Editorial: Cuidado a Salud en Prision Peor que Nunca

El cuidado a la salud es un derecho humano fundamental para todas las personas y esto fue el corazón para la fundación de CCWP hace 10 años atrás. Mujeres adentro quienes incluye una de nuestras miembras fundadoras Charisse Súmate, entabló en esos entonces la acción legal de clase donde demandaba una atención de salud decente para las mujeres en prisión. Nosotros también necesitamos organizar una red a nivel de todo el Estado de prisioneras, familiares, amigos, educadores, trabajadores de la salud y activistas (incluyendo exprisioneros/as) para mantener este gran problema en la mirada de todo el público.
Después de años de un duro trabajo por parte de muchas organizaciones de derechos humanos y asuntos legales en prisión, el CDCR fue forzado a dar reconocimiento a las necesidades específicas de las mujeres en prisión, por la designación de la Dirección de Asuntos de la Mujer y la creación de un Comité Específico de Género. Pero al mismo tiempo estamos mirando pequeños pasos hacia delante en esta área, el estado del sisitema de salud queda en un abismo. Estamos complacidos que en el reporte de julio del 2006 del Recibidor Federal, Robert Sillen expuso la profundidad de este problema. Sillen expuso que el sistema médico en las prisiones ?estaba en peor forma que al principio, y que el remedio tendría que ser más dramático y más allá de lo visible? (reporte hecho por Mark Martín, periódico SF Chronicle). Este número del boletín The Fire Inside incluye historias las cuales ilustran la terrible situación del reporte documento de Sillen.
Estamos en un importante momento, es decir estamos poniendo nuestra mirada en el CDCR, especialmente ahora en un año de elecciones para gobernador. Ambos candidatos, Schwarzenegger y Angelides no tienen nada que decir sobre la crisis del sistema de salud ? la única solución que ellos ofrecen es construir más cárceles y contratar más guardias.
Por nuestra parte, CCWP está trabajando en coalición con otros grupos y esta solicitando una reunión con el Recibidor, Robert Sillen. Tenemos la esperanza de que juntos podamos desarrollar soluciones que sean un genuino paso hacia delante en la lucha por los derechos humanos de los/as prisoneros/as en materia de salud.
Nosotros también estamos comprometidos a construir una Red de Repuesta a la Crisis la cual coordinará a tiempo las respuestas para los/as prisioneros/as, familiares y defensores para la intolerable crisis del sistema de salud por tanto tiempo como sea necesario.

Editorial: Prison Health Care Worse Than Ever

Health care is a fundamental human right for all people, and it was at the heart of the founding of CCWP over 10 years ago. Women inside, including one of our founding members Charisse Shumate, argued that along with the class action lawsuit demanding decent medical care for women prisoners, we also needed to organize a statewide network of prisoners, families, friends, educators, health care workers, and activists (including former prisoners) to keep this issue in the public eye.
After years of hard work on the part of many prison legal and human rights organizations, the CDCR was forced to give token recognition to the specific needs of women prisoners, by appointing a Director of Women?s Affairs and creating the Gender Specific Task Force. But at the same time that we are seeing some small steps forward in that area, the state of health care remains abysmal. We are glad that the July 2006 report of the Federal Receiver, Robert Sillen, is exposing the depth of the problems. Sillen found that the prison medical system ?was in worse shape than first described and that his remedies would have to be more dramatic and far-reaching than previously envisioned? (reported by Mark Martin, San Francisco Chronicle). This issue of The Fire Inside includes stories which illustrate the appalling situation Sillen?s report documents.
We are at an important moment ? the spotlight is on the CDCR, especially now in a gubernatorial election year. Both candidates, Schwarzenegger and Angelides have nothing to say about the health care crisis ? the only solution they offer is to build more prisons and hire more guards.
For our part, CCWP is working in coalition with other groups and is asking to meet with the Receiver, Robert Sillen. We hope together to develop solutions that will be a genuine step forward in the fight for prisoners? human right to health care. We are also committed to building a Crisis Response Network which will coordinate timely responses by prisoners, family members and advocates to intolerable health care crises for as long as they continue to occur.

