Dedication

This issue of Fire Inside is dedicated to Karla Faye Tucker, born November 18, 1958, murdered by the state of Texas February 3, 1998. She was the first woman executed in the United States since 1984.
As we are going to press we got the news that Claudia Reddy died February 21, 1998, at the Madera County Hospital. See story in this issue.

Family visits, privilege or right?

Women in CIW
Morale on the yard amongst lifers and long-termers affected by the termination of their Family Living Unit (FLU) visits privlege is definitely down.
Serving a life sentence takes years of mental and emotional adjustments. It is not easy to leave your children, family and loved ones behind and try to begin a life in a completely unfamiliar environment of control, degradation, dehumanization. We are stripped of our pride, self-esteem and self-worth.
Not only do we go through traumatic changes, so do our children, loved ones and famlies. Our only source of pulling together and holding on to family unity and strength are our FLUs. They are our incentive to do the best we can while incarcerated – to earn the privilege of spending 72 hours with our families and loved ones.
It enrages us that this privilege has been taken away based on the prejudiced, pre-judged misconception that those visits are primarily conjugal visits – inferring sex visits. We have been discriminated against and suffered for years being compared to men, when in fact we are different, our crimes were committed for and under different circumstances. We are supposed to be the role models and nurturers, so the system sets an example of us.
Now again, we are being compared to men – we resent the fact that the truth is not being told – thus not heard. Only a few (about 5%) of the FLU visits here at CIW are husband-and-wife-only visits (a pregnancy has never resulted from these visits). They are not merely sex visits, but a time to be together to continue working on love, respect and support through quality time spent together in a family setting.
We, as women, mothers, children, grandmothers, need to spend time with our children and families. How do we tell them that they are not important to our lawyers, that they do not care that we may NEVER hold, hug, kiss or share special moments ever again? How do we begin to work on our problems in a noisy visiting room – then put them on hold until the next scheduled visiting day? Tell them, I can’t touch or hold you; it is against the rules? Where is the continuity, the peace, the quiet time, the time to disagree, to teach, to nurture, to learn, to share, to pray, to comfort – to love? These feelings and emotions cannot be done in a public place, where you cannot give in to your emotions or feelings.
Our FLU visits are not only for solving problems and growing emotionally. They are also used for rebonding and holding on to the family closeness and unity. We cook, clean, watch TV, listen to the radio, pamper each other, play, laugh, etc.
The women of CIW do a lot for the community (Voices from Within, SOS, Yes I Can, Project Interchange, Victim Services, fund drives, Christmas projects). With the loss of our FLUs, it has taken the heart out and the women no longer feel a part of the community.
Without these FLU visits, many are feeling hopeless, that our life sentences have been changed to death sentences. We are devastated.

A Day in One Prisoner’s Life…

Marcia Bunny, CCWF
Typical Weekday
5:00 am: Get up; boil water for coffee and oatmeal (using a coil-immersion heater); while water is heating, do hair and organize toiletries for shower; at approximately 5:30 am, enter shower.
5:45 am: Dress, do make-up, put belongings away; eat; read devotional materials.
6:30 am: Be ready for release to “chow hall” – box lunches are handed out at breakfast, so I go in to at least get milk and a piece of fruit. Return to housing unit and wait to be released for work.
7:30 am: Work release. Report to security checkpoint (“work exchange”), show ID to officers who check each person off against a daily computer printout of authorized workers. Walk to work site.
7:45 am: Report to work. I am a clerical worker in the prison’s education department. My tasks vary considerably, but are almost always performed on a computer, in MS Word or MS Excel.
11:30 am – 12:00 pm: Lunch break. We are permitted to eat at our desks, or go outside. I stay at my desk and use the time to scan the online tutorials to enhance my computer skills.
12:00 pm: Continue with tasks for the day.
3:45 pm: Dismissal from work; return through security checkpoint, getting pat-searched in the process (a daily occurrence — usually the officer is male); return to housing unit.
4:00 pm: Locked into living quarters for count time; gather/arrange materials for evening session in law library.
4:30 pm: Count time. Must be seated on bed and observed by staff.
5:00 pm: (With luck!) count clears. Release to day room to await release for dinner. (I never go.) I rush to officers’ station to sign up for the law library, then wait until it’s time to leave.
5:55 pm: Depart to law library. If I don’t have to wait long at the gate, it’s about a 10-minute walk.
6:00 pm – 7:50 pm: Law library time: research, read the legal publications, such as Daily Recorder.
7:50 pm: Return to housing unit; shower; do hand laundry; organize clothing, etc., for the next day.
9:00 pm: Bed, with recreational reading as a de-stressing tool. (This “rule” has saved my sanity over the last few years!)
10:00 pm – 10:15 pm: Zz – zzz – zz…

