Dublin Prison Solidarity Coalition Update 1/24

From January 3, 2024 to January 9, 2024, Judge Gonzalez-Rogers held a 5-day evidentiary hearing in California Coalition for Women Prisons v. Federal Bureau of Prisons. The plaintiffs in this case are seeking systemic policy changes and oversight to address the rampant sexual abuse and retaliation at FCI Dublin. We expect Judge Gonzalez-Rogers to issue a decision on the motion for preliminary injunction in the coming months.

The Dublin Prison Solidarity Coalition echoes the calls for immediate changes to:

  • end retaliation against people who report staff misconduct, including punitive placement in solitary confinement, transfers to other facilities, and cell and strip searches;
  • immediately remove staff who have substantiated claims of abuse against them;
  • ensure access to high-quality, community-based medical and mental healthcare for all people at FCI Dublin;
  • ensure access to counsel, including confidential legal calls and visits;
    support survivors’ requests for release and visas for noncitizen victims of crime; and
  • allow an audit, regular inspections and reports, and ongoing monitoring by a third-party organization.

Reflection from the legal team: Attorney Amaris Montes

“The BOP put on a number of witnesses, who all spoke around the same theme–insisting everything is fine now at FCI Dublin after some of the officers have been removed or criminally prosecuted, They blanketly denied any retaliation against those who spoke out about abuse. In response, 13 survivors inside Dublin gave  powerful testimony about the ongoing sexual abuse, harassment, and retaliation they continue to face, continuously emphasizing that this issue is systemic and is not solved be removal of some of the officers. Their testimony moved many in the courtroom to tears, and spoke truth to power despite the risk they all faced by testifying.”

Reflection from Annie: a member of the Dublin Prison Solidarity Coalition

“I followed the evidentiary hearing as a sexual abuse/retaliation survivor from FCI Dublin. I am humbled by the courage of the incarcerated women who bravely came forward into Court to testify. My heart ached knowing that they would be “punished” when they return into incarceration. The brilliant attorneys fighting so hard for change, all working with non-profits and/or pro-bono, are our heroes—they are the true David v. Goliath story. I was inside FCI Dublin when the BOP Task Force left in early 2022–they made promises of change and left us with a direct email to them for sending our concerns. We were optimistic until shortly after they left, BOP closed ranks and cut off all our communication with the Task Force members. There have been promises by BOP of change since the sexual assaults in the mid 1990’s, and still crimes and abuse continue within the Dublin walls. I have faith that Judge Gonzales Rogers will see through the mere promises over 30 years, and ensure there is finally accountable and measurable change to finally protect these women!”


Thank you to everyone who came out to support the survivors who testified at this hearing. We heard from many folks that it made a difference to know supporters were in the courtroom. We will be in touch about future actions to support survivors and keep the pressure on FCI Dublin. 

Jane v. San Diego

Her Long Fight for Justice

Community –
California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) and the new LA Innocence Project came together for this exciting event celebrating the hard won victory for Jane Dorotik. Jane freed herself from a wrongful conviction in May 2022, and continues her lifelong work challenging all aspects of the criminal legal system.

View the recording of this event below.

Panelists:

  • Eliza HaneyAttorney with the Los Angeles Innocence Project

Jane has been a longtime leader of CCWP inside prison and a member of our Coordinating Committee on the outside since she was released from prison in 2020. Jane’s boundless courage and determination to expose her wrongful conviction have been key in winning this struggle along with the persistent support of Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent. Jane has been a fierce advocate for all incarcerated people and we look forward to continuing our work together in this new phase of her life. Join us to celebrate and learn more about what this win means for future advocacy.
 

You can read more about the case here.

For questions about the event, contact info@womenprisoners.org.

CCWP IS HIRING A POLICY/CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER!

SUBMIT RESUME AND COVER LETTER BY FEB. 1, 2023
TO: ccwppolicyorganizer@gmail.com

Job Opening:  Policy/Campaign Organizer

40 hr./week position with full benefits

The incumbent needs to live in California and be able to travel frequently to Sacramento for legislative work. A lot of the work will be done remotely.

