including nearly 200 women and transgender people in CA women’s prisons — to parole-eligible sentences. Because CCWP has advocated for the civil and human rights of people in CA women’s prisons for 22 years, we focus on the impact of life without parole sentencing on the 200 people serving LWOP in women’s prisons.

Will you join us? We are looking for organizations and individuals to sign on to the letter below as a first step in expressing support for this campaign.  Please feel free to contact info@womenprisoners.org or (415) 255-7036 x 4 with any comments, questions, or concerns.

Thank you,

California Coalition for Women Prisoners

 Dear Governor Brown,

As grassroots, advocacy, and social justice organizations, we are writing to urge you to commute the sentences of all people serving Life Without Parole (LWOP) in California’s prisons to parole-eligible sentences.

Life Without Parole sentencing is increasingly being challenged and limited across the United States. We believe that life without parole is inhumane. It denies that people have the capacity to change, grow and be rehabilitated, and thus is known as “the other death penalty” by those serving it and by their families.

As you know, many states, including California, are legislating against sentencing youth to Life Without Parole.[i] Now it is time to take action to mitigate the impact for all people sentenced to die in prison due to this endless punishment. While commuting a sentence does not guarantee release from prison, it does guarantee that each person will have the right to see the parole board in their lifetime, rather than being sentenced to a “living death.”

People of color are disproportionately sentenced to LWOP, revealing prosecutorial bias and racial discrimination.[ii] Of the nearly 200 people serving LWOP in CA women’s prisons, the overwhelming majority are survivors of abuse, including intimate partner battering, childhood abuse, sexual violence and sex trafficking. [iii] Additionally, the majority are first-time “offenders,” and had no record prior to being sentenced to Life Without Parole.

All 5,000 people serving LWOP in CA prisons are subjected to institutional discrimination, such as:

  • They are barred from rehabilitation programs, including the majority of state-run self-help programs because of their sentences.
  • Though they are required to pay restitution, they are only eligible for jobs that pay the lowest hourly wage, currently only eight cents per hour. Because they are barred from access to higher wage opportunities, they often cannot pay restitution, and this economic burden falls on their families.
  • They are ineligible for Elder Parole and Compassionate Release when aging and terminally ill.

We urge you to take a bold stance against Life Without Parole sentencing and let California serve as a model for the rest of our nation. Please continue to take leadership on this issue and commute all those sentenced to LWOP to parole-eligible sentences, initiate a process to eliminate life without parole from the California penal code, and provide people sentenced to LWOP with opportunities for rehabilitation and redemption.

Sincerely,

CLICK HERE TO SIGN ON TO THE LETTER TO DROP LWOP

THANK YOU AND PLEASE SHARE THIS LETTER!

Notes

[i] Senate Bill 9: Fair Sentencing for Youth. http://fairsentencingforyouth.org/legislation/senate-bill-9-california-fair-sentencing-for-youth/

[ii] “Racial Disparities in Sentencing,” American Civil Liberties Union, Hearing on Reports of Racism in the Justice System of the United States, Submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 153rd Session, October 27, 2014.
https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/141027_iachr_racial_disparities_aclu_submission_0.pdf

[iii] Data gathered by CCWP members incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility and California Institution for Women. This data reflects national statistics reported by the ACLU that nearly 60% of people in women’s prisons nationwide are survivors of physical or sexual abuse, and that survivors make up 94% of the population in some women’s prisons. “Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003,” American Civil Liberties Union. https://www.aclu.org/other/prison-rape-elimination-act-2003-prea?redirect=prisoners-rights-womens-rights/prison-rape-elimination-act-2003-prea

 

 

 

Support the Family of Denise Gomez!

denise-gomez

Please join CCWP in helping Denise Gomez’ family raise money for her funeral. Denise died by suicide two weeks ago while incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility.

CCWP had the honor of partnering with Denise on a health-fair at CCWF last year. Denise spoke powerfully at the health-fair and contributed to her community in many ways. We join a large network of people inside and outside of prison grieving Denise’s loss and demanding an end to prison conditions that continue to lead to tragic and preventable deaths.

Please donate to support Denise’s family in their grief and help them honor Denise as they wish. They hope to raise enough money to pay for a viewing so they can see Denise one last time. www.gofundme.com/to-bury-my-aunt-denise-gomez-2udutyc4

Proposition 62 and The Other Death Penalty

62_statementquote-1A Collective Statement

This statement was produced by A Living Chance: a storytelling project of California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), created with women and transgender people serving Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentences. This statement reflects conversations with our partners inside prison whose voices are too often omitted from public discourse on measures that directly affect them.

On November 8, 2016, Californians will vote on two propositions regarding the Death Penalty. Prop 62, the Justice That Works Act, would abolish the death penalty by replacing it with Life Without Parole (LWOP). Those currently on death row would lose their rights to use the appeal process and legal habeas to get their cases reviewed. Prop 62 would also require all people serving LWOP to pay 60% of their wages to a victim’s fund. Prop 66, the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act would speed up the review and decision process for death row appeals, resulting in a faster timeline for executions. It would also require more lawyers to take on capital appeals, whether or not they have experience with capital cases.

