Close California Women’s Prisons


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The 2023 comprehensive report From Crisis to Care points to the inescapable conclusion – women’s prisons only perpetuate catastrophic trauma and harm. To reverse cycles of gendered and racial violence plus intergenerational trauma and poverty, California needs to invest in community controlled resources that are life affirming and health promoting. Our communities need to develop non-carceral, non-punitive forms of accountability and CLOSE WOMEN’S PRISONS! In Massachusetts and other parts of the country campaigns to close women’s prisons are already underway.

As of mid-2023 there are 3,337 people incarcerated in women’s prisons in California, 70.8% less than in 2010 when there were 12,668! This dramatic reduction was a result of strong, persistent legal challenges and advocacy campaigns by dozens of organizations and thousands of people from our communities, resulting in marked policy changes in California. Collectively we were able to reduce the population of women’s prisons by over 9,000 in little more than a decade. We can decarcerate a few  thousand more and close the state’s two women’s prisons!

We Call Out the Harms That Drive People Into Women’s Prisons

  • Racism – 25% of the women’s prison population is Black even though they make up only 6.5% of the California population. 35.2% of the population is Latinx and 32.1% are white. 7% are classified as other,” which clouds the statistics of the Asian, Pacific Islander, and First Nations People all into the aggregated “other” category. That being said, we know First Nations women comprise almost 2% of incarcerated women in our state — nearly five times their share of all women in California (0.4%).

  • Gendered violence and trauma – A majority of people in women’s prisons report experiences of intimate partner violence and a history of childhood abuse and witnessing the abuse of their own children as factors contributing to their incarceration. Transgender and gender variant people report significant trauma prior to incarceration, including experiences of bullying, family rejection and isolation, eviction, criminalization, and mistreatment by police.
  • School-to-prison pipeline – Schools in BIPOC communities routinely use punitive controls, including suspensions, expulsions, police and court referrals in dealing with students, channeling them towards prison.
  • Inter-generational poverty – Lack of food, housing, employment, education, childcare, healthcare and  transportation (the list goes on) are huge underlying factors that fuel imprisonment

We Denounce the Traumas That People Suffer Inside Women’s Prisons

  • Sexual harassment, abuse and assaults of incarcerated people in the women’s prisons at the hands of guards and other staff have been continuous and relentless for many decades.

  • Homophobia and transphobia resulting in isolation and additional punishment.

  • Medical neglect including failure to provide medical examinations, long delays in treatment, stopping needed prescriptions, reproductive violations such as forced sterilization, and lack of mental health care. This medical neglect results in permanent disability and chronic illness for a significant number of incarcerated people.

  • Environmental hazards including overcrowding, infectious disease, extreme heat and cold, foodborne illness, mold, asbestos, toxic drinking water, rodents and more. 

  • Solitary confinement, condemned by the United Nations, is used as retaliation for whistleblowing and as an alternative to providing mental health care. 

  • Separation from families and communities has destructive and far-reaching consequences that deeply harm community health.

We Grieve the Damage That Families and Communities Endure

  • Separation of mothers and parents from their children with lifelong consequences for those children of attention difficulties, aggression, mental health challenges, and a higher likelihood of their own incarceration later in life.

  • Loss of income plus the need to support incarcerated loved ones financially with their survival needs.

  • Eugenic population control via the removal of people of child-bearing age to prisons, which limits the reproductive capacity of the community.

We Amplify, Create and Implement Gateways to Freedom

  • Release policies for survivors of sexual abuse by prison staff.

  • End to all extreme sentencing, prioritizing elimination of LWOP, three strikes laws, the death penalty and sentence enhancements that most severely and disproportionately impact Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color.

  • Parole reform that expands Youth Parole and Elder Parole and ensures the presumption of release at parole hearings.

  • Compassionate release for those individuals who require assisted living due to years of medical neglect and the terminally ill.

  • Creation of the appropriate housing that will provide medical care and rehabilitation for those who require durable medical equipment and assistance with basic functions.

  • Creation of healing and accountability centers that are non-carceral, non-punitive and not funded by CDCr for people who need to be involved in transformative justice processes that ensure community safety.

90% of people in women’s prisons have suffered abuse.

People need care, healing, safety and transformative justice. Read our statement about how Domestic Violence = State Violence here.

Power & Control Wheel from Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration Chicago re-conceptualized by Monica Cosby. Graphic by Sarah Ross.