CCWP is a grassroots abolitionist organization, with members inside and outside prison, that challenges the institutional violence imposed on women, transgender people, and communities of color by the prison industrial complex (PIC).

We are looking for a passionate, systems impacted person who can anchor CCWP’s policy work, help set policy priorities, and contribute to CCWP’s key campaigns. As the policy anchor, the incumbent would prioritize in-depth work on a few pieces of legislation and develop broad expertise on criminal legal legislation in general. The position would work closely with CCWP’s many partner organizations on the bills we prioritize as co-sponsors.

For example this past legislative session CCWP was a co-sponsor of SB 300 which would have reformed the felony murder special circumstances part of the penal code, the Racial Justice Act for All (which passed into law), and the Vision Act which would have would have protected immigrant community members who have already been deemed eligible for release from being transferred by local jails and the state prison system to immigration detention.  The position would track other significant legislation, prepare support letters for a variety of bills that CCWP supports, and monitor the implementation of the legislation that has been passed.  

The incumbent would also work with CCWP’s other staff and volunteer members on one or two campaigns that are closely linked to our programmatic priorities. This year we are launching a  bold campaign to Close Women’s Prisons in California together with the CURB coalition – (Californians United for a Responsible Budget).  The incumbent would represent CCWP in this campaign, working closely with CURB and CCWP members.

All of CCWP’s work is guided by people inside women’s prisons, formerly incarcerated people and systems impacted family members and communities, prioritizing the values of racial and gender justice.  Our policy/campaign work needs to involve impacted people and communities to the greatest extent possible. 

We see policy and campaign work as tools to advance our goals of decarceration, abolition, collective care and community reinvestment.

Black, Latinx and other People of Color who are formerly incarcerated or loved ones of incarcerated people are strongly encouraged to apply.

We are looking for someone who shares:

  • Support for CCWP’s mission, goals and programs .
  •  Interest in developing progressive legislation that can make significant reforms in a variety of criminal legal areas including conditions of confinement, pre-trial detention, reducing  extreme sentences, parole processes, and immigrant detention.
  • Excitement about  working on bold campaigns with a visionary perspective such as the Close CA Women’s Prisons campaign.
  • Commitment to working with a wide variety of people inside and outside of prison, prioritizing the communities most impacted and inclusive of all those who want to work in solidarity with impacted people and communities.
  •  Interest in working in a small, non-hierarchical organization with a small staff and extensive volunteer network. 

Responsibilities

  • Anchor CCWP’s policy work and help to guide CCWP’s decision-making about legislative priorities.
  • Work closely with CCWP’s partner organizations to decide upon legislative priorities for each session.
  • Ensure CCWP representation in different policy work groups.
  • Develop overview of current criminal legal legislation.
  • Monitor the implementation of key legislation that impacts incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.
  • Anchor one or two of CCWP’s major campaigns, with the current priority on the Close CA Women’s Prisons campaign.
  • Participate in CCWP’s leadership body, the coordinating committee
  • Attend monthly CCWP statewide meetings.
  • Work closely with CCWP staff, members, interns and Advisory Board.

Qualifications

  • Prior experience with campaign development, policy work, legislative advocacy, research or other forms of organizing to change the criminal legal system or closely related systems.
  • Direct experience with the criminal legal system.
  • Excitement about visionary, bold projects as well as commitment to progressive reform legislation.
  • Ability to work independently
  • Comfortable working flexible hours, possible travel, working via phone and computer, and keeping in consistent communication with colleagues in other parts of the state.
  • Commitment to the development of leadership skills in oneself and in others.
  • Strong writing and other communication skills.
  • Solid computer skills.
  • Comfortable with a collective, non-hierarchical organizational structure.
  • Commitment to mutual accountability, teamwork and collectivity.

Annual salary: $70,000 with possible increase after three month successful orientation period. Full package health benefits, vacation and sick leave.

