Standing Up for Women Prisoners

by Urszula Wislanka
Chowchilla, Ca. – On November 13 about a hundred of us from California Coation for Women Prisoners (CCWP), California Prison Focus, Women’s Positive Legal Action Network (Women’s PLAN) family members and other prisoners’ supporters demonstrated here outside the two largest prisons for women in the world. We demand a stop to the murder of women prisoners.
We in CCWP have been fighting the media silence about women prisers, exposing conditions in California women’s prisons in The Fire Inside, and holding this demonstration annually for the last five years. The recent Nightline series about one of those prisons, Valley State Prison for Women, brought much needed attention on some of these conditions. And there was more media covering this year’s demonstrations.
Yet, partly because the media ban prevents the press from talking to particular prisoners who have stories to tell, Ted Koppel did not capture the tale of systematic abuse in this prison. Cynthia Chandler, the Director of Women’s PLAN, spoke for exple about Rosemary Willeby, an HIV+ woman who was also infected with Hepatitis C (see the story in the last issue).
At the demonstration the importance of the health-care abuse in women’s prisons was underscored by Toni who was just released from VSPW at 9:30 that morning. She came back to participate in the demonstration “to stand for all the girls in there.” She said “girls are dying in there. You guys are a blessing.” This solidarity between the women inside and outside is one way to break down the prison walls and create a more human society.