Protesters Rally Against No-Parole Policy, 2002

A report of a statewide protest demanding that Governor Davis release battered women prisoners and end his illegal no-parole policy.
by Diana Block
Over 200 people protested at Gov. Davis’ offices in four cities across California last Tuesday, demanding that Davis release battered women prisoners and end his illegal no-parole policy. The protesters accused the governor of playing politics with the lives of those inmates who are eligible for parole and in some cases have been granted a parole date by the state parole board, only to have it snatched away by Davis.
Protesters were outraged by the fact that in 2002 alone, Davis reversed the parole recommendations for seven battered women in prison. On June 20 he denied release to Maria Suarez who had been sold into sex slavery at the age of 16 and was physically and sexually abused for five years before a neighbor killed her abuser and Maria was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Maria has spent 20 years in prison and was recommended for parole in January 2002, only to have her date taken by Davis.
Flozelle Woodmore was 13 when she met her batterer and 18 with no prior criminal history when she pled guilty to firing a single fatal shot to his chest. She has been in prison for 15 years and was recommended for parole in March 2002 but was denied by Davis on Aug. 2.
These incarcerated survivors are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the illegal parole policy in place in California. Since January 1999, there have been over 9,000 parole suitability hearings for “lifers” (approximately 20,000 prisoners with indeterminate life sentences), but only 123 (1 percent) have been recommended for parole by the Board of Prison Terms. Davis has reversed the parole recommendation in all but two cases, both of them battered women.
In San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego a wide range of people gathered to voice their anger about this state of affairs and to deliver hundreds of signed letters to Davis’ representatives calling upon the governor to end his illegal no-parole policy. In San Francisco, over 100 people held signs with the pictures of battered women prisoners and listened to messages from the women inside as well as family members such as Paula Bunney, whose daughter Marcia has been in prison since 1981.
“My daughter was abused much of her life,” said Bunney. “She?s had a good record in prison. She should be released.”
In Los Angeles the crowd included many family members, representatives from the religious community and Rose Ann Parker, the only convicted murderer to actually be released under Davis? administration. In San Diego the physical reality of abuse was represented by women “wearing” bruises, blood and scratches on their faces, necks and arms, who stood silently in front of Davis’ offices handcuffed to each other with duct tape across their mouths. And in Sacramento a delegation met with representatives from the offices of Sens. Sheila Kuehl and Richard Polanco, who congratulated the organizers on their work and pledged their support on this issue.
According to Olivia Wang, coordinator of the California Coalition for Battered Women in Prison, which initiated the protest, “Without remorse or compassion, Davis is sacrificing battered women for his own political goals.” The rallies indicate that many members of the community no longer find this position tolerable and are ready to act to insure an end to this travesty of justice.
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