To Maria and Rosario
Maria Suarez and Rosario Muñoz, two Latina
survivors of abuse, both recently won release on
parole but were immediately placed in federal
detention because they are not U.S. citizens and
have a prison record. They each mounted a strong
campaign against deportation, but despite the
efforts of their families, advocates and U.S.
Congresswomen, the Department of Homeland
Security has deported both of them to Mexico.
Each will appeal this decision in the future.
For their ability to articulate and transform
their experience of abuse, for their unceasing
fight to win release, and for their courage to
stand up to the Homeland Security office and
assert their human right to stay in this country
with their families, we dedicate this issue to
Maria and Rosario. Bring them back home!

Before and After: Prison Continues Domestic Abuse

Debi Zuver, Central California Women’s Facility
II had just gone through so much? A man, my
abuser, threatened to kill me and I had defended
myself. I was semi-conscious when the cops
pulled me out of the closet I was in and the next
thing I knew was that I was being slammed on the
floor and then stuck on a gurney. All this
happened so fast I couldn’t comprehend what was
going on.
Once I got to jail, I was stripped by two women
officers and then was left naked on the floor of
the cell while a man from “mental health”
services kept looking in to see if I had tried to
kill myself. Every 15 minutes they would come by
to ask various weird questions which were meant
to establish my mental ability.
Finally I was taken to the shower to clean up
because I wouldn’t bathe for four days since the
shower was in stalls placed in the center of a
unisex mental health module. It was very
degrading – I no longer had any privacy
whatsoever! Then I was placed in an observation
cell which was all windows with the light on all
the time. I felt like a bug under a microscope.
Because the tank was in the mental health module,
there was constant yelling and screaming and the
noise kept echoing making it even louder than it
already was. And the cops would stand outside
the women’s cells, women who already had mental
health problems, and whisper horrible things to
them, trying to make them think that these things
were the voices in their heads.
When I was finally brought out to go to court, I
was in waist chains with both hands cuffed at my
waist. This was the beginning of my understanding
how the domestic violence I had experienced would
be continued again and again by the prison system.

Legal corner:Bill of Interest to Prisoners

by Cassie Pierson, Staff Attorney, Legal Services for Prisoners with
A brief search of the legislative web site, gov, turned up several bills
addressing various issues of interest to
prisoners, their families, friends, and
advocates. This column focuses on four bills
that CCWP supports in addition to SB 1385, which
is discussed elsewhere in this newsletter.
AB 1866 (Leno) and SB 1164 (Romero) address the
issue of access to prisoners by the media. Both
of these bills have language in them which will
allow a journalist to receive “confidential”
correspondence from prisoners, to conduct
prearranged interviews with specified prisoners
as well as randomly selected prisoners, and to
bring pens, papers, audio and video recording
devices with them to the interview. Similar
“media access” bills have previously passed the
legislature but were vetoed by governors Wilson
and Davis.
SB 1287 (Kuehl) requires that prior to accepting
a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to any
offense punishable as a crime, the court must
state the following on the record: “If you are a
custodial parent, you are hereby advised that
conviction of the offense for which you have been
charged may have consequences for your parental
rights.” The defendant can then request
additional time to consider the appropriateness
of a plea. After January 1, 2005, if the court
fails to advise the defendant as required, and
the defendant can show that the conviction may
lead to termination of his or her parental
rights, the court shall vacate the judgment and
allow the defendant to withdraw the pleas of
guilty or nolo contendere, and enter a plea of
not guilty. If there is no record that a person
was given the advisement by the court, it will be
presumed that no advisement was given.
AB 1946 (Steinberg) addresses the issue of
compassionate release. This bill provides that a
prisoner who has a terminal illness and is given
a prognosis of less than 12 months to live and
who is not a threat to public safety, is eligible
for early release. In addition, there is
language in the bill that requires the warden or
the warden’s representative to keep the prisoner
and the prisoner’s family informed about the
prisoner’s medical condition and about
compassionate release proceedings. If the
prisoner is granted a compassionate release, she
is to be released within 48 hours of the court’s
order with her state identification, medical
records, medications, and property in her
AB 1796 (Leno) would permit those convicted of
drug felonies to qualify for food stamps.
Specifically, the bill provides that California
will opt out of the lifetime federal ban from
food stamps for persons who were convicted of a
drug felony. While California declined to
include an opt-out provision in 1997 when it
implemented welfare reform, there are several
states, including Maine, Oregon, New York, and
Ohio that opted out completely. Bills similar to
AB 1796 were introduced in the past and were
passed by the Assembly and Senate only to be
vetoed by Gov. Davis.
These are only a few of the many bills that are
being developed in the Assembly and Senate. In
the past few months there has been an increased
awareness of the corruption present within the
CDC and CYA that may lead to more positive
legislation in the future. Many newspaper
articles have appeared and legislators in
Sacramento have held hearings about the state of
corrections in California. CCWP encourages you
to keep informed about what is happening in the
legislature and to call or write your
representatives and tell them you support the
above bills!

