This Saturday will find me standing in the hot Florida sun in front of the Starke/Raiford prison complex… Why? Because I know much of the truth, enough to know it would be shameful for me, as an American dedicated to justice, as a human being dedicated to the spirit, as a grandmother whose babies could be sucked into the horrible existence of a prisoner or his keeper, to comfortably sit in my home with a clear conscience”
–PRUP participant, Florida
On Saturday July 15, 2000 family members and supporters of prisoners all over the country gathered in front of prisons and in state capitals to demand human rights for those inside. This groundbreaking effort was initiated by family members of prisoners who believed that the time has come to show our outrage at the many abuses ranging from grossly inadequate medical care to sexual abuse, and from denials of parole to the death penalty.
The Chowchilla demonstration, coordinated by CCWP and California Prison Focus, started at the front gate of Valley State Prison for Women with over 100 people chanting strongly, interspersed with speakers and singers. Angry speakers denounced Dr. Bowman, a VSPW physician who had been charged just a few days previously with sexual molestation of women prisoners after the authorities had ignored women’s complaints about him (and others) for years. Recent evidence that prisoners had received falsified lab tests but were never re-tested by the CDC spurred Karen Shain of CCWP to call for a public institution to take over health services in the prisons. In a statement, VSPW prisoner Nikia Duran said, “The medical system here is grossly insufficient. It is very hard to see a doctor. They are short 27 positions on medical staff.” And another statement by VSPW prisoner, Charlotte Martin, denounced the racism of the prison staff “Racism is very bad. For the same offense, like smoking, a white prisoner gets additional duty, I get 90 days taken from my out date and 10 days in administrative segregation.”
We marched from VSPW’s to CCWF’s front gate. On the way we were able to wave to women in the yard as we went by, which was wonderful. Fresno channels 30, 26, 47 and 24 all were there.
At the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Frontera a spirited demonstration coordinated by CCWP and the Southern California Criminal Justice Consortium criticized a prison system that dehumanizes prisoners and punishes instead of educates. Nine year old Adriana Cruz recited a poem about her mother, Theresa Cruz, who was on the other side of the walls, and then led dozens of participants in loud chants.
Reports have come in on demonstrations at San Quentin, Corcoran, Pelican Bay, Sacramento, & CA Men’s Colony in California as well as in Arkansas, Alabama, Michigan, Florida and Oregon. All in all PRUP 2000 was an important step forward in demonstrating that united action against the prison industrial complex is not only possible, it’s a reality.