We dedicate this issue of The Fire Inside to Debbie Peagler, mother
and grandmother, domestic violence survivor, advocate, educator, singer, cancer survivor and dear Sister.
Debbie was released from Central California Women?s Facility in August, 2009 after 26 years of incarceration. She is rebuilding her life and is active raising awareness of domestic violence issues through her film Crime After Crime and
We send Debbie total love and support and wish her all the best in this next chapter of her amazing life!
As of January, 2010 many educational and vocational jobs were cut at Central California Women?s Facility (CCWF). Some classes will remain, but not any GED or ESL.
All our college classes are correspondence courses. We do have a person who hands out materials, allows us to watch educational videos, collects our homework, quizzes and final papers and sends them to the college. She was fired. It feels like one of the few paths to improve ourselves is being taken away. Just as they are starving our minds with cuts in education, they are also starving our bodies of nutrition.
I have been in Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) since 1996, when
I was 22. I acquired considerable employable skills. I have been able to give
back to the community and change my lifestyle. Often women have not had the opportunity to gain an education. With the educational and vocational programs we can be successful. Statistics show that female offenders have a low recidivism rate and are non-violent; but taking these programs from us will give us no avenues to work on ourselves. Many of us came to prison scared and without much hope. But we have the freedom to choose our future and the ability to change. Education and vocational programs work well because women can focus on themselves and prepare to be better citizens in the community.
I have been incarcerated for almost eleven years. When I first arrived I did not speak English. I was proud of my heritage and my roots. Thanks to the educational programs that were available I learned how to speak English, completed the GED, Vocational Eye Wear course and I also am involved in many self-help groups.
Through the classes, encouragement, and through our facilitators, we get a chance to work on ourselves. We discover new strengths. If the education and vocational programs in VSPW and other prisons are cancelled, how many mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties and grandmothers will lose opportunities to learn and achieve some of their goals? This not only affects female offenders, but the families and the communities to which we are returning. ?Guadalupe Valle
I graduated from small engine repair / motorcycles, a vocational course that has been cut due to budget issues. The education department is supposed to be a form of rehabilitation, a set of tools to use upon our release so that we are able to function in society. With the cuts, many of us will not have the opportunity to take vocational classes or receive a high school diploma or GED. The accomplishment of obtaining my certification was so empowering. I write this in hopes of my voice being heard, my story somehow being felt, and possibly encouraging those responsible to change things so more people can use incarceration as rehabilitation.
I have been incarcerated since 1998. My most beneficial and rewarding job assignments have been in vocation and education. I completed Vocational Landscaping and Small Engines, and then requested to be placed in the
Calm Class. I was assigned to Calm II, with Mr. Carbajal as the instructor. Through the journaling taught in Calm classes, I gained not only personal insight, but also became more aware of the responsibility I had in regards to my life and my offense. Now as the clerk, I continue to listen repeatedly to the curriculum and get something new out of it every time.
I would not have gotten near as far as I have in my recovery and rehabilitation had it not been for my time in the vocation and Calm classes. I have gained
not only knowledge, but also a great deal of pride each time I learned skills which will help me be a positive citizen in the community. It is my firm belief that if you cancel many of our programs, giving women more idle time, then the violence will increase and intensify here.
I?ve been in prison for 14 years serving a sentence of Life Without Parole for a crime that my adult co-defendant committed when I was 16 years old. I completed all of the self-help groups offered and I am currently in the White Bison program. I receivedmy GED and I?m presently aiming for my AA in
Behavioral and Social Science with a Certificate of Achievement in Business. I
am on the Gang Intervention Panel working with a District Attorney and a Juvenile Judge from San Joaquin Valley, striving to make a difference
in preventing youth from going to prison. I?m not the only individual who has exhibited this type of personal growth and been able to reach maturity
in spite of overwhelming circumstances.
Kids cannot get the Death Penalty, but LWOP is indeed a death sentence. It allows no chance for us to prove that change has occurred. Even though I came to prison a young, scared and immature child, I have transformed into a responsible, caring, nurturing and helpful youth mentor. If you have not already considered SB399 I ask you to please support this bill. It motivates rehabilitation, education, restores self-esteem and self worth, which is what a system that promotes Rehabilitation should really be about.
I was hired as a peer health educator at CCWF. I am honored to be a part of this extraordinary program. The peer education program is run by an outside
organization called Centerforce and provides incarcerated women with a unique sense of freedom through knowledge. As peer health educators, we reach out to
and speak to our peers about a wide variety of health related topics, risky behaviors, prevention methods, and serve as sounding boards. This program isn?t just about HIV prevention and safe sex, it?s so much more. It lays down a foundation strong enough to foster growth, unity, and positive change for anyone. I encourage everyone to visit the peer office, or seek out the peer volunteers in your housing units.
The college program at VSPW is amazing. The opportunity to earn a GED, high school diploma or college diploma is planting a seed for future success. Many women enter the system broken and/or with addicitions. We need programs and forums to create the tools to change in life. I sincerely hope you carefully consider gender equity when calculating future changes. It not only
affects us, but those to whom we are returning.
?Lynn M. Noyes
Frankly, I do not see how the state can afford not to educate its prisoners. The prison is full of men and women who lack skills training. We are a part of our community.
