#FreeOurElders for Mother’s Day

Please join us this weekend in the fight to free incarcerated mothers. The #BringThemHome Call to Action is a collective effort from families of those locked in cages and California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), to call on Governor Newsom to grant clemencies and IMMEDIATELY release Patricia Wright, Maria Adredondo, and Lucia Bravo — elders who are at extremely high risk of death and fighting for their lives. This action is in solidarity with our sisters at National Bail Out to #freeblackmamas.

While we are calling for action for the release of these women, our fight goes beyond the elderly and includes everyone imprisoned in a cage. We won’t stop until we #FreeThemAll.

For now we ask that you utilize our media toolkit below to sign the petitions, share them with as many people as possible and include the hashtags #BringThemHome and #FreeOurElders.

Love,

California Coalition for Women Prisoners

#Bringthemhome #Free Our Elders #CareNotCages Media Toolkit: 

This toolkit provides action items to participate in the campaign. See below for sample tweets and messaging for facebook and instagram.

Instructions: Share the petition site using the hashtag #BringThemHome this weekend and beyond. Organizations please post at least once a day on all of your platforms. 

Timeframe: May 9th- May 12th

FACEBOOK toolkit

Shareable link to Petitions: https://carenotcages.com/

This Mother’s Day, don’t forget about incarcerated moms & grandmas. Help us gain freedom for Grandmama Patricia, Mama Lucia, and Mama Maria by signing 3 petitions for our extremely medically-vulnerable members. Showing public support can mean the difference between life and death for these women. Sign, share, and repost. @California Coalition for Women Prisoners. 

#BringThemHome #FreeOurElders #ClemencyNow

Instagram toolkit

Sample Text: This Mother’s Day, don’t forget about the moms inside. Help us get closer to celebrating the freedom of Grandmama Patricia, Mama Lucia, and Mama Maria by signing three petitions for our extremely medically-vulnerable members. Getting enough signatures gives us a chance to get our message to the Governor’s desk. Sign, share, and repost! Instagram: @c_c_w_p Shareable link to Petitions: https://carenotcages.com/

#BringThemHome #FreeOurElders #ClemencyNow

Twitter toolkit

Shareable link to Petitions: https://carenotcages.com/

Sample Tweets (add graphics!):

1.

.@GavinNewsom #BringThemHome for Mother’s Day! Elders fighting cancer are at a huge health risk under #COVID19. Sign the petitions! https://carenotcages.com/ #BringThemHome #FreeOurElders #ClemencyNow

2. 

Join us in demanding that @GavinNewsom grant clemency for 3 medically vulnerable women this Mother’s Day by signing the petitions! https://carenotcages.com/ 

#BringThemHome #ClemencyNow #LetThemGo

3. 

Showing public support can mean the difference between life & death for these women. Please sign & share: https://carenotcages.com/ #BringThemHome #FreeOurElders #ClemencyNow

DEMAND ACTION for COVID-19 Prevention at CCWF & CIW Women’s Prisons

URGENT ACTION for COVID-19 Prevention at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) & California Institution for Women (CIW)
 Monday, April 6th from 9:00-5:00PM

Here’s how it works:

  • As soon as possible, post the graphics below on all social media platforms (organizations & individuals) — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram using the hashtags #LetThemGo, #SaveLives
  • All day April 6th, from 9:00am-5:00pm — call & email all three targets using the script provided and ask your networks to do the same


Contacts: 

Copy & paste this script and email to each official:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am reaching out with grave concern for people incarcerated at CCWF & CIW women’s prisons. At least one staff member at both prisons has tested positive for COVID-19. To prevent an uncontrollable outbreak, CDCR must immediately provide unrestricted access to cleaning and disinfecting supplies, follow the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations, and take protective steps to save lives as outlined by the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, the Young Women’s Freedom Center, and Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition. Most importantly, CDCR must immediately release all elderly and medically high-risk people. We cannot protect public health without protecting all incarcerated people.

I strongly support the following demands:

  1. Release all elderly (50+) and medically high-risk people. 
  2. Immediately and freely distribute non-diluted cleaning and disinfecting supplies.
  3. Permit incarcerated people to wear cloth or other masks at all times & mandate the use of personal protective equipment for incarcerated and non-incarcerated medical workers.
  4. Immediately end staff movement between prisons, such as between CIW & CIM and CCWF & VSP.
  5. CDCR must ensure that incarcerated people & the public have rapid access to information as pandemic conditions continue to change. 
  6. Ensure continued access to medication & all healthcare services, telephone, JPay, and mail. During a lockdown, extend WiFi access and provide personal tablets & cellphones to all people.


