No to Physical & Sexual Assault on People in Women’s Prisons!

On November 11th, five imprisoned people at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) endured extreme violence at the hands of prison guards. They immediately filed grievances against the officers and called for an independent investigation, but so far none of their requests have been met. They have now developed a more comprehensive set of demands listed in the letter below.

Family members and a coalition of organizations – the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Justice Now, the Family Unity Network, and the TGI Justice Project – are asking your help. in pressuring the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Senate Public Safety Committee to respond to their demands.

Please click on the link below to TAKE ACTION to pressure the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Senate Public Safety Committee to respond to their demands. And let these officials know that their is widespread public concern about this incident! 

Please help spread the word on your email lists and through social media.


http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51040/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18444

Violence & Medical Neglect at CCWF

For Immediate Release – Monday, November 23, 2015

Imprisoned People, Family Members and Organizers Speak Out

Press Contact: Dolores Canales, Family Unity Network, (714)290-9077 dol1canales@gmail.com  or Hannah McFaull, Justice Now, (415) 813.7715 hannah@justicenow.org

Sacramento – On November 11th, an imprisoned person at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), faced extreme violence at the hands of prison guards. Stacy Rojas and three others were detained, physically abused, sexually harassed, strip searched in the presence of male guards, and were kept without water, food or restrooms for eleven hours. The group was illegally kept in administrative segregation without a lock up order and have been denied health care support for the injuries caused by these officers. Requests to speak with members of the prison’s Investigative Services Unit have so far been ignored.I just want to let them know that we have been physically abused, sexually harassed,” said Stacy Rojas, “and that this was just wrong. They used excessive force, totally used excessive force against us and we need help.

The public acknowledgment of excessive use of force and deadly use of force by police has increased throughout the nation. Video recordings of interactions between the police and the public have increased significantly in recent years as technology has improved and the number of distribution channels has expanded. This is not an option open to people experiencing violence from guards behind prison walls and any attempt to speak out is often met with retaliation and increased force.

Our communities in and out of lock up have lived experiences with biased policing — ranging from racial profiling, to excessive, and sometimes lethal, use of force”, stated Patrisse Cullors co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter. “We hear about it more and more in the communities we live in, but rarely hear about the traumatic ways that it manifests in the California prison system. Stories like Stacy’s are happening everyday inside of California prisons and jails with little to no measures taken by authorities to keep people safe and hold law enforcement, such as prison guards accountable.”

Advocacy organizations working with people in women’s prisons are familiar with reports of abuse and violence, like that experienced at CCWF last week. The California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Justice Now, the Family Unity Network, the TGI Justice Project and others regularly provide legal and medical advocacy support following incidents of violence perpetrated by correctional officers at women’s prisons.This group of organizations and Stacy’s family members are requesting an independent investigation of the violence and excessive use of force used. They are requesting medical care and safe housing for Stacy and all those involved. The group also demands an end to the violence imposed on women, transgender people, gender nonconforming people, and communities of color within the California prison system.

“My sister is at the end of a fourteen year sentence and it seems as though some would wish to take that away. This has never happened [to Stacy] before. We have never had fear for my sister’s life”, said Adriana Rojas. “My sister Stacy Rojas’ constitutional rights have been violated by being stripped searched by male guards, assaulted by means of kicking and stomping, taken outdoors in near 40 degree weather, threatened with rape, humiliated, placed in holding cages for nearly 12 hours, and deprived of food and water.” Albert Jacob Rojas added, “They were denied medical attention and denied the right to speak to internal affairs. We ask that anybody who cares about human rights and women’s rights please join us in demanding justice for all.”Family members and advocates are calling for:

  • An immediate independent investigation into the violence and excessive force used by guards in this incident.

  • Suspension of guards involved pending investigation.

  • Comprehensive medical treatment for injuries sustained during the incident.

  • No retaliation for speaking out against this abuse.

Act Now to Free Kelly Savage!

http://www.truth-out.org/images/images_2014_11/2014_1125vlaw2_.jpg

Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout

Petitioning Attorney General Kamala Harris

https://www.change.org/p/kamala-harris-free-kelly-domestic-violence-survivor-serving-her-19th-year-in-prison-for-a-crime-committed-by-her-abusive-husband

This petition will be delivered to:

Attorney General Kamala Harris

Free Kelly! Domestic violence survivor serving her 19th year in prison for a crime committed by her abusive husband.

California Coalition for Women Prisoners

Kelly is a domestic violence survivor serving her 19th year in prison for a crime she did not commit. In 1995, Kelly’s abusive husband killed her son Justin after she put her children to sleep and left the house to run errands in preparation to leave him with her children the next day. Her ex-husband has since confessed his responsibility for Justin’s death, telling Kelly in a letter he wrote from prison last year that “I should of let you all get away from me.”

