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Dear Governor Brown,
In the spirit of all mothers who give birth with love and hope in their hearts, I ask you to offer a living chance to the 5,000 people in California’s prisons who have been sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP).
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 31st, 2018
Deirdre Wilson, CCWP, 415-255-7036 x 4
Amber-Rose Howard, CURB, 909-717-8520
The California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) and the Californians United for a Responsible Budget Coalition (CURB) applaud Governor Brown for commuting the sentences of 14 people and pardoning 56 to mark the Easter holiday, among them 7 were serving Life Without Parole (LWOP). These commutations follow the 19 commutations and 132 pardons granted by the Governor at Christmas. These commutations follow the 37 commutations the Governor has granted during his term, 17 for people serving LWOP.
“These unprecedented commutations indicate that the Governor recognizes that people have the capacity to change, grow and be rehabilitated, which an LWOP sentence denies.” noted Adrienne Roberts of CCWP. “We are hopeful that over the course of his last year in office, Brown will continue to grant pardons and commutations, especially to the thousands of people serving LWOP sentences. Such a bold stance could serve as a model for commutation and sentencing reform throughout the country.”
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, over 5,000 people in California are serving LWOP. Roberts continues “Life Without Parole sentencing is increasingly being challenged and limited across the United States. We believe that all people in California serving the inhumane LWOP sentence should be commuted to parole-eligible, allowing people a chance to go before the Parole Board. UItimately, LWOP, a living death sentence, needs to be eliminated from the penal code.”
Ivette Alé of CURB points out that, “Black and Brown people are disproportionately sentenced to LWOP, revealing prosecutorial bias and racial discrimination. Of the nearly 200 people serving LWOP in California’s women’s prisons, the overwhelming majority are survivors of abuse, including intimate partner battering, childhood abuse, sexual violence and sex trafficking. Hearing the news of the Easter commutations offers a sense of hope in the direction of dropping LWOP sentences for good.” Today’s commutations included 3 people in women’s prisons, 2 serving LWOP.
A group of people with LWOP sentences at the Central California Women’s Facility reacted with excitement at news of the Easter commutations. “We are extremely humbled by Governor Brown’s act of grace. We have believed and persevered through despair and now we feel that a miracle of hope is transforming our lives.”
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We are writing to ask you to join with California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) in our statewide campaign to DROP LWOP and secure sentence commutations for all those serving Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP). LWOP is an inhumane sentence which denies people the possibility to rehabilitate and change.
We are asking Governor Brown to use his executive powers to commute the almost 5,000 people serving LWOP sentences — including nearly 200 women and transgender people in CA women’s prisons — to parole-eligible sentences. Because CCWP has advocated for the civil and human rights of people in CA women’s prisons for 22 years, we focus on the impact of life without parole sentencing on the 200 people serving LWOP in women’s prisons.
Will you join us? We are looking for organizations and individuals to sign on to the letter below as a first step in expressing support for this campaign. Please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 255-7036 x 4 with any comments, questions, or concerns.
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Dear Governor Brown,
As grassroots, advocacy, and social justice organizations, we are writing to urge you to commute the sentences of all people serving Life Without Parole (LWOP) in California’s prisons to parole-eligible sentences.
Life Without Parole sentencing is increasingly being challenged and limited across the United States. We believe that life without parole is inhumane. It denies that people have the capacity to change, grow and be rehabilitated, and thus is known as “the other death penalty” by those serving it and by their families.
As you know, many states, including California, are legislating against sentencing youth to Life Without Parole.[i] Now it is time to take action to mitigate the impact for all people sentenced to die in prison due to this endless punishment. While commuting a sentence does not guarantee release from prison, it does guarantee that each person will have the right to see the parole board in their lifetime, rather than being sentenced to a “living death.”
People of color are disproportionately sentenced to LWOP, revealing prosecutorial bias and racial discrimination.[ii] Of the nearly 200 people serving LWOP in CA women’s prisons, the overwhelming majority are survivors of abuse, including intimate partner battering, childhood abuse, sexual violence and sex trafficking. [iii] Additionally, the majority are first-time “offenders,” and had no record prior to being sentenced to Life Without Parole.
All 5,000 people serving LWOP in CA prisons are subjected to institutional discrimination, such as:
We urge you to take a bold stance against Life Without Parole sentencing and let California serve as a model for the rest of our nation. Please continue to take leadership on this issue and commute all those sentenced to LWOP to parole-eligible sentences, initiate a process to eliminate life without parole from the California penal code, and provide people sentenced to LWOP with opportunities for rehabilitation and redemption.
THANK YOU AND PLEASE SHARE THIS LETTER!
[i] Senate Bill 9: Fair Sentencing for Youth. http://fairsentencingforyouth.org/legislation/senate-bill-9-california-fair-sentencing-for-youth/
[ii] “Racial Disparities in Sentencing,” American Civil Liberties Union, Hearing on Reports of Racism in the Justice System of the United States, Submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 153rd Session, October 27, 2014.
[iii] Data gathered by CCWP members incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility and California Institution for Women. This data reflects national statistics reported by the ACLU that nearly 60% of people in women’s prisons nationwide are survivors of physical or sexual abuse, and that survivors make up 94% of the population in some women’s prisons. “Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003,” American Civil Liberties Union. https://www.aclu.org/other/prison-rape-elimination-act-2003-prea?redirect=prisoners-rights-womens-rights/prison-rape-elimination-act-2003-prea
Please join CCWP in helping Denise Gomez’ family raise money for her funeral. Denise died by suicide two weeks ago while incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility.
CCWP had the honor of partnering with Denise on a health-fair at CCWF last year. Denise spoke powerfully at the health-fair and contributed to her community in many ways. We join a large network of people inside and outside of prison grieving Denise’s loss and demanding an end to prison conditions that continue to lead to tragic and preventable deaths.
Please donate to support Denise’s family in their grief and help them honor Denise as they wish. They hope to raise enough money to pay for a viewing so they can see Denise one last time. www.gofundme.com/to-bury-my-