to my father

by a young woman
misery loves company is what they say
who knows exactly when we will pay
don’t you see all the harm you caused
doing crazy shit and breaking laws
why is it you do the things you do?
make me look like the antagonist when it’s really you
you want your mentality to be like a peaceful dove
but hatred in your mind is what you’re full of
everyone puts up with your shit and lets it go
but now I’m gonna let you know
one minute this, the next you’re that
I refuse to fall into your trap
you are my blood and I love you so
but all this shit you gotta let go.

Through My Eyes

by Celeste “Jazz” Carrington, CCWF, death row
This poem is to all the mothers who have suffered at the hands of another. It was inspired from my own experienes with my mother being battered. I guess I speak for all the children who understand and love their mothers.
Today is a good day, there are no bruises…
Tomorrow who will know…
I’ve nursed your wounds, wiped your tears and held you as you trembled in fear.
Hoping the worst was over.
I’ve never looked down on you, you were and always will be strong in my eyes.
They say they love you, but they don’t know how…
You give all you have , but it’s not enough…
They lash out in rage, you become the receptacle of their anger
They tell you it’s for your own good.
You can’t leave because of the fear and love that paralyzes you.
They try to strip you of all they fear ? pride, self-respect and self-worth.
You look deep within and find that you are the strong one.
They are nothing more than insecure bullies. If being behind bars has freed you from them, then so be it.
You have always been the strong one
Now you rest as they too rest in peace

Honor Women Prisoners Who Dare to Fight

A Program for International Women’s Month
Video – Valley State Prison Security Housing Unit
Spoken Word by Aya deLeón
Corner Tour – Women’s Music Group
Third Eye on Girls and Juvenile Justice
Former Prisoners, Family & Friends
Join us to recognize the courage of the women who stood up to demand decent health care!
Saturday March 25, 7pm
Mission Neighborhood Center
362 Capp Street, San Francisco
$10 donation (no one turned away)
childcare provided
Sponsored by the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, 415-255-7036 ext. 4

Giving Girls An Opportunity

Lateefah Simon is the 22 year old executive director of the Center for Young Women’s Development, an independent grassroots non-profit located in the South of Market District of San Francisco. Below are excerpts from an interview which Bessa Kautz recently did for a National Radio Project show.
Lateefah: The Center for Young Women’s Development is an organization run for and by girls from the juvenile justice system and from the streets. We do a number of things, but the basis of it is we’re giving young women an economic opportunity to do social justice work. Young women from the streets and young women from the juvenile justice system often times are not given the opportunity to do movement building work, we’re not given an opportunity to really push some of the social structures in our communities. I came personally into the organization at 17, right off of probation and just struggling. And two years later I had the opportunity to think about what we were missing and I thought that work inside the jails was something that we really needed to do. So what we do is we honestly go out everyday and let girls know what’s going on, how we can fight and how we can bring them into different organizations if they so choose.
In San Francisco, what we’ve noticed in the past three to five years is that young women are being arrested at preposterous proportions for narcotics possession with the intent to sell. A lot of young women are trying to make money to feed their famlies and they’re out there and they’re selling dope, they’re trying to survive we’re finding that girls are being locked up for economical means because of an economic crisis among poor people of color. We’re seeing that if there are no well-paid, leadership, community-based ways for young women to flourish, because the education system is not cutting it, they need to have an alternative. And that alternative has been the streets.
The needs of young women are vast. From very early childhood sexual abuse to systemic poverty, lack of education, and lack of self worth. You know, we come out of our families feeling like nothing…There’s been a forgotten link in this whole conversation and debate about young people. People don’t talk about young women. When they’re talking about young women they’ll usually refer to them as a sidekick to something that’s going on involving young men. We visited the California Youth Authority and the small amount of women they had there, they were doing the laundry for the boys. Young women are being given horrible sentences and being sent up to Chowchilla and Valley State and these are 16 and 17 year old young women and people aren’t looking at the core issues that most of these young women have children…You know boys are often times given the opportunity to talk to the judge. A lot of times, we’re seeing that girls are not given that opportunity…
We think the significance of the project is that all the girls who are running it have been locked up, have been behind bars. At the Center for Young Women’s Development, we’ve reduced the recidivism rate of the young women we work with by 100%. No one has gone back to jail in the past 2 years. And how have we done that? Because if you give an opportunity to young women to organize their community, to get paid for it, to move boundaries, to call city hearings, to confront the police commission, there is a sense of power in that. And, you know, why would you wanna go back? Because you know you have a community of strong activists, strong sisters that are around you.

