In Memoriam to Patty Contreras

by Cynthia Chandler, Director, Women’s PLAN
Patrisia Gutierrez Contreras died of pneumonia on Wednesday, April 28, 10:40 a.m. at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles. Patty was the third life term prisoner to receive a compassionate release from prison in California’s history. She was a true warrior for the rights of women prisoners, and she will be greatly missed.
For those of us who knew Patty, she will be remembered for her unmatchable personal strength and her ability to maintain her dignity when confronted with obstacles and abuses that would have crushed any of our spirits. Patty will also be remembered for her personal sacrifices made to educate people world wide about the abuses of HIV-positive women prisoners. Her fight for compassionate release contributed to a national campaign for the humane treatment of terminally ill prisoners which continues today. While she suffered retribution and a total loss of privacy as a result of her role in publicizing the inhumane treatment of women prisoners with HIV, she remained dedicated to increasing the public’s awareness of the injustices she suffered. She never backed down from doing what she knew was right.
On a personal level, Patty taught me the true value of hope. She reminded me that as painful as it might be to struggle for justice without seeing signs of change, it is far better to die not having one’s hopes realized than to die without knowing hope at all. I will carry this message with me for the rest of my life.