CCWP welcomes Patricia Wright home amid COVID-19 prison outbreaks
Grassroots advocacy & public support were key to Patricia’s release
July 21, 2020
Patricia Wright, a 69-year-old Black mother and grandmother, survivor of domestic violence, and terminally-ill cancer patient, was released today under emergency order from Governor Newsom. Family, friends, and advocates from the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), a grassroots advocacy group who mobilized for her release, gathered at the California Institution for Women (CIW) this morning to see her wheeled out to freedom.
Wright had been serving a sentence of Life Without Possibility of Parole (LWOP) while undergoing chemotherapy for terminal cancer. Patricia is also legally blind and suffers from other serious ailments. Patricia was not eligible for any state COVID-19 release effort, nor for the state’s compassionate release program, because people serving LWOP are excluded from these pathways to release, regardless of terminal illness.
Patricia and her family have been organizing for her release since she was incarcerated, and CCWP has been working with Patricia and her family for 11 years. Advocates and family members expressed their joy at seeing Patricia free and deep gratitude to all who supported her release, including those who signed and circulated her petition. Alfey Ramdhan, Patricia’s youngest son, said, “I haven’t had my mom in so many years. We’ve missed so many milestones, but now I have her back and that motherly love that I’ve been missing for all those years. I feel like I have my security back, my confidence back, which I lost when my mom went to prison when I was 11 or 12.”
Patricia’s sister, Chantel Bonet, also shared her family’s joy at finally seeing her free, stating, “Speaking on behalf of the whole family, we thank God, CCWP, and Governor Newsom for his humanitarian act of mercy — releasing Patricia Wright from prison after 23 years due to her terminal cancer amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been terrifying for our family. We hope Governor Newsom will show compassion and release more elderly and seriously ill people.”
CCWP advocates emphasized that there are tens of thousands of others in Patricia’s situation still behind bars. Sarah Rodriguez from CCWP said, “While we greatly appreciate Governor Newsom’s action in releasing Patricia Wright, we are concerned with the ongoing exclusion of people serving Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentences from compassionate release, elder parole, and early releases recently announced by CDCR.”
Between 1992–2017, the population of people serving Life Without Parole in the U.S. grew by 400%. California has one of the largest populations of people serving LWOP in the country — many of whom are elderly or medically at-risk. Advocates have urged Governor Newsom to wield his commutation power quickly and decisively to grant relief to those serving LWOP and other extremely long sentences so that they too may have a chance to survive the humanitarian crisis in California prisons that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please take action today to support the release of more at-risk incarcerated people!
Hear more from Patricia’s family in this Guardian article out today.