For Angela: After she is told she has cervical cancer

Poem for ?Angela?, W_____ After she is told she has cervical cancer
Maisha Quint
behind prison perimeter fences
huddled inside
a cinderblock cell
you sit and do not scream
dig fingers deep
into your palms
indent half-moons
of cinched skin
quick ragged
as needle-thin pain
shoots through
your abdomen
you do not scream
even after
your period
one month longer
than it should
the prison doctor
dismisses it as
and you tell me
about the first surgery
how your body collapsed
onto the concrete walk
how a guard
your crumpled figure
dumped you
into the back of an ambulance
and after this
you discover
some surgeon
your womb
sliced off
two thirds of your cervix
didn’t bother
to close
the gaping hole
how did you not scream?
and after this
you finally understand
you wake-up
in pools of red
blood clots
down your legs
and after
another doctor
spreads your thighs
his hands up
your vagina
and stuffs gauze
into the remains
of your cervix
the bleeding
starts again
one week later
forces you
to pull
length upon length
of bloody cotton
from your womb
how did you not scream?
and after this
you crawl
on hands and knees
soaked in sweat
beg the prison nurse
please please
i still bleed
is not
and after all this
your throat
still closes
around your screams
can’t quite
push out
the pain of lying on your back
shackled to a stretcher
and after this
you swallow silence
like the motrin
doctors give you
to cure your cancer
your cervix
will never
be whole
and after all this
when you find
that there are
no sounds songs silences
to match
this terror
i’ll know
not to ask
how did you not scream?
i’ll do it
for you

Health: The Health Effects of Prison Torture

It’s Your Health: The health effects of prison torture
Pam Fadem
?The physical scars heal, but the mental scars stay.?
This comment, made by a sister who has lived inside the walls at CCWF for a long time, goes to the heart of what torture in California?s prison does to the women, men-and the young sisters and brothers in the CYA- on a daily basis. This is the most profound impact of torture- Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). When most of us hear about PTSD we think of soldiers who have been on the battlefield, directly impacted by a recognized, international war. People in prison are also survivors of war-a war on their humanity. And many are survivors of torture, who experience PTSD just as severely as the soldiers coming back from Iraq. We don?t use the word torture lightly. We look to the stories shared by our sisters inside, and to internationally respected human rights groups that have written about the inhumane treatment in US prisons. In 1991, Human Rights Watch issued a report, Prison Conditions in the United States, which documented denial of medical care, sexual abuse of women prisoners by guards among other examples of unacceptable conditions that violate the UN Standard Minimal Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted in 1955. Amnesty International reported in their 1998 report Rights For All that women at Valley State had been locked down in the SHU, or been threatened with the SHU if they filed against the sexual abuse of guards. The impact of war- whether on the traditional battlefield, or the ?battlefield? of prisons- takes its toll on the families and communities of the survivors, too.
How do people survive and recover from the torture of prisons? By building on a belief in themselves, in their own humanity and dignity. With the love and support of family, friends and community, from others who have also survived similar conditions. With the knowledge that no one EVER deserves to be treated this way. And by gaining strength from and finding community in a political movement that ends the mass incarceration of people of color and the poor, that demands justice for all of our people. All of Us or None (see their contact info below), a prisoner advocacy organization made up of former prisoners, families and supporters, offers support here in California. Also, the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (contact their website: provides information about specialized programs devoted to caring for survivors of torture and is another resource for people coming out of prison.
For more information: or call Yvonne Cooks, Linda Evans, or Dorsey Nunn at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children 415-255-7036 x377.

Family Visiting Day

CCWP sponsors Family Visiting Day this fall!
Do you have family members in the San Francisco Bay Area that need help coming to visit you? Would your family members and friends in the Bay Area like to connect with other family members of women prisoners at CCWF and VSPW?
If you are at Valley State Prison for Women or Central California Women?s Facility and your family and/or close friends are in the San Francisco Bay Area, then this day is for you!
On one weekend day in January (the specific date has not yet been determined) we will be driving family members and friends down to visit women prisoners at VSPW and CCWF.
We will drive as many people as possible, but if we have an overwhelming response, we may only be able to honor a portion of the requests and/or may need to limit the number of visitors per person.
If you would like to participate send us the information below by October 30th (we cannot process requests postmarked after this date).
o Your name, W#, Housing #
o Contact information of each family member (name, address, phone, relationship, age, special needs, how long it?s been since you?ve seen this person)
o Please rank the people you?d like to see in order of priority.
o Please write a brief statement about why a family visit is important to you.
If your family member(s) are not on your visitors? list already be sure you send a visiting form to them as soon as possible in order for them to be cleared by January.
We will follow up with the people you submit to us and update you on when the visit is scheduled and who is scheduled to come and see you.
Send information to us, attn: Family Visiting Day, CCWP, 1540 Market St., rm 490, San Francisco, CA. 94102.