Editorial:Domestic violence, institutional violence: Making The Connections

Isolation, intimidation, humiliation, coercion,
blame, emotional abuse sound familiar? These
are some of the common methods used by abusers to
maintain control over the women they batter. Many
of these same techniques are used by prison staff
on a regular basis to maintain control of the
women they “guard”. When a woman is told that if
she behaves herself she can get more hygiene
products or a better job, when she has to endure
a cross-gender pat search, when she suffers a
barrage of degrading words on a daily basis, when
she is denied medical care because an MTA doesn’t
like her or when she is repeatedly put in the SHU
because she is not cooperative and docile ?she is
experiencing the same types of abuse that
survivors of domestic violence report. Studies
show that the majority of women prisoners have
experienced ongoing abuse before coming to
prison, so they are particularly vulnerable to
manipulation by such techniques which have
victimized them before.
Yet despite the prisons’ efforts to keep women
submissive and self-hating, many women transform
their experience of personal and institutional
violence and make the leap from victims into
conscious fighters for their rights.
Incarcerated survivors who come together and
share their experiences and their pain in groups
like Convicted Women Against Abuse at CIW, have
gained personal insight and the strength to fight
unjust sentences and win their long overdue
release. Other women have exposed the ways in
which Parole Board hearings are often nothing
more then sadistic reenactments of the original
offense primarily designed to inflame a woman’s
guilt. And every day when women help each other
write letters, file a 602 or just sit and listen
to another’s problems, they are helping to break
the cycle which breeds personal and institutional
Over the past couple of decades, the public has
become more familiar with the reality of domestic
violence, but too often people see the government
and law enforcement as the answer to this
pervasive problem. But can a government/state
which is based on violence, which wages continual
war against other nations, and here at home
imposes the violence of poverty, miseducation and
policy brutality on communities of color — can
this government be expected to genuinely oppose
domestic violence?
Women of color have led the way in insisting that
to achieve real change the women’s anti-violence
movement needs to understand the intersections of
domestic, state and community violence, and the
ways in which these different levels feed each
other. To us in CCWP, this means supporting
concrete strategies like the extension of the
habeas bill, SB 1385, which would offer more
survivors of domestic abuse the ability to go
back into court and win release (see page 5). At
the same time, it means we need to develop a long
term, holistic vision for eradicating the roots
of abuse and violence – in the prisons, in the
streets of our communities, and across the world.
* * *
The Surgeon General has reported for at least 10
years that battering is the single largest cause
of injury to U.S. women.
Each day between 5 and 11 women are killed by a
male intimate partner, between 1800 and 4000 per
A 1995 study of women in the California prison
system found that 71% of incarcerated women had
experienced ongoing physical abuse prior to the
age of 18 and that 62% experienced ongoing
physical abuse after 18 years of age.
As of 1994 there were approximately 600 women in
California prisons and approximately 4000 women
in prisons nationwide convicted of killing an
abusive partner.
[Most of these facts were compiled by the
National Clearinghouse in Defense of Battered
Women, Philadelphia, Pa.]
Statistics on verbal, psychological, and
emotional abuse are not collected, or when they
are mentioned, it’s only to point out how few of
those kinds of abuses are ever reported.