Kelly’s trial and conviction rested on the prosecution exploiting myths and misconceptions of survivors of abuse. Even Kelly’s own defense attorney told the jury that she was negligent for not leaving her abusive husband, a damaging and inaccurate argument that hurt her case. Kelly’s history of abuse began when she was less than four years old. She sustained a lifetime of rapes, beatings and other abuse by a succession of family members, acquaintances and two husbands, including the husband who killed Justin.

Kelly was not present for her son’s killing, but the DA blamed her for not escaping and saving her children sooner, ignoring the very real and documented dangers associated with attempting to leave an abusive partner. The DA also exploited Kelly’s history of abuse to suggest that she didn’t run because she enjoyed the beatings, and sacrificed her son to “please” her abusive husband. Kelly was convicted of first-degree murder for “aiding and abetting” her abusive husband, and sentenced to Life Without Possibility of Parole.

California’s Intimate Partner Battering legislation allows Kelly to petition for a review of her conviction by introducing expert testimony about her abuse that was not allowed in her trial. Kelly’s defense was severely harmed by the absence of expert testimony to explain how prolonged intimate partner battering was relevant to her case. Kelly’s lawyer and trial judge fought her request for an expert in domestic violence who could have testified on her behalf.

In prison, Kelly has the respect of prisoners and prison staff alike. She keeps her heart and spirit strong by focusing on helping other prisoners. Since learning more about domestic violence and the cycle of abuse, Kelly leads support groups for others. Kelly also works hard to raise money within the prison. She helps raise more than $9000 a year to send to a low-income school in Madera, paying for basic school supplies and computers for local kids. Kelly is also one of few approved caregivers in a Comfort Care program, where she gives needed support to dying and incapacitated prisoners.

Through the California Habeas Project and Free Battered Women, now the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), Kelly secured legal help from pro-bono attorneys at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Kelly’s petition is currently held up in the appeals court process and the Attorney General is opposing her chance at a fair hearing.

Join us in asking our Attorney General, Kamala Harris, to withdraw her opposition to Kelly’s habeas petition and tell the court to grant her a fair hearing. Domestic violence survivors need care and support, not prison!

For more info: colby@womenprisoners.org

Facebook: please join the group “FreeKelly!”

Twitter: @womenprisoners (#FreeKelly)

Read Victoria Law’s article about Kelly on Truth-out:

http://truth-out.org/news/item/27666-why-is-california-keeping-kelly-savage-in-prison-for-a-crime-she-didn-t-commit?tmpl=component&print=1

Why Is California Keeping Kelly Savage in Prison for a Crime She Didn’t Commit?

A Conversation with Piper Kerman

Piper Kerman (standing second to the left) with CCWP and Justice Now members

SAVE THE DATE – SUNDAY FEBRUARY 23, 2014

A CONVERSATION WITH PIPER KERMAN,

AUTHOR OF ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK,

AND OTHER FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE

Sponsored by California Coalition for Women Prisoners & Justice Now

Sunday, February 23, 2014

3-5 pm

Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland (between Telegraph and Broadway)

Wheelchair access on 28th St.

A Strategy Meant to Break Me Fuels My Passion for Human Rights

Amy Preasmyer’s powerful article was just published in the SF Bayview. CCWP has visited Amy for several years and supported her when she wanted to write about her recent terrible experience with Administrative Segregation at CCWF.

http://sfbayview.com/2013/a-strategy-meant-to-break-me-fuels-my-passion-for-human-rights/
A strategy meant to break me fuels my passion for human rights
October 16, 2013

by Amy Preasmyer

I am an inmate at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, California. In April 2013, I and another individual were falsely accused of sexual assault and placed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) immediately. I was forced to face the loss of my job assignment, property, good living quarters, placement and status in groups and organizations. I was forced to miss my scheduled final examinations for college and lost the privilege to shop, walk outside or even call home.

Chowchilla Freedom Rally 'CCWF is at 200 capacity w 4,000 people inside' 012613 by Wanda, web

This little girl and her grandmother and hundreds more traveled to CCWF, California’s main women’s prison, in January for the Chowchilla Freedom Rally to demand, “Bring our loved ones home.” Their sign highlights the dreadful overcrowding at CCWF, created in order to ease crowding in the men’s prisons. The situation has not improved. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

The federally mandated Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) protocols and the complexity of its consequences turned my world upside down in seconds.1 This protocol has no intelligence or consideration of the law or constitutional rights that the judicial system offers and in many cases merely lacks. Through PREA, I quickly learned the cruel conditions of Ad-Seg.

This false accusation under PREA meant I was abruptly removed from my bed late in the evening to face an extended wait and then a transfer to Ad-Seg. Upon entering my newly assigned chambers at 3 a.m., I found the toilet was backed up and a DD3 (EOP)2 had urinated everywhere prior to me, leaving extremely unsanitary conditions and aromas.

I was left with only a bedroll, a state issued muumuu and no panties. I was utterly distraught and in a mental state of haze and disorientation, not knowing the excessively degrading experience I would continue to face from that point forward.

The torture and anguish administered with each passing minute, the refusals, limitations, the sudden removal of rights and privileges, and the revisions established by prison officials reveals a clear abuse of authority and misuse of power.