TO APPLY SEND RESUME AND COVER LETTER DESCRIBING YOUR RELEVANT EXPERIENCE AND WHAT INTERESTS YOU ABOUT THE POSITION BY FEBRUARY 1, 2023 TO:

ccwppolicyorganizer@gmail.com

She was jailed for losing a pregnancy. Her nightmare could become more common.

theguardian.com 

June 5, 2022

By Sam Levin 

On 4 November 2019, TV stations across California blasted Chelsea Becker’s photo on their news editions. The “search was on” for a “troubled” 25-year-old woman wanted for the “murder of her unborn baby”, news anchors said, warning viewers not to approach if they spotted her but to call the authorities.

The next day, Becker was asleep at the home she was staying in when officers with the Hanford police department arrived.

“The officer had a large automatic weapon pointed at me and a K-9 [dog],” Becker, now 28, recalled in a recent interview. “I walked out and surrendered.”

Two months before, Becker had had a stillbirth at a California hospital, losing a baby boy at eight months pregnant. The King’s county prosecutor in the central valley charged her with “murder of a human fetus”, alleging she had acted with “malice” because she had been struggling with drug addiction and the hospital reported meth in her system.

Becker’s attorneys argued there was no evidence that substance use caused the stillbirth and California law did not allow for this type of prosecution in the first place. Still, she spent 16 months in jail awaiting trial before a judge dismissed the charges.

Becker’s nightmare offers a preview of the kinds of criminal cases that could become commonplace in the US if the supreme court, as expected after the leak of a draft opinion last month, officially overturns Roe v Wade. In the states that outlaw abortion, advocates warn, pregnancy losses more broadly will be treated as potential crimes, including in cases of wanted pregnancies. Even with Roe in effect, women have repeatedly faced arrest and charges for their pregnancy outcomes.

“These prosecutions will escalate at an extremely rapid clip if Roe is reversed,” said Emma Roth, staff attorney with the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), a non-profit group that supported Becker in her legal battle. “A lot of people don’t realize that pregnant people are already facing criminalization all across the country, including in blue states like California. All it takes is a rogue district attorney.”

‘Why did the hospital call police?’

Becker grew up in an agricultural region 200 miles north-west of Los Angeles. The area has an unemployment rate twice the California average, and more than 15% of its residents live in poverty. Authorities say it has long been a hub for meth distribution, and access to drug rehabilitation, reproductive healthcare and other services is limited.

Becker had struggled with addiction and at the time of her stillbirth was also battling homelessness, occasionally forced to sleep on a motel stairwell.

On 9 September 2019, she had been preparing for the birth of her fourth child, a baby boy whom she had already named, when her family had to call an ambulance to rush her to the hospital.

She was uncontrollably bleeding when she arrived at the Adventist Health Hanford hospital, a faith-based organization, and roughly two hours later lost the child.

Staff treated her with suspicion, Becker said. Her mother learned before her that the baby had not survived, Becker recalled in an email interview. “I was in shock, physically from the blood loss and mentally from the news,” she said.

She briefly held her baby, she said, and wondered whether he could have survived if the hospital had done an emergency C-section. She also wondered why she received blood transfusions only hours after she had arrived in distress.

The next morning, she said, she discovered that the hospital had left her baby on a table at the other end of the room for hours on end. She also learned that hospital staff had called the police.

“Why the hospital staff called the police to take my baby away is still so troubling. That image of me lying in the hospital bed with my deceased son left on a table, seemingly abandoned, is an image I will never forget,” she said.

‘I suffered alone’

Police records show that hospital staff reported the stillbirth as “suspicious” to police and found Becker tested positive for meth, though her attorneys say she never consented to a drug test.

Later, Becker agreed to meet police at her mother’s house where an officer interrogated her about her drug use. The police recommended she be prosecuted for murder, and weeks later, took her to jail.

Becker was prosecuted by the Kings county district attorney, Keith Fagundes, the only prosecutor in California who has filed charges for a stillbirth in the last three decades. The year before, Fagundes had also filed a murder case against Adora Perez, after she delivered a stillborn baby at the same hospital in Hanford and police also alleged that meth use had caused the loss.