Aislamiento, intimidacion, humillación, culpa,
coacción, abuso amocional suena familiar? Estos
son algunos de los metodos mas communes usados
por los abusadores para mantener el control sobre
la mujer matratada. Muchas de las mismas tecnica
son usadas por el personal de las prisiones de
una manera regular para mantener control de las
mujeres que ellos “cuidan”. Cuando una mujer le
dicen de comportarse bien y asi poder obtener mas
productos de hygiene o un mejor trabajo, cuando
una mujer tiene que soportar la vejación de la
revisión física, cuando ellas sufren el
degradante acoso de preguntas, cuando a ellas se
le niega el cuidado medico porque un MTA no les
gusta ellas o cuando ella es puesta repetidamente
en SHU porque ella no es cooperativa ni docil.
Ella esta experimentando el mismo tipo de abuso
que las sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica
reportan. Estudios muestran que la mayoria de
mujeres en prisión, son particularmente
vulnerables a la manipulación con tales tecnicas
que las habian abusado a ellas anteriormente.
A pesar de los esfuerzos de las prisiones para
mantener a las mujeres sumisas y con un
auto-odio, muchas mujeres transforman su
experiencia de violencia personal e institucional
y hace n el cambio de victimas a luchadoras
concientes de sus derechos humanos. Las
sobrevivientes de encarcelamiento que se llegan a
juntar y comparten sus experiencias y su dolor en
grupos como Mujeres Convictas Contra el Abuso en
CIW, han Ganado fortaleza y comprendimiento
personal para luchar por las injustas sentencias
y ganar su plazo vencido para su salida. Otras
mujeres han expuesto las diferentes formas en las
cuales las juntas de las audiencias de libertad
condicional son muchas veces nada más sadicos
dise_ados para inflamar la culpa de las mujeres.
Cada día cuando las mujeres se ayudan mutuamente
para escribir cartas, llenar la forma 602, o
solamente sentarse y escuchar los problemas de
las otras, ellas estan ayudando a romper el ciclo
el cual fomenta la violencia personal e
Durante las dos decadas pasadas, el publico a
llegado a conocer mas la realidad de la violencia
domestica, pero muy frecuentemente la gente ve al
gobierno y al reforzamiento de la ley como la
respuesta a este persisitente problema. Pero
puede el Estado/gobierno, el cual esta basado en
violencia, el cual continuanmente emprende
guerras contra otras naciones, y aqui en casa
impone la violencia de la pobreza, falta de
educación y brutalidad policial sobre comunidades
de color – puede esperarse de este gobierno la
genuina oposición a la violencia doméstica.
Mujeres de color han lidereado la via de
insistencia para lograr verdaderos cambios en el
Movimiento de Mujeres contra la Violencia, se
necesita entender la intersección entre violecia
de Estado, de comunidad y doméstica y los
diferentes niveles una alimenta a la otra. Para
nosotra en CCWP, esto significa apoyo concreto en
estrategias como la extension de la iniciativa
del habeas, SB 1385, el cual ofrecería a las
sobrevivientes de violencia domestica la
posibilidad de regresar a la corte y ganar su
libertad (ver la barra al costado). Al mismo
tiempo, esto significa que necesitamos
desarrollar una vision holistica de largo plazo
para erradicar de raiz el abuso y la violencia en
las prisiones, en las calles de nuestras
comunidades, y en todo el mundo.