CDCR’s response to this escalating situation has been inadequate and disorganized, producing reasonable panic among incarcerated people. The conditions in these prisons are life-threatening and we are counting on you to prevent this public health nightmare from escalating further. Releasing medically vulnerable people is necessary to save lives, in addition to taking immediate protective actions to prevent another prison health catastrophe. This is a matter of life and death for thousands of people and demands swift action.

 Thank you.

********************

Please reach out with questions and to let us know what response you received: info@womenprisoners.org

April 6, 2020

TO:

J. Clark Kelso, Federal Medical Receiver, ckelso@pacific.edu 

Ralph Diaz, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, ralph.diaz@cdcr.ca.gov

Diana Toche, Undersecretary, Health Care Services, CDCR, diana.toche@cdcr.ca.gov

Amy Miller, Director of the Division of Correctional Policy Research and Internal Oversight, CDCR, amy.miller@cdcr.ca.gov 

RE: URGENT ACTION for COVID-19 Safety and Care at CCWF & CIW

We are writing to you with great concern about the health and safety of incarcerated people in the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) and the California Institution for Women (CIW) during the current public health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 23, CCWP sent a letter to Warden Richard Montes at CIW and Warden Michael Palleres at CCWF. We have yet to receive a response and, to our understanding, no significant changes have been made to provide life-saving supplies and information, or to accelerate releases for those at highest risk of deadly infection in order to reduce population density and prevent deaths. In the absence of response, staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at both CCWF and CIW.

California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) has been advocating with and for people incarcerated at CCWF and CIW for twenty-five years, particularly regarding the provision of healthcare. The Young Women’s Freedom Center (YWFC) builds the leadership of directly impacted cis & trans women, girls, and gender non-conforming people to transform the systems and policies that keep them stuck in cycles of poverty, incarceration, and violence. Comprised of over 500 directly impacted people, the Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition (SWFC) is building a powerful movement of women, girls, trans and non-binary people of color along with our families, loved ones and communities who have been harmed by the criminal justice system.

We understand that even with the best of intentions, ensuring the health and safety of large numbers of people in a confined space is difficult. However, we are receiving very distressing information from people at both CIW and CCWF regarding current conditions that make us extremely concerned about their safety and health. 

Incarcerated people are at heightened risk and an outbreak of COVID-19 inside endangers everyone: incarcerated people, staff, and the public. We understand that neither CCWF nor CIW have adequate equipment to keep incarcerated people breathing should they need it. It is of utmost importance that CDCR does everything in its power to prevent this outbreak.

We are requesting the following to protect the health & safety of people at CIW & CCWF:

1. Release all elderly (50+) and medically high-risk people. 

The only way to prevent a massive number of deaths in CA prisons is to release substantial numbers of people. Conditions at CA prisons prevent social distancing. CCWF, for example, is at 140% of capacity and neither CCWF or CIW are equipped to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19. It is not only the numbers but the degree of overcrowding in dormitory-based cells that disproportionately impacts people in women’s prisons in California. On Thursday, April 2nd, attorneys representing people in California’s prisons were heard in federal court asking for an emergency order to reduce the state’s prison population to help provide enough space in prison dormitories for a 6-foot social distancing buffer. There are at least 17,000 people in CA prisons deemed “high-risk medical” and at least 6,500 elderly. These populations are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Reducing the prison population will slow the spread of the virus and releasing those most at risk of developing serious symptoms will prevent local hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients. 

Community-based organizations are available with resources to assist with transportation and reentry for people released from CIW and CCWF.

2. Immediately and freely distribute non-diluted cleaning and disinfecting supplies.

Incarcerated people do not have access to the Center for Disease Control’s recommended cleaning and disinfecting supplies. Many have reported being unable to access soap to wash their hands. When they do have access, these supplies are diluted beyond efficiency and must be “checked out” from prison staff. Non-diluted cleaning and disinfecting supplies must be made freely available throughout the day. Outside community members must also be allowed to mail-in necessary cleaning and disinfecting supplies through vendors approved by CDCR.