Proposition 21: What About the Girls?

by Julie Posadas, J.D.
As the public debates whether to punish or protect young offenders, often lost in this discussion is the plight of girls in the juvenile justice system. Since the majority of youth arrested are boys, it’s not surprising that Proposition 21 was designed to address the criminal experiences of young men. Current research on female juvenile delinquency shows that girls not only enter the criminal system for different reasons than boys, but once in the system they spend more time in custody and receive less rehabilitative services than their male counterparts. Since the Initiative does not provide prevention services, the negative impact it may have on female juvenile offenders may be worse than we realize.
As a direct result of laws like Proposition 21, the increased criminalization of young women has made them the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice system. Research on female juvenile delinquency shows that the overwhelming majority of girls in the juvenile justice system are victims of physical and sexual abuse. Abuse in a girls’ background highly correlates with her delinquent behavior. According to several studies, girls who report sexual abuse were more likely to get pregnant, be depressed, smoke, drink alcohol, and use drugs. A girl’s pathway to drug addiction often leads her to sell drugs, steal, trade sex, and prostitute to support her habit.
Once a young woman enters the juvenile justice system, additional problems emerge. According to a March 1992 study of female juvenile offenders, girls have so few prevention services that they often become chronic users of the juvenile system. Without prevention services such as counseling, mentoring or academic tutoring, many girls end up returning to juvenile hall on probation violations rather than new criminal charges. Whereas boys are given more prevention and intervention services such as anger management and rites of passage programs, a young women is often ignored until she has racked up enough probation violations and/or new criminal charges to place her in a group home or juvenile detention facility. Since many girls end up running away from these establishments, they are often pulled into criminal activity in order to survive on the street.
Since girls in the current juvenile system often receive more punishment than prevention, their plight resembles what would happen to all youth if Proposition 21 became law. There are also specific provisions in the Initiative that would not only bring more girls into the criminal system, but also keep them there for life. Girls tend to commit crimes that are relationship-oriented, meaning they will hold drugs and guns, steal, sell drugs, and prostitute for a boyfriend (usually an older man). By working in concert with men and boys, girls will be more vulnerable to conspiracy charges and being labeled as a gang member. Proposition 21 will increase the amount of girls entering the adult system for violent crimes. Because it provides no prevention funds, this Initiative will both severely reduce the small percent of rehabilitation services that currently exist for girls, and negate the overwhelming need for innovative new programs that could truly make a difference. Faced with these significant obstacles, if a young woman is successful in leaving the juvenile system, without confidentiality of her juvenile records, it will be much harder for her to find employment, get accepted into college, and turn her life around.
In order to protect girls from the prison industrial complex, it is imperative that we increase the quality and quantity of early intervention services. Prevention programs are estimated to be at least twice as effective and significantly cheaper than “3 strikes” laws designed to increase incarceration. These programs must be gender-specific in addressing all the diverse and complex issues girls in trouble face. Families, whenever possible, must be included in these services. By investing in programs promoting life skills, cultural awareness, counseling, tutoring, mentoring, employment opportunities, etc., we will not only save the lives of young women, but future generations to come.
Julie Posadas, J.D. is a prevention specialist with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. She teaches law to youth detained in San Francisco’s Juvenile Hall and advocates for victim services and the rights of girls in the juvenile justice system.