Human Rights Day Rally

On December 10th 2003 — International Human
Rights Day — rallies demanding that Governor
Schwarzenegger, Bring Our Prisoners Home! took
place in San Francisco and San Diego. In San
Francisco over 75 people gathered at the State
Building. Petitions containing 4,000 signatures,
which had been circulated by women prisoners all
over California, were presented to the Governor’s
representative by a delegation of family members,
former prisoners and advocates. The
representative listened closely to the points
that the delegation raised regarding parole,
three strikes and compassionate release and
promised to pass the concerns on to the Governor.
In the street, the crowd listened to a variety of
moving speakers, including former prisoner Alice
Moore who insisted that drug convictions don’t
mean that you are a bad person or should be
discriminated against. An inspired hip-hop
performance speaking to prison injustices caused
people walking and driving by to stop and find
out what was going on.
In San Diego, CCWP and other groups held a silent
vigil in support of the release of women
prisoners including Jeri Becker (who has since
been released) and Theresa Cruz. A former parole
officer and a minister from Families to Amend
Three Strikes voiced their hope that
Schwarzenegger would release more people from
Building off the December 10th rally, Bay Area
CCWP has joined with All of Us or None to
organize a series of Peace and Justice Summits in
neighborhoods around the Bay Area. The Summits
will be a chance for people from the community –
people who have been in prison or whose parents
or family members are in prison – to tell their
stories to elected officials and demand change.

SB 1385: Expanding Habeas Corpus Provisions

Olivia Wang, Free Battered Women
Free Battered Women is thrilled to report that SB
1385 passed through the Senate Public Safety
Committee on March 30th, 2004.
The bill (authored by Senator Burton and
co-authored by Senators Kuehl, Romero, and
Assembly Member Jackson), expands the class of
domestic violence survivors who are eligible for
habeas relief. It also changes language about
“Battered Women’s Syndrome” to the more favored
term “battering and its effects”. Current law (PC
1473.5) allows survivors of domestic violence who
killed their batterers prior to 1992 to file
habeas corpus petitions challenging their
convictions. SB 1385 expands relief to include
not just survivors who defended themselves, but
all survivors whose offenses were directly
related to the abuse they faced (for
example, survivors who were coerced by their
batterers to commit crimes). Among other proposed
changes, SB 1385 also extends the current 1992
cut-off date to 1996. For more information go to

Where I Come From

Stormy Ogden, Tule River Yokuts & Kashaya Pomo, Ex-prisoner & Survivor
Where I come from
I come from those tears
that my mom shed as she hid in the fields
her belly round with life
As my dad chased after her
to beat her once again
because he was drunk
I come from that anger
that my dad holds in his heart
because he was left behind
to be raised by a white family
because his mother died giving him life
I come from the pain
of these two people that had the cards stacked against them
from the beginning
because she was a white woman
and he was an Indian man
I come from that bitter-sweet love
of these two people
that brought a half-breed child
into this world
Where I come from
I come from that burning
as the first swallow of whiskey
slides down my throat
taking me along with it for 18 years
I come from that shame and fear
as I sit in a bath full of cold water
washing the blood away
from my torn and beaten 12 year old body
after 4 boys raped me
I come from that special place
that I go to as the ones that say
they would always love me
hits, kicks, shoots, and rapes me
one more time
I come from that blood
that runs down my fingers
as I slide that razor blade
across my wrist
one more time
Where I come from
I come from too many bars
and back seats of cars
too many lovers that had no names
and always
not enough whiskey
I come from
jails, prisons, mental institutions
boarding schools
the reservation system, the mission system
extermination, assimilation, relocation, self-determination
all meaning
I come from
I will never forget you my Sisters
as I leave them behind at the gate
Where I come from
I come from
I’m Indian too,
I just do not know what tribe
can you teach me how to be Indian
can you give me an Indian name
can you take me to a sweat lodge
what do you mean that you will not take me
to ceremonies
Where I come from
I come from the water
that travels over the rocks
that my Auntie listens to
because they teach her the songs
that will heal our people
I come from hot acorn soup and dried seaweed
that our women made
to feed the people
I come from the sounds
of the elderberry clapper sticks
that our men play
as the women dance upon the lands
I come from
that pebble that Raven
carried in his mouth
then dropped on the land
to give to my people

Why Philosophy?