HIV/AIDS in Prison Project closes February 13; reopens as part of California Prison Focus

That’s right folks. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to obtain foundation funding to continue our project at Catholic Charities of the East Bay. The good news is they will continue the work on a volunteer, part-time basis as part of California Prison Focus. It is an organization dedicated to fighting the repressive and brutal security housing unit (lockdown) conditions faced by so many prisoners around the state. CPF is adding a special committee on HIV in prison issues.
To contact Judy Greenspan, or others working on the committee write to:
HIV in Prison (HIP) Committee
California Prison Focus
2489 Mission Street, #28
San Francisco, CA 94110
phone: 510 655-2931
email: judy@igc.org
They need your help. They are starting from the beginning again and need

  • volunteers to help (once a month) answer letters
  • donations!
  • office supplies and equipment (especially computers and file cabinets)
  • bulk copies of HIV education materials and newsletters to send inside.

Does Long Hair Threaten Prison Security?

In December 1997, the California Department of Corrections passed “emergency” regulations seriously restricting prisoners’ rights to have long hair, earrings and fingernail polish and affecting other so-called grooming standards. There was, of course, no emergency, only a continuing effort by the CDC to dehumanize prisoners and further isolate them from the rest of society.
The CDC has swung in its policies from any semblance of rehabilitation to being purely punitive.
To make their policies palatable to the public, they must dehumanize the prisoners. A media ban, preventing the media from entering prisons and interviewing particular prisoners, is designed to prevent the public from seeing human beings affected by these policies. Other programs, such as family visits, under the excuse that they are “conjugal” visits and a sex privilege for inmates, are also under attack. Family visits allow mothers to touch their children. With
out that fundamental nurturing, the link between a mother and her children, already strained by the forced separation, is further jeopardized for both of them.
Plans for future “emergencies” include removing many lawbooks from prison law libraries, removing weight lifting equipment from the yards, random drug testing of prisoners, ending quarterly packages and reducing good time for prisoners who actively pursue too many lawsuits.
CCWP joined many religious, cultural and prison activist organizations in denouncing the so-called “emergency grooming regulations.” Following is the statement one of our members made at the CDC hearing:
“CCWP is particularly concerned with the situation that women prisoners face in California.
“The so-called grooming standards are part of a longstanding policy which has developed in the CDC to strip back the Prisoners’ Bill of Rights which was formulated in the 1970s under Governor Jerry Brown as a response to a militant prison movement as well as growing outside support. Since that time, and particularly in the last few years, the state has pulled back from this Bill of Rights. The CDC has rescinded the Bill of Rights; has instituted a media ban policy which means that the news media is not able to enter the prisons and interview individual prisoners; has cut back significantly on family visits; has begun x-raying visitors in several institutions; has generated these so-called grooming policies; and now we hear about the possibility of abandoning quarterly packages and changing uniforms. At the same time, the prisons become more and more crowded, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association grows more and more powerful, and the budget of the CDC expands in leaps and bounds.
“One of the things that strikes me most about these so-called grooming standards is the CDC’s obsession with defining and protecting the differences between men and women. Use of the terms “flamboyant,” “masculinize” and “de-feminize” shows some of the real concern here. There are differences between prisoners, including differences of sexuality and sexual identity. Male prisoners who are more “feminine” as well as female prisoners who are more “masculine” should be protected, rather than forced to fit into molds that the CDC has determined are normal.
“There are clear issues of religious and cultural beliefs regarding individual grooming practices. We believe that the CDC is trying to make a very clear point ? that to maintain order in totally overcrowded and inhumane institutions, they must dehumanize the people within them. Their goal is to prove to the public and to the prisoners themselves that these men and women are nothing more than mirror images of each other. That individual differences between them are bad and that a faceless mass is what they are keeping behind these walls. In reading these proposed regulations I am reminded of photographs from concentration camps; where people’s individual features are lost in a mass of similarly dressed, clothed and (un)groomed people.
“The women and men in California’s prisons are not faceless – they are our mothers, our daughters, our brothers and our sons. They have done the crime; they are doing the time. Let that be punishment enough.”