Introducing Deirdre Wilson, new CCWP coordinator

In March 2010, Deirdre Wilson took over as the new coordinator of programs at CCWP. We introduce her to all who may not have met Deirdre in person. Welcome Deirdre!
Q: How did you came to do prison support work?
In 2002, I went to prison for 3 years, 7 months. In many ways, I grew up there, went through a process of rediscovering myself. I also discovered the beauty, strength and heart of the women and transgender people behind the walls. It gave me great compassion as well as awareness of the vast ignorance
in our society about people convicted of crimes?who they are, their circumstances, and what they need when they get home, if they are allowed to come home. I was heartbroken by the reality of lifers at CIW, who had already
served decades of life sentences. I could have been one of them so
easily. It enraged me that so many really special people who have so
much to give were being shut away from their families and the rest of
society. Most of these women have experienced abuse in the course
of their lifetimes, whether it was related to their crime or not. I carry
these women with me always,which is really what has brought me to this work. The situation is intolerable on general principle, but it is also a very personal thing for me to get my sisters out of there.
I started volunteering with Free Battered Women (FBW) in 2006, about 6 months after I was released. Andrea Bible in particular, and the whole FBW/CCWP community made me feel honored for surviving my experiences and accepted me just as I was?a rare feeling for people released from prison!
FBW was doing work to support close friends of mine who were still in prison. It has been a great gift to work on campaigns that have brought some of them home.
Q: What draws you to CCWP?
The issues and concerns of people in women?s prisons and their families, and the impact of the Prison Industrial Complex on this country?particularly on communities of color?is deep in my blood. When you have been there
yourself, see things for what they are, and know that you have tools, skills, experiences and the heart to fight for change, it is a responsibility and a great gift. The system of mass incarceration is nothing short of genocide on communities of color. The increase in the number of women being locked up is especially devastating. Had I lived in the time of slavery, I would like to believe
that I would have used my heart and soul to fight it. What will our response be now?
I see CCWP as a home base because it embodies the values that challenge oppression of women and people of all gender identities that don?t ?fit? into a patriarchal model. The collective structure, and the way we conduct ourselves
in CCWP, empowers each person to feel safe to be who they are. The fact that we are supported and directed by membership both inside and outside prison is awesome!
Q: Do you have some specific hopes or plans for CCWP?
I have a long term vision to continue to enlighten a broad base of our society about who people in prison are as human beings so that we will no longer be able to tolerate the prison system as a solution. I hope to demonstrate how
folks motivated by their hearts can support and empower people so it
becomes irresistible, and spreads to all areas of life breaking down the
PIC through the force of love. To stop the genocide and to save the soul of this nation, we need to pay more attention to healing than to recrimination, punishment and judgment. Generations of families are being wounded and it
is the children who are blameless but pay the highest price. I want us to significantly change the system of mass incarceration, and for CCWP to be a model for how thatcan happen.
I look forward to deepening the level of communication we can have with the members inside and to really engage people in development of their leadership capacity. Our primary strength is listening. We first listen to the voices of our
membership inside?those who have the greatest knowledge of what is needed. Each person has wisdom, whether they have been in the organization a long or short time. I have a vision of CCWP as a large extended family. So many of
us need to build an understanding of, and comfort with, a functional and healthy family. For me, building according to values of a healthy family is the seed of a true social justice movement.