[Ppnews] Mother-and-Child Prison investigated

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 6 17:27:17 EDT 2007

hello comrades,

Today the New York Times broke a story about a 
mother-infant prison facility that LSPC has been 
investigating for months.  Please read the 
article below, but please do more than 
that:  Call the members of California's state 
government and let them know we do not accept 
abuse and neglect! It only takes 2 minutes to 
make a difference. Flood their offices with our voices!


Wendy Still (Assoc. Director of Women and 
Children, California Department of Corrections 
and Rehabilitation) 916-322-8055
tell her:  "I am outraged about the neglect and 
abuse of mothers and their children at Family 
Foundations San Diego.  Stop punishing these families!"

Sen. Christine Kehoe (California State Senator, San Diego)
tell her:  "I am outraged about the neglect and 
abuse of mothers and their children at Family 
Foundations San Diego.  There is no such thing as 
'better beds'; stop California's prison expansion now!"

Sen. Gloria Romero (California State Senator, Los Angeles)
tell her: "I am outraged about the neglect and 
abuse of mothers and their children at Family 
Foundations San Diego.  There is no such thing as 
'better beds';  We support Sen. Romero in 
stopping California's prison expansion!"

Maisha Quint
Advocacy Coordinator
Legal Services For Prisoners with Children
1540 Market Street Suite 490
San Francisco, CA 94102
(p) 415-255-7036
(f) 415-552-3150
<mailto:maisha at prisonerswithchildren.org>maisha at prisonerswithchildren.org

The New York Times
July 6, 2007
California Investigates a Mother-and-Child Prison Center

LOS ANGELES, July 5 - The authorities in 
California are investigating accusations that 
poor health care at a center where mothers serve 
prison terms with their young children led to the 
stillbirth of a 7-month-old fetus and endangered the lives of several children.

Staff logs, statements by prisoners and 
interviews with investigators, staff members and 
prisoners' families depict a facility where 
inmates and their children were denied hospital 
visits and medications, and where no one kept 
adequate records of accidents involving injuries 
that included a skull fracture and a broken collarbone.

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug 
Programs, one of several agencies investigating, 
is expected to decide this month whether to 
continue licensing the center, which houses 
nonviolent offenders, most convicted of drug crimes.

The problems at the center coincide with 
continuing intense scrutiny of health care 
delivery in California's prisons. A 
court-appointed receiver was handed control of 
prison medical services more than a year ago 
after a federal court found widespread neglect and malpractice.
The 40-bed facility, located in San Diego and 
offered as an alternative to serving time in the 
customary penitentiary setting, has 
dormitory-style rooms for inmate and child 
adjoining shared living areas. It is run under 
the banner of the Family Foundations Program by a 
nonprofit contractor, Center Point Inc., which 
did not return calls seeking comment.

An official with the California Department of 
Corrections and Rehabilitation, Wendy Still, said 
the department had looked into accusations 
surrounding the center and had ordered Center 
Point, based in San Rafael, Calif., to hire a 
part-time doctor for the facility and keep a 
registered nurse there. Disciplinary action could 
be taken against Center Point, depending on the 
results of the investigation, Ms. Still said.

The San Diego police would not comment on the 
inquiry, except to confirm that their child abuse 
unit was taking part. A spokeswoman for the 
court-appointed receiver, Robert Sillen, said it 
was unlikely that his authority extended to the care of children at the center.

"We don't think that these kids are part of our 
mandate, because they are not incarcerated," said 
the spokeswoman, Rachel Kagan.

With the state dogged by prison overcrowding, the 
Family Foundations Program had been considered a 
model for nonviolent female offenders. A 
provision for a similar program in Fresno, the 
state's sixth for incarcerated mothers and their 
children, is in a new law that, to accommodate 
53,000 more prisoners, provides $7.7 billion for 
prison construction and new initiatives.

Though only a small fraction of the total prison 
population, female inmates are growing in number 
in California and other states. The federal 
Bureau of Justice Statistics announced last week 
that the nation's prison and jail population grew 
2.8 percent from midyear 2005 to midyear 2006, 
the largest rise since 2000, and that the number 
of incarcerated women grew at almost double the 
overall rate, to a total of 111,403.

Sharp increases in imprisonment of women began 
after the enactment of stiffer drug sentencing 
laws in the 1980s and 1990s, said Robert J. 
LaLonde, an economist at the University of Chicago.

"A lot of women who probably wouldn't have gone 
to prison before are now going in for Class 4 
drug felonies - the least serious felonies," Dr. 
LaLonde said, referring to crimes that in some 
instances had previously resulted in nothing more than probation.

Studies show that about 75 percent of imprisoned 
women across the country are mothers, most of 
whom had custody of their children before their 
incarceration. In most cases, the children are 
left in the care of grandparents or other members 
of the extended family, but about 10 percent are placed in foster care.

Only a handful of states offer imprisoned mothers 
the opportunity to live with their children, and 
even those states allocate few spaces to them. 
The most such spaces are in California, where 140 
women live with their children at five small 
centers, including the one in San Diego.

Advocates of mother-child prison programs say 
they can reduce recidivism while retaining family 
bonds and easing pressure on the state's child 
welfare system. But even supporters worry that 
the California Department of Corrections and 
Rehabilitation, or C.D.C., may be too 
dysfunctional to provide sufficient oversight.