Becker awaited trial in jail while struggling to process her grief. Behind bars, she was unable to receive proper counseling, she said in a recent statement to lawmakers: “I was afraid anything I might have said to any of them would be used against me in court, so I suffered alone.”

While in jail, she lost custody of her son, who was adopted. Her two other children were already in the custody of a relative.

Becker was prosecuted under Section 187 of the California penal code, which defines murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought”. Lawmakers added “fetus” to the statute in 1970 in response to the case of a man who had attacked a pregnant woman, causing a stillbirth. The law does not apply to an act “consented to by the mother of the fetus”, and the primary author of the legislation, a Republican lawmaker, later testified that the mention of fetus was solely intended for prosecuting “a third party’s willful assault on a pregnant woman”.

But Fagundes, and the police officials who investigated Perez and Becker, have used it to argue that women, in some cases, should be jailed.

Becker’s lawyers argued that she could not legally be prosecuted under Section 187. They also noted that at the time of the stillbirth, Becker had three separate reproductive infections, all of which can cause stillbirth. The pathologist who concluded Becker’s stillbirth was due to “acute methamphetamine toxicity” admitted in court that he was not aware of the infections when he conducted the autopsy and had not reviewed her medical records before his determination.

A judge dismissed the case in May 2021.

Adora Perez, the other woman prosecuted by Fagundes, spent four years behind bars before her case was dismissed earlier this year.

“The DA’s extraordinarily broad and very dangerous interpretation of the statute means that if a woman does any kind of activity that could be considered reckless while she’s pregnant, and she loses her fetus, she’s up for murder,” said Mary McNamara, Perez’s lawyer. “If she works at a dangerous factory while she’s pregnant and loses her child, that’s murder. If she is ill and needs cancer treatment that could harm her fetus, that’s murder.”

‘Women are afraid to seek help’

Although Becker’s case was unusual in California, it is not unique in the US.

The 1973 Roe decision established the constitutional right to abortion. But NAPW has tracked more than 1,700 cases between 1973 and 2020 in which pregnant people have been criminalized often based on the notion of “fetal personhood” – that a fetus is, in effect, a person with rights. That estimate, probably an undercount, includes a wide range of cases in which pregnant people faced arrest, prosecution or other criminal or civil consequences based on some action or behavior that law enforcement claimed caused harm to the fetus.

Pregnant women have been criminalized for falling down stairs; giving birth at home; exposing a fetus to dangerous “fumes”; having HIV; not resting enough during the pregnancy; not getting to a hospital fast enough while in labor; being the victim of a shooting; and self-inducing an abortion.

“Once prosecutors decide they want to punish somebody for ending a pregnancy, they will figure out a way to do so,” said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director of If/When/How, a reproductive justice group.

Substance use is one of the most common allegations, with mothers facing charges even when there’s no evidence of harm to the fetus and in some instances, even after they have given birth to a healthy baby.

Two physician experts testified that Becker’s arrest was rooted in “medical misinformation” and that the claims that meth use causes stillbirths were unfounded. At least 20% of all pregnancies in the US end in miscarriages and stillbirths, often with unknown causes, the doctors wrote, and if the courts treat stillbirths as potential crimes, it will require a dramatic expansion of the role of law enforcement in pregnancy.

A coalition of major medical associations, public health and reproductive rights groups also filed a brief supporting Becker, noting the research consensus that the threat of prosecutions does not protect pregnancies, but rather endangers them by leading people to avoid care. “It is in no way pro-life or in the interest of the health of a fetus that we criminalize the negative outcomes of pregnancy,” added Jacqueline Goodman, one of Becker’s attorneys.

Becker said women who are addicted and pregnant are afraid to seek help, whether in the form of drug treatment or prenatal care. “Women wonder, ‘How can I fix this on my own without anyone else finding out, and in time before the baby comes?’” Becker said. “And many times, as we have seen, it’s much too difficult a battle to fight alone, and many women are unable to kick their addiction by themselves without professional help.”

