Compañeras inside ? sharing stories

Silvia Tello
A prison visit is like nothing you?ve lived before. Holding the hand of a compañera inside and feeling her strength and resistance is a unique experience that can only compare to the feeling of wanting to see these women free.
I?ve put together some blended stories that are the voice of many women inside and should give us all inspiration to struggle.
One story tells us about a woman who came to this country looking for a life with dignity under very hard conditions. She came at a very young age, without her family, only with the man that was her boyfriend. At a very young age she also had her first child. She described how having her first child was her salvation from the isolation of living in this country.
Her partner was an abusive man, and in an abusive relationship the abuser will not just harm his partner but everything that is close to her, in this case her youngest child. A brutal assault took the life of her child. Filled with confusion she took her child to the hospital without fully understanding what had happened. She was accused of something she hadn?t done and she was all alone because the partner had abandoned her.
She was put into prison but everything was so sudden that even though she declared herself innocent no one would listen and in the middle of all the confusion the pain and grief, she couldn?t even figure out what exactly had happened or understand that the abuse of her partner could become the reason that she ended up in prison. She had a lawyer who said he would help her with an appeal but it?s been three years since she last heard from him. Her mother (who came after she did to this country), has the custody of her other children and once every two to three months she gets a visit from her.
This is not an isolated case. Another woman we met lost her child under similar circumstances and was put in prison for a crime she didn?t commit. In her case she was threatened by her partner that she would lose her other children if she spoke or told about the abuse.
Another woman was able to share with us her history of struggle to hold on to her parental rights since she has been in prison. Her older kids are in her home country but the youngest ones are now with foster parents, and the risk is that they may not ever see her again. Since she was torn apart from them, she has pushed and pushed with lawyers, social workers, and even CCWP to try and figure out how she can communicate with them and get information about her parental rights. Since she is undocumented her risks of losing her children are even bigger than those of other women prisoners. Recently she found out that she hadn?t lost her parental rights yet, so she feels that all of her struggle was worth knowing this. Fighting for her rights will always be a must for her.
Women in these stories, and so many others we talked to, tell us about the racism, and discrimination they feel inside prison, because of being Latinas, because of speaking Spanish, and because they are not used to being tough. They tell us about the oppression and humiliation from prison guards and from women from other communities who have internalized the racism of this system and reproduced it inside.
But they also told us about their strength and desire. They told us about wanting time to go by and how they make that happen, each one in their own way, figuring out how to empower themselves so nothing will make them feel less than others. Each day is what counts and each day is in their hands and nobody else?s.
Each story has hundreds of women?s names behind it ? women who are facing incarceration, deportation and detention. We need your support to keep on reaching out to our compañeras so we can break through the bars that separate one reality into two different worlds.