I have been fortunate to be a participant in two vocational training
programs. My instructors were patient and worked tirelessly to help us become better people. I am thankful for my training and I hope in the future that our state will see the value of education and vocation programs within the prison system.
?Charlotte A. Key
Closing down education is a big loss, especially for those seeking a GED or needing ESL. It will make it worse for those of us who are uneducated or who don?t speak English. Without educational opportunities some will get further in trouble. There is a lot of time to do nothing. It will be even harder to get a job here, with all the cuts. And it will certainly be a lot harder to get a job out there, where unemployment is already so high.
Women participating in college courses are also affected. College courses help us explore opportunities we did not know about. They help us know how the world is changing. We fought for those courses! It was prisoners who found colleges that were willing to offer correspondence courses and even come
up with some scholarship money for tuition and books. How can the prison take away things they have not provided for us? Without education, what is ?correction? and what is ?rehabilitation? in CDCR? What happens to our learning abilities when education is cut? How do we connect with society? How can we reach any of our dreams? Or develop ambitions?
Cutting education budgets all over the country, but especially here in California, is wrong. It hurts our children and it hurts the whole society.
The cuts in prison education are also wrong. How can you expect to get a job when you get out without an education? If you leave prison with tools to make it in society, you will have a chance at a successful life. Without them you are more likely to come back to prison.
I took the GED test 2 days ago. It was facilitated by the Alternatives
to Violence Project. I want to keep doing what I have to do in here to meet my date in 2010. I want to have something under my belt when I come out.
Education and many self-help groups are very needed here. I amtrying to get the GED because I have kids I want to take care of when I get out. I dropped out in 9th grade. I only had 5 high school credits then. Now I have 180 credits.
In the free world I want to work with kids either in a day-care or a hospital. I do that now, taking careof kids who come to visit. I make flash cards for them to play with, etc.
Learning is important throughout life. I want to keep learning. I owe it to myself to learn. I want to learn from my kids, too. For them, I don?t want to sell myself short anymore. A lot of women come in young and discouraged. They just live for today. You have to have some hope. If you have a life sentence, what
are you going to do with yourself? I used to be angry all the time, to fight in response to most situations. I had to learn other ways of thinking?about myself and about others.
Teachers were the heartbeat of our future. Now they?re hitting the beat, looking for employment elsewhere. Recidivism? Women are nurturers. Most of the time they are the only parent. With skills they would not have to continue a welfare lifestyle. They could raise their children.
by Allegra Funsten, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children legal intern
Article 5 of the California Constitution clearly affirms the duty of the State to provide free, publiclyfunded elementary and secondary schools. In 1992,
the State Supreme Court wrote that California ?has assumed specific responsibility for a statewide public education system open on equal terms to all,? and must ensure education equality.
California statutes mandate education for people in state prisons. The CDCR Secretary must appoint a Superintendent of Education to administer prison
education programs and must create and implement a system of incentives to increase participation in and completion of academic and vocational programs.
The 1989 Prisoner Literacy Act states the intent of Legislature to increase the percentage of prisoners who are literate because illiteracy is correlated with
recidivism. This law mandates literacy programs designed to insure that prisoners achieve a 9th grade reading level by the time they parole. The CaliforniaPenal Code also defines funding prison education at a specified rate per student per year.
Title 15, Article 3, section 3040 also affirms that CDCR will offer an education program when it states that prisoners may be assigned to ?work, education,
or other programs, or to a combination.? The California Education Code acknowledges the State?s responsibility to provide ?equal rights and opportunities in the educational facilities of the state.? Both federal and state courts have ruled that individuals do not lose their right to equal protection
when incarcerated. In 1970, 1972 and 1979 California Supreme and Appellate Courts ruled that budget concerns may not be used to exclude women from equal protection of the laws or restrict fundamental rights. Courts in other states have also ruled that disparate educational or vocational programs for prisoners based solely on gender violate equal protection.
The 2007 Youth Bill of Rights guarantees people in juvenile facilities an equal education. This law also insures that young people will continue to receive
educational services and vocational training even while on disciplinary or medical status. These services must be: comparable to education outside of
prison, age appropriate, and must include GED and high school graduation plans.
CDCR has a legal duty to provide educational and/or vocational classes and cannot use budget cuts as an excuse to deny education to prisoners. It?s the
Note: If you would like the case law citations used for this article, please write us.
Chi Chi Locci, vocalist, CCWF
For many years now at CCWF I have been fortunate to be a part of Arts-in-Corrections, a program that has nurtured some of the most amazingly talented women in the state of California. It offers drawing, pottery, guitar, sculpturing,
music and painting. While often recognized for their community bowl fundraisers, the program offers much more! As part of the rehabilitation process, we have created a venue to continue our dreams and passions. Veteran musicians including guitarist Rickie Soria, Destiny Mardisch on flute,
vocalists ChiChi Locci and Gia McClain have come together with new members, bassist Sara Dutra, keyboardist Toni Song and Heaven Watson on drums. We cover different genres of music from Rhythmn-Blues to the latest Alternative
and Hip Hop. Something I haven?t heard since the Escorts in San Quentin many years ago?
Planning our summer concert series, our band would appreciate any invitations or requests. We also want to thank the Warden and Staff for allowing us such an
opportunity?although we are enclosed with barbwire, we are still spiring ROSES.