The fight to protect others

When Becker’s case was dismissed last year, she was in the middle of completing a drug treatment program. “There was a small part of me that said, ‘I don’t have to be here any more. I can leave and go home, and nothing will happen to me.’ But I knew better than to abandon that commitment,” Becker recalled.

After completing treatment, she enrolled in college and is now working toward a community health worker certificate and public health degree.

She also recently advocated for state legislation meant to explicitly block these kinds of prosecutions.

“I hope that in the future, no woman will ever be prosecuted for losing a pregnancy,” she told legislators. “I was punished for something that could have happened to anybody.”

Brian Johnson, an Adventist Health spokesperson, declined to comment on Becker’s case, but said it was hospital policy to notify the coroner’s office in a stillbirth after 20 weeks, and that it follows reporting requirements of child protective services.

The Hanford police department did not respond to inquiries.

Fagundes, the prosecutor, dismissed the medical associations’ arguments as a “political position”.. He said he could not cite research to support his claims that prosecution was the right approach to addiction, but noted that the women did not use drugs behind bars.

Asked why he was the only DA in the state prosecuting women for stillbirths, he said, “Others are fearful of the liberal media machine, the attorney general and the governor and our legislature.”

He added he could in the future refile cases against Becker and Perez, but said he had no immediate plans to do so. “It really depends on how these two women proceed in life. If they’re successful and sober and don’t harm more children, then they probably deserve some credit for that,” he said.

DV and LWOP Survivor Marisela Andrade testifies at Immigration Hearing.

6/16/22 UPDATE

Marisela Andrade maintained her dignity, courage, and strength during a grueling 4-hour immigration court hearing on June 15, 2022. With more than 50 community supporters on the phone, Marisela made her case for asylum based on the Conventions Against Torture (CAT) and then was questioned by Immigration Judge Elizabeth McGrail and Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) attorney Matt Richardson. Marisela then presented her two witnesses: Jaime Leyva, a case manager with Community Justice Center in Fresno, CA; and Dr. Susan Wilde, a clinical psychologist from Berkeley, CA, with experience working with DV and Human Trafficking survivors.

While the DHS attorney asserted that he did not think Marisela successfully met the ‘burden of proof’, Judge McGrail said she needed to deliberate and will provide a written ruling in 2 to 3 weeks. She acknowledged the strong representation Marisela provided for herself, and the impressive community support she has. Judge McGrail asked Mari if she wished to speak to her community supporters. Marisela told us, “I love you all and appreciate that you are here. I know I am not standing alone.”

DV and LWOP Survivor Marisela Andrade handed over to ICE!!

Early in the morning on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, the California Dept. Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) transferred CCWP member Marisela Andrade over to ICE agents instead of releasing her on parole.

Marisela, a survivor of domestic violence and a LWOP sentence, was expected to be released on Sunday, Dec. 5th, from the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla after more than 14 years in prison. Friends and supporters were ready to pick her up and help her get to the Fresno Reentry program she was assigned to. Instead, CDCr cruelly handed her over to ICE. She was held overnight in a temporary ICE detention center in Fresno that had no beds or decent sanitation facilities.

Marisela is now in Aurora, CO, where our compañeras Patti Waller Medina and Gabi Solano were also held. Her immigration attorney will be filing a Release Order in the hope we can bring her home to CA to continue fighting for legal status in the US.

We must pass the Vision Act (AB 937)! This would prevent the cruel double punishment of all people who have completed their sentence or are released on parole from facing detention and deportation.

#STOP ICE   #Pass The Vision Act!

SEND Marisela SOME LOVE:

     Marisela Andrade De Zarate                                                             A#074-816-783
     Aurora ICE Processing Center
     3130 North Oakland Street, Aurora, CO 80010
     (303) 361-6612

 

 

Caring Collectively for People
in Women’s Prisons

We monitor and challenge the abusive conditions inside California women’s prisons.

We fight for the release of women and trans prisoners.

We support women and trans people in their process of re-entering the community.

 

And… thank you to everyone who joined our special virtual event honoring founding CCWP member, Charisse Shumate!
Watch the event recording here.
Learn more about Charisse and her life’s work here.