3. Permit incarcerated people to wear cloth or other masks at all times & mandate the use of personal protective equipment for incarcerated & non-incarcerated medical workers.

As of April 2, the Center for Disease Control issued a statement “advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.” As people in prisons are in constant proximity and living in close quarters, they must be allowed to use masks as basic prevention from coronavirus infection. 

Incarcerated people who work as janitorial or medical support in the medical buildings do not have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), including disposable gloves, masks and gowns and are then returning to their housing units, potentially carrying coronavirus with them. All medical and cleaning workers, staff and incarcerated people alike, must be provided proper PPE in order to safely perform their work responsibilities.  

4. Immediately end staff movement between prisons such as between CIW & CIM and between CCWF & VSP.

We are deeply concerned that staff are going back and forth between CIW and CIM, and between CCWF and VSP. As of April 5, there are 16 confirmed staff cases at CIM and kitchen cooks and hospital facility maintenance staff are still being allowed to work at both CIW and CIM. Staff continue to work at both VSP and CCWF as well, despite confirmed COVID-19 cases at both prisons. We demand an immediate end to staff movement between institutions.  

5. CDCR must ensure that incarcerated people & the public have rapid access to information as pandemic conditions continue to change. 

As every public health worker knows, clear communication is the key to the safety, mental health and well-being of any community during a health crisis. CDCR has been slow in communicating to those incarcerated, and messaging has often been contradicted by actions taken or by a lack of action. It is imperative that prison officials transparently communicate and coordinate response plans with the general public to ensure the safety of everyone inside and outside of the prison system. 

6. Ensure continued access to medication & all healthcare services, telephone, JPay and mail. During a lockdown, extend wifi access and provide personal tablets and cellphones to all people.

Incarcerated individuals must continue to receive access to healthcare services (medical, dental, and mental health) and daily medication as well as access to the outside world through phone, email and mail. It is essential that incarcerated people are able to maintain contact with their loved ones and reach out for support. This is/will be especially true if CDCR implements more restrictive lockdown conditions. If incarcerated people are unable to access kiosks and regular telephones, CDCR must be responsible for distributing personal tablets and cellphones so contact can be maintained. This includes extending wifi access to reach all cells.

We need swift action to prevent this public health nightmare from escalating further — a matter of life and death for thousands of people.

Sincerely,  

Hafsah Al-Amin, Policy Coordinator, hafsah@womenprisoners.org

California Coalition for Women Prisoners

Jessica Nowlan, Executive Director, jessica@youngwomenfree.org

Young Women’s Freedom Center

Amika Mota, Policy Director, amika@youngwomenfree.org

Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition

Cc: 

Sara Smith, Chief, Office of the Ombudsman, Sara.Smith@cdcr.ca.gov

Dr. Joseph Bick, Director, Correctional Health Care Services, joseph.bick@cdcr.ca.gov

Senator Nancy Skinner, Chair, Senate Public Safety Committee, senator.skinner@senate.ca.gov

Assembly Member Sydney Kamlager, Chair, Select Committee on Incarcerated Women, Assemblymember.Kamlager@assembly.ca.gov 

Newsom Grants 21 Commutations!

ClemencyCoast2Coast Twitterstorm March 27,2020

Governor Newsom granted 21 commutations and five pardons on Friday, March 27, 2020.  CCWP welcomes Governor Newsom’s exercise of executive clemency for all of these people and we commend him for examining the public health impact of each commutation grant. At the same time we urge him to accelerate clemency at a time when large sectors of the public, including public health officials, are urging immediate action to protect vulnerable people in prisons, especially older and sick people, through commutations and other forms of expedited release.

We particularly celebrate the commutations of three women who had LWOP (Life Without Parole) sentences – Rosemary Dyer, Shyrl Lamar, and Joann Parks- as well as Suzanne Johnson who had a life sentence.  All of these women were elders, some were survivors of domestic violence, all of them had already served many years in prison.  We also welcome the commutations of  the six men with LWOP sentences and the eleven men with life sentences.

The momentum for clemency has been fueled by a growing movement across the country to end life without parole and all forms of extreme sentencing.  The same day that Governor Newsom granted these 21 commutations, thousands of people across the country participated in a #ClemencyCoast2Coast twitterstorm to urge Governor Newsom and New York Governor Cuomo to #LetThemGo!