Urszula Wislanka
The theme for this Fire Inside is domestic and
state violence. All violence hurts. And while
the physical pain may pass with time, women
prisoners have shown us how they deal with the
more insidious results of violence: the attempted
destruction of their sense of self. Most women
prisoners experienced tremendous oppression and
self-doubt. Yet the women who talk to us have
reconstructed themselves, redefined who they are.
One woman, for example, said that when she came
to prison, she felt she was not the person she
wanted to be. There were parts of her that led
her to drugs and behavior she did not want to
condone in herself. While in prison she turned to
the practice of her religion, Native American, to
cleanse herself, to find balance and to become a
new person. It was through the practice of her
religion that she re-created herself as she also
created a community of which she wanted to be a
part: through participating in ceremonies such as
sweats and feasts and through making religious
objects to give to others. She felt she gained so
much that she also wanted other Native American
women in prison to have an opportunity to do
that. She turned into a fighter for the religious
rights of Native American women in prison. She
turned her own inward development towards others.
What she has done is two-fold. 1) She set out to
improve herself. And she found that 2) in the
process of changing herself she became a part of,
she also created, a community that could nurture
the “new” self, a community she contributed to
and wanted to share with other women. She found
her individual “I”, included a sense of “we”, a
collectivity that was not opposed to her sense of
self, but integral to its creation. Her new
definition of herself as an individual included a
creation of a community. Such a transformation on
the part of several women led to the creation of
CCWP, as part of a community outside supporting
the changes inside. The “we” can get expanded to
include the whole society and its prison system.
The definition of who we are as human beings is
the work of philosophy. What comes from the
stories of women prisoners is that philosophy, in
this total sense, isn’t practiced only by
professors sitting in ivory towers spinning ideas
in their heads, unrelated to the “real” world.
All of us as human beings are capable of
practicing philosophy. We are all able to ask the
question “who am I” and provide an answer. If we
do it honestly, we may not like our own answers.
So we may want to change ourselves to become the
person we would want to be. This process of
asking oneself basic questions leads not only to
“finding” oneself, who one wants to be. It leads
to changes in one’s activity, how one relates to
others. It also gives a lie to the standpoint
that we are only isolated individuals, with no
control over what connects us.
Taking back the process of collectively defining
who we are as human beings can help us to finally
transform the way we all live. But in order to
realize that transformation, we-each one for
herself-has to be able to single out aspects of
our concrete experience, i.e., to make
abstractions or categories, to decide for
ourselves what our activity means for us and in
the social context.
This is the practice of philosophy, which is
theoretical. Theory means being able to look at
all the experiences of concrete life and being
able to abstract from them the principles that
define my “I”, who I am, and understand how my
actions create my “I” not just as an isolated
individual, but in a community, a “we” that is no
longer just in opposition to who “I” am but is
clearly my creation.
It is the transformation of the way in which a
society connects the “I” and the “we” that can
lead to a new society, fundamentally different,
one in which we are finally able to fully
consciously practice the creation of our
humanity. Violence that is so much a part of this
society, forces not just prisoners but all of us
to find ways to change the whole as we are
changing ourselves.

To CCWP Visiting Team

Anna Bell Chapa, CCWF
You both do so much for others
Rest assured none of it goes unnoticed
Your kindness comes from within
It shines through almost effortlessly
And with little intent.
Between the two of you
You have all my appreciation and thanks.
You’ve brought me great happiness –
the generosity you’ve shown
is limitless and cherished.
Your thoughtful and selfless gestures
Are truly definitive of all that you are.
Your hearts and personalities
Exude unfathomable kindness –
thanks for everything.
But my greatest thanks go out to you
Not for what you have done
But for all that you are
quite simply!!
Thanks for being you.
January 2004