"This program has fallen by the wayside," said 
Karen Shain, co-director of Legal Services for 
Prisoners With Children, based in San Francisco. 
"I don't want to say that they should shut it all 
down, but I don't know that the C.D.C. has the 
capacity to take care of women and children."

Accusations of neglect and incompetence at the San Diego center abound.

For instance, one inmate, Marsha Strickland, 
complained to the staff about her 5-year-old 
daughter's blinding headaches and constant nausea 
for at least six weeks before the girl was 
allowed a hospital visit in January, according to 
accounts by inmates and former staff members. The 
child is now living with relatives and undergoing treatment for brain cancer.

In April, another prisoner, Sonya Bradford, 
delivered a stillborn fetus. According to 
interviews with former staff members and to 
witness statements offered to the San Diego 
police, the prison's staff had ignored Ms. 
Bradford's complaints that the fetus, which was 7 
months old, had stopped moving. Corrections 
officials deny responsibility for the stillbirth 
because it occurred only two days after Ms. Bradford's arrival at the center.

Yet another inmate, Dinesha Lawson, says she told 
the staff for several days that her infant 
daughter's breathing was labored. Finally, on May 
3, Ms. Lawson and the baby, Esperanza, were taken 
to the emergency room of a children's hospital, 
driven there by Trish Hoban, a vocational 
counselor later fired by Center Point on the 
ground, she says, that she had shared inmates' 
confidential health information with other inmates, an accusation she denies.

"They took the baby into the trauma ward to a 
room called the resuscitation room," Ms. Hoban 
said of Esperanza. "They said the baby's heart 
rate was 32. She was in cardiac arrest."

Esperanza's father, William Ramirez, says she had 
double pneumonia and was later given a regimen of 
antibiotics and a blood transfusion.
Ms. Still, the corrections official, denies that 
the girl was in cardiac arrest but acknowledges 
that she required placement in an incubator.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

510-367-9956 (cell)  Karen Shain, 415-672-3311 (cell)

Cassie Pierson, 415-255-7036 ext. 310(office)

DATE: July 5, 2007

Prison Investigation Uncovers Child Abuse Pattern

Unsafe Conditions at San Diego’s

Family Foundation Program

SAN DIEGO –San Diego Police Department and Child 
Protective Services have opened an investigation 
into severe child abuse and neglect by California 
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s 
(CDCR) Family Foundations Program (FFP) in San 
Diego, prisoners' rights advocates have learned. 
Because there is no transparent oversight into 
the FFP programs, these practices went unreported 
until Legal Services for Prisoners with Children 
(LSPC), a San Francisco-based prisoners' rights 
advocacy group, began receiving calls and 
uncovering case after case problematic neglect.

In one instance, Denisha Lawson, a prisoner at 
FFP San Diego, gave birth to a premature baby who 
became very ill shortly after she left the 
hospital. After pleading with FFP staff for days 
to take her baby to the hospital, Denisha refused 
to move until her baby received care. When the 
infant was finally taken to the hospital the 
child was in near complete cardiac arrest. 
Denisha Lawson’s partner, William Ramirez and 
father of the newborn baby asks, “If Family 
Foundations is supposed to be a treatment 
facility, why would they do this to women and 
babies? Denisha did nothing wrong­she was only 
trying to protect our daughter.”

“Women will go through a lot to stay with their 
children. The CDCR has created a system where 
women are afraid to complain because they don’t 
want to be separated. I can only imagine their 
fear and anger when they realize that their 
children are in danger!” said Harriette Davis, 
LSPC Board Secretary and a former prisoner who 
sued for access to a mother-infant program when 
she was pregnant with her daughter in the 1980s.

“LSPC and other advocates must be allowed access 
to all mother-infant facilities run by the CDCR 
to ensure that women and children know their 
rights and are receiving proper care,” said 
Cassie Pierson, staff attorney at LSPC.

In addition to expressing concern for their 
children’s health, mothers are scrambling to find 
the daily essentials needed for their children’s 
care. In an unprecedented show of unity, all 26 
women at the FFP in San Diego filed a grievance 
on June 20th, 2007, asking how their children’s 
money is being spent when the facility is 
chronically undersupplied with diapers, bottles, 
and other necessities. “We’d like to know how our 
funds are allocated and why we always run short. 
We’d like an ample amount of supplies in stock as 
to prevent these situations from occurring in the 
future,” the grievance states.

Former FFP San Diego employee Megan N. Lini, when 
told about this public scandal, expressed deep 
fear for her former clients. “I only hope that no 
child gets separated from their mother because of 
the criminal actions of FFP staff. I wish I could 
have done more to protect these people while I was working there.”

Advocates say this investigation shows that 
punitive programs are not the answer to substance 
abuse/use and that isolation does not stop this 
cycle. Maisha Quint, family advocacy coordinator 
at LSPC, said, “There is a better way. If you 
really want to help women rehabilitate, stop 
putting them in hidden cages. These women need 
real community-run programs where they and their children can heal.”

Cynthia Chandler, co-director of Justice Now, an 
Oakland-based organization that advocates for the 
legal and human rights of women in prison, 
explains, “The pattern of abuse at Family 
Foundations is exactly why women in prison and 
their advocates have been opposed to prison 
expansion in any form. With judges poised to cap 
the prison population and prisoner medical care 
already under federal receivership, it is clear 
that expanding the system just isn’t an option.”

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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