Poor Training

Poor training? Few bad apples? Or torture by design?
Karen Diers, Northern California Coalition for Women Prisoners
From the very beginning, the prisons in Iraq were set up to be like American prisons. The Guardian, in an interview with an online magazine last January, quoted Lane McCotter who described Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison at the center of the torture scandal, as “the only place we agreed as a team was truly closest to an American prison” (5/11/04). O.L.”Lane” McCotter is one of four former prison officials sent to Iraq by the head of the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, to set up Iraq’s new prison system and train guards.
As former head of Utah’s Department of Corrections (DOC), McCotter is someone who is very familiar with U.S. prisons and prisoner abuse. He left his position in Utah in 1997, after a video of the torture of an inmate there was released. Michael Valent, who suffered from mental illness, died from blood clots resulting in a pulmonary embolism after he was stripped naked, run through the halls, and then strapped to a restraining chair for 16 hours. McCotter was also involved in scandals in New Mexico prisons. Now he is a private consultant.
Gary Deland, another one of the team, was head of Utah DOC in the 1980’s. He was sued for denying appropriate medical care to prisoners. John Armstrong, another member of the team, served as head of the Connecticut prison system from 1995 to 2003. The tactics used by prison guards during his tenure were blamed in three inmate deaths. And lastly, Terry Stewart, former head of the Arizona DOC, was sued by the Justice Department in 1997 for the rapes, sexual assaults and misconduct that occurred when he was in charge. (Source: AP as referenced by ABC News and Western Prison Project.)
At least two of the six of the “poorly trained reservists” who have been charged in carrying out the torture were employed as prison guards in the U.S. when they were not fulfilling their obligation to the Army. Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick worked at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn Virginia for six years. Charles Graner is from SCI-Greene Prison in Pennsylvania, where political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal is held on death row and where there have been reports of abuse by prison guards. Some news reports have said three of the people implicated in the Major General Antonio Taguba’s report are prison guards. One of the seven implicated was a “private contractor” and not under the Army?s jurisdiction.
The presence of a private contractor in a military prison brings up a very important issue and goes beyond these low-level soldiers who are being described as “a few bad apples.” All of the reservists have said that they were told to break down the prisoners by “military intelligence officers,” which means CIA.
One of the CIA’s favorite contractors has been DynCorp, which was started by former military personnel after World War II and has continued with a Board of Directors which includes men with very powerful military and financial connections. According to Catherine Austin Fitts, “Last year, the State Department awarded a sole source contract for up to $500 million to CSC DynCorp to manage the police, judiciary and prisons in Iraq.” DynCorp, headquartered in Reston, Virginia is one of the top military contractors for the US government, carrying out operations in Afghanistan, Columbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Haiti, the US/Mexico border region, and East Timor. DynCorp’s other exploits have included running a sex trafficking ring, which involved children while they were training police in Bosnia. As part of the Plan Columbia contract and the so-called “War on Drugs”, DynCorp aircraft and pilots are spraying herbicides on peasants. There is a class-action lawsuit brought against them by Ecuadoreans, which alleges the fumigation has killed crops, livestock, and, in some cases, children. DynCorp has been contracted by a host of other US government agencies for Information Technology. These agencies have trillions of dollars unaccounted for.
Two other private contractors, who are being sued in a class-action lawsuit for the participation of their employees in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, are CACI and Titan. CACI, also based in Virginia, supplied interrogators and “human intelligence support.” CACI employee Steven Stephanowicz of Philadelphia is accused of lying about his knowledge of abusive interrogations, and of prompting prison guards to be abusive towards prisoners in order to “soften them up” for interrogation. John B. Israel, named in the Taguba report as a CACI employee, is accused of sharing overall responsibility for the abuse and for lying about not seeing the abuse when witnesses say he did. However, The Signal verified that Israel was an employee of SOS Interpreting Ltd., a New York subcontractor that provided translators to Titan. As reported by The Signal, Interior Department spokesman Frank Quimby said, “At no point did the Army indicate there was a problem.”
What this reveals is that the torture was meant to happen. It goes hand in hand with the torture and abuse of people in prisons in the U.S.
We stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq and of the rest of the world.