We strongly oppose the death penalty. We believe it is racist, classist and ableist, condemns many innocent people to death, and neither deters violence nor promotes rehabilitation. The Vision for Black Lives agenda accurately characterizes the death penalty as “designed to bring lynching into the courtroom” and as impacting primarily Black, Brown and poor people. We stand firmly against Prop 66.

We also strongly oppose LWOP, called “the other death penalty” by people serving this sentence. We believe LWOP is also racist, classist and ableist, condemns many innocent people to a slow living death, and neither deters violence nor promotes rehabilitation. The majority of people serving LWOP in California’s women’s prisons are survivors of abuse and were sentenced to LWOP as aiders and abettors of their abuser’s acts. We believe that LWOP relies on the intersections of racial terror and gendered violence.

For voters who oppose all forms of death sentences including LWOP, the choice between an initiative that replaces one form of death with another (Prop 62) and an initiative that speeds up executions (Prop 66) is hardly a choice at all. It is morally compromising to vote for Prop 62, which further criminalizes and demonizes our loved ones and creates a false hierarchy between forms of state-sanctioned death. However, we recognize that a decision to vote against Prop 62 is complicated by fear that Prop 66 will win. Ending the death penalty in California could be a powerful symbol for the rest of the country and represent a growing awareness of the injustices and inhumanity of incarceration and the criminal legal system as a whole. Every person who votes will need to make a difficult decision about two very problematic propositions.

We believe that both the death penalty and LWOP should be recognized as unjust and eliminated. One of our LWOP partners in prison, Amber states: “To reassure people that LWOP is a better alternative to death is misleading.” Rather than facing executions, people with LWOP will die a slow death in prison while experiencing institutional discrimination. People with LWOP cannot participate in rehabilitative programs, cannot work jobs that pay more than 8 cents an hour, and will never be reviewed by the parole board. We agree with the Vision for Black Lives policy goal to abolish the death penalty and we believe that true abolition of the death penalty includes abolishing LWOP and all sentencing that deprive people of hope.

When the death penalty was temporarily banned from 1972 to 1976 by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling all people then on death row had their sentences overturned or converted to life. Many of these people successfully paroled and are now contributing to their communities. We believe that as a society we must choose to reject death penalties of all forms. Although we are dismayed that this option is not on the November 2016 ballot, no matter what happens on election day we will continue the fight to abolish the death penalty and LWOP!

Commentary on Prop 62 From People Serving Life Without Parole

“There are women and men on death row who didn’t commit their crime and it would be an injustice to speed up the court process. LWOP is another death penalty sentence, a slow death. I want everyone to know that everyone on LWOP in the state of California [already] pays restitution. Funds are taken from the wages of an inmate or monies that are sent in from family and friends.” – Tammy

“If I had to choose one, I would choose Prop 62 but only because it is the lesser of two evils. Prop 66 just can’t be constitutional. As a practical matter, I hope neither passes.” – Amber

“I don’t think either [proposition] is enough. Last time death row [was abolished] inmates became lifers and some of those lifers are free today…so, why Life Without Parole? Why does society see LWOP as a suitable replacement? It’s still a death sentence. If death row becomes LWOP then LWOP should become life with a chance of parole.” – Amy

“We already work. Working a low wage like 8 cents an hour makes a tiny dent in restitution and only makes those working more dependent on the state to survive daily needs. An indigent LWOP would rely on the state or family (if still alive) for daily hygiene and basic needs. Higher restitution forces inmates to engage in criminal activity to tend to basic needs. Plus, a job is not rehabilitation. I’d rather have the requirement of self-help. Let’s rehabilitate human beings not treat them as trash.” – Amy

“If [Prop 62] passes anything [else] will fall upon deaf ears because [the lawyers] already feel victorious and like they have really assisted us. It stops the conversation because they feel like they’ve given us something. Lawyers and death penalty opponents can show they are fully engaged in the LWOP plight by working on another bill [for] LWOPs.” – Rae

“I don’t think [replacing Death Penalty with LWOP] is a solution. The ladies on death row sit there forever. LWOP…is an easier way to say death penalty.” – Sue

“I would like to see all bills pass for everyone. I believe everyone needs a second chance.” – LaToya

“Prove that this [proposition] is changing the system. This kind of change scares me. I’ve lost everything a long time ago. People that aren’t in prison need to sit down and listen. These sentences make us suicidal, make us go off the deep end. We are medicated to be manageable.” – Angel

“Yes, I would like to see the “Justice That Works Act” pass because nothing is solved by taking another life. Unless you’re in a losing situation (which I am as an LWOP) nothing is worse than knowing that this is forever. That no matter what, how hard you try and how much you’ve changed, you will still die in here…” – Boualy

“I feel that [replacing Death Penalty with LWOP] would work because it is a change and more people will rehabilitate and work towards giving back to society.” – Boualy

“[I’d like to see] legislation that actually works on rehabilitation or reform— we, as a society, are still focused on vengeance in my opinion.” – Amber

“LWOPs have never gotten any attention and I don’t see that changing. 60% restitution is just more punishment.” – Judith

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