CCWF Ad-Seg conditions and limitations include:

Inadequate (if any) legal assistance and resource access.
No phone access.
Canteen items removed from original packaging.
Absolutely NO educational or rehabilitation opportunities afforded.
No religious services.
No contact visits.
No means to properly disinfect and sanitize cells.
No sanitation in dayroom, hallways, and stairs even while escorts continually take place daily and frequently.
No efficient and proper mental health assessment, evaluation and tracking.
No razors to maintain feminine hygiene (30 day review).

And the list goes on.

I was subjected to this treatment for an investigation evidenced as false. I am forced to start over when thrown back into general population, and CDCr holds no accountability, doesn’t right their wrong, nothing.

They remain unaccountable and unmoved by the loss, humiliation and set-back I endured those countless days and nights. They failed to offer guidance, leadership or assistance in reinstating my original program, assignment and the positive participation within my community I was once commended for.

Further, the cost to arrest, charge, investigate and re-house us was absurd. No precautions were taken toward California’s budget and its continued economic crisis. Nonetheless, I was guilty until proven innocent, a constitutional right broken and overseen based on “protocols,” but in reality, it is because everything changes behind these walls.
I was subjected to this treatment for an investigation evidenced as false. I am forced to start over when thrown back into general population, and CDCr holds no accountability, doesn’t right their wrong, nothing.

In a world of hardened minds, poverty, misunderstandings and violence, PREA offers a tool for manipulation of the system, its institutions, and all of those within it.3 What is disturbing is that the woman who filed the accusation under PREA sought – and ultimately was rewarded with – a transfer to California Institute for Women (CIW), the only other institution where a woman serving a life sentence term can be housed. In addition, there was no disciplinary action for her false allegation or restitution for expenses incurred behind it.

I was sentenced as a juvenile to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), and there was an enormous capacity for me to change my life as I matured from adolescence to middle age.4 It is unnerving that my opportunity for rehabilitation and education was jeopardized and challenged by a protocol set forth by CDCr, the very department that stands firm on their claim for rehabilitation and education.

Yet, those are among the first things denied when we are placed in Ad-Seg and hold the greatest ramifications on our future successes. These are all a result of the system’s damages.
In a world of hardened minds, poverty, misunderstandings and violence, PREA offers a tool for manipulation of the system, its institutions, and all of those within it.

Must we wait for more victims before we seek and support a change? Or is CDCr simply waiting until PREA is manipulated in a way that damages them, society’s example of law-abiding citizens?

Had this woman falsely accused an officer, would that officer have been arrested and forced to relinquish rights pending results of the investigation into the accusation? Would the employee suffer a wage loss? Would disciplinary action and consequences be rendered to the accuser once charges turned out to be baseless? Are you waiting until you have to rebuild your life or are you supporting to seek change now?

After being subjected to this methodical strategy meant to break me for a mere investigative purpose based on false allegations by another inmate later evidenced, I have chosen to embark on another journey to overcome and refuse to be their puppet or their statistic. I will not allow CDCr policies or standard operating tactics to make me stray from rehabilitation, education and future re-entry into society. As many say – that is NOT an option!

I defy the daily systematic obstacles set in place to make struggles become failures. There is no expectation of success and, through this ignorant assumption, I am empowered and influenced. What was intended to discourage has fueled the passion and participation in the Human Rights Movement for humanity and peaceful resolutions when faced with resistance behind bars and in the systems of injustice.

If we believe, we can achieve. Together we can make a difference. Support restoring lives and the need for change NOW.

Send our sister some love and light: Amy Preasmyer, X-29459, CCWF 511-19-4U, P.O. Box 1508, Chowchilla CA 93610. This story will appear in The Fire Inside, the newsletter of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

Fire Inside’s editorial notes:

1.Enacted by Congress in 2003, PREA (P.L. 108-79) sets protocols to prevent, identify, respond to and monitor sexual abuse of incarcerated or detained people in custody. PREA aims to address sexual abuse as it may occur between inmates or may be perpetrated by correctional facility staff. Grant funding is available at both the state and local level of government to implement PREA. PREA also mandates that information on rape and sexual abuse be collected and made available as part of the monitoring provision of the act. For more information, see http://nicic.gov/prea.
2. EOP stands for Enhanced Outpatient Program, a program designed for inmates who are categorized as having a disability that makes it difficult for them to interact with the general population in prison but not so serious that they require inpatient care. DD3 is a designation within the EOP classification.
3: This occurs in a context of severe overcrowding following the conversion of Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) to a men’s prison, as over a thousand women and transgender prisoners were transferred from VSPW to either CCWF or California Institute for Women (CIW) in Corona, outside of Los Angeles. CCWF is currently functioning at close to 200 percent of its design capacity.
4.: According to the ACLU, there are approximately 2,570 children sentenced to LWOP in the United States, including children sentenced as young as 13 years old. The United States is the only country in the world that sentences youth to LWOP. See https://www.aclu.org/blog/tag/juvenile-life-without-parole.