We will continue the fight for commutations in California, more urgent than ever, working with Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) and the DROP LWOP Coalition. #CLEMENCYNOW!

Powerful DROP LWOP Rally

Recently Commuted people who previously had Life Without Parole (LWOP) Sentences

The DROP LWOP Spring Rally on March 9, 2020 brought together an amazing group of people to demand an end to Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentencing.  People who had been formerly incarcerated with LWOP sentences, loved ones of those still suffering death by incarceration, and many other advocates and friends gathered on the steps of the Capitol to speak their truths about the reality of living the death penalty in slow motion. Collectively we demonstrated that we will never stand down on our demand to commute all 5,200+ people with LWOP sentences and eliminate this cruel, arbitrary and racist sentence. 

Former LWOPs at Rally

One of the most incredible aspects of the day were the many people present who had been commuted from LWOP sentences and were now free and advocating passionately for those they left behind inside prison.  They, together with loved ones and advocates, made visits to legislators throughout the day.  They presented their lived experience with LWOP to educate lawmakers about why it is another form of death by incarceration.  The ask was for lawmakers to support more commutations by the Governor and legislative changes to the California penal code.

Thanks to Silicon Valley De-Bug for putting together this video .

Vigil for Vickie Lee Hammonds

Alma Hammonds, Vickie’s sister, speaking in front of CIW at November 9th rally.

Vickie Lee Hammonds, a mother,  grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, and beloved by many others, died from medical neglect at the California Institution for Women (CIW) on June 5, 2019. She was only 55 years old. Her death—devastating and preventable —speaks to a pattern of injuries and deaths as well as a larger culture of disregard at CIW specifically and throughout the CDCr more broadly, despite widespread and persistent public scrutiny. Vickie’s family and CCWP demand that California and its institutions of human caging be held responsible for preventable deaths in their custody, like Vickie’s, and for practices of ongoing abuse and neglect.

Vickie was diagnosed with diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had suffered through years of poor medical treatment at CIW. She also had trouble walking even short distances, but Vickie was continually denied access to a wheelchair despite repeated requests. Vickie’s health worsened in the weeks leading up to her death, but she and her friends’ advocacy on her behalf was ignored. On June 4th, the day before she passed away, Vickie’s breathing became especially strained. Despite informing the nurse of her difficulty breathing  and that her oxygen machine was malfunctioning, Vickie was sent back to her cell with no additional care, support or resources.

On the morning of June 5th, Vickie’s condition worsened. Once again, Vickie was refused admission to the prison’s emergency medical unit or transfer to the hospital. Later that night Vickie stopped breathing. Guards performed CPR while they waited for emergency responders, but their access was prevented because of new procedures around a newly-installed fence at the prison.  It took a full 45 minutes before the emergency medical team was granted access and reached Vickie. By then it was too late and Vickie was pronounced dead in the hallway outside her cell.

The horrific circumstances of Vickie’s death were compounded by the lack of communication with her family. It was not the prison who contacted Vickie’s sister, Alma Hammonds, but one of Vickie’s friends. And, as if losing a family member is not devastating enough, there was also confusion and chaos around the whereabouts of her body. “We the family of Vickie Lee Hammonds feel that her early demise was due to a lack of proper medical treatment and a complete lack of response to her,” Vickie’s family said in a statement. “Vickie’s family suffered a great loss and we all are lost for words. We all want to know why she was so neglected and allowed to die.”

Taylor Lytle reading the poem she wrote for Vickie

For Vickie, by Taylor Lytle

Help i can’t breathe

 Was her only plea

But it was not met with urgency

and now beautiful soul gone too soon

Preventable yes

But CDCR is never accountable for their mess

So we stand here and protest

We shout the names of our lost loved one

Vickie we love you

 Vickie we will fight for you.

Vickie you won’t die in vain

Vickie we are sorry

Sorry because we couldn’t save you from a system that enslaved you

The same system that claimed they wanted to help you Failed you.

We, your sisters and brothers, are sorry that we are still powerless in 2019

from preventing these systems from destroying our families

CIW u r guilty

Of inmate cruelty

 I have no reason to lie

 I once was a victim you see.

No more hiding behind these gates

The truth has been told

We’re shutting you down

I promise you that even if it cost me my soul

Screaming no more deaths is becoming a little too old

We are taking the power back

We will see to it that you get closed For good

Thank you

Gravestones for some of those who have died preventable deaths at CIW