Women Prisoners Oppose the Governor?s Master Plan

Over 1,000 women at CCWF and VSPW signed a petition opposing the Governor?s plan for prison expansion which includes a proposal to transfer 4,500 ?low-risk? women into new so-called ?community? facilities scattered across the state. With support from Justice Now, the women have sent their petition to legislators in Sacramento and have made public their feelings about the expansion proposals. Below are some of the statements women inside have made:
This plan is a poor excuse to build more prisons to lock up poor people and people of color. History shows that if we build more prisons, we will fill them up.
–YaVonne Anderson, CCWF, in a letter printed by the SF Chronicle.
If California really wants to reduce the prisoner population, they should eliminate nonsense parole violations that cycle people back into prison and initiate change that happens before a number is attached to an individual?s name.
–Beverly Henry, CCWF
However attractive its language, this bill only serves to expand an already failing prison system and validates the misconception that the women left behind belong in such a harsh, punitive environment? Deemed ?unsuitable for release? these women will be treated, in effect, as disposable human beings.
–Marie Bandrup, CCWF
[This plan] would just give them a reason to send more women to prison. As it is, women get [parole violations] for the littlest, most ridiculous things now. If there?s more room?the parole officers might do it even more often.
–Emily Esrick, VSPW
CCWP stands with the petitioners in saying No to the master prison expansion plan!

It?s All About Us: Jail Health and Re-entry

by Yvonne/Hamdiya Cooks
?It?s All About Us? is a regular column for formerly-incarcerated women to express and share their joys and struggles on the outside. Please submit your stories to share with those we left inside.
We began this column in our last Fire Inside with me sharing my journal entiries upon release. I have since decided I cannot adequately share those writings in the limited newsletter space. However, I have a life out here full of drama and detail that I?ll share with you my sisters inside. We welcome formerly-incarcerated sisters to use this space to connect with those we left inside.

My days are full of calls and meetings that seem to never end. I recently took part in a Jail Health and Reentry Roundtable where a group of academics and activists got together to discuss issues concerning women in jail and after release. One of the guiding principles that I respect about CCWP is that the women inside are considered the experts of their own experiences. Much can be accomplished by listening and taking direction from those who are presently or have been directly affected by this problem.
Many important discussions were started at this roundtable. Women prisoners have different needs than men while inside and upon release. Women re-entering society are anxious about reuniting with their children and often place their own specific health care needs on the back burner.
We who advocate for women prisoners must keep the interests of women in the minds and hearts of those who can make changes in the prison system. A dear friend of mine recently said to me, ?education is a weapon?. One of the main ideas I shared with the group was the fact that the healing and leadership training for women coming out must begin while we are still inside the prison walls. I know this only too well from my personal experience. Without the support from those who cared on the outside, I would not have been given the weapons to battle this beast of a system we are fighting together.
Please send me your suggestions for what I need to take into some of these meetings about the issues of women coming out of prison.. Peace, blessings and love.

To Those I left Behind

by Theresa Cruz
To all my loved ones behind bars,
As I walked out the gates, I felt 2,000 tons of pressure released. The drive home, the beautiful mountains, green grass, and trees ? a new beginning, new life and a deep breath of fresh air.
There isn?t a day that I don?t think of all of you, even while being with my little girl whom I left behind at 4 months old. Today I don?t stop hearing her say, ?I love you mom. Give me a kiss.? She can?t seem to be away from me. I finally found the bond with her that I had with my other three children.
Watching the independence of my children overwhelms me with great joy. My grandchildren come over and no one wants to go home. The love and safety they have in my home is incredible.
I think of all of you so much. To Cindy Wilson, I love your life. To Sookey, there isn?t a day that goes by that I don?t hear your words, your voice and our laughter. To Lucy, the spirit is still so strong. To Linda Phillipa, my heart, love and spirit will always be with you. To Freddie, I always think of you. To Sandra Redmond, I talk about you all the time. To Glenda and all of my peers, I love you all.
Every time I speak, it?s never about me but about the many that I left behind that continue to be political prisoners. Stay strong because we all have a turn and we?ll continue to fight and support each other in Justice!