[Ppnews] Sara Olson Article - Freedom Fantasy
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 14 14:52:14 EDT 2008
Why was Sara Olson released from prison on March 17, 2008 and
re-arrested 4 days later? Was it a cruel hoax played on her by the
prison? Was it the incompetency of prison staff to properly calculate
her release date? Or, was something much more sinister at work? Sara
writes, in the article below, about the real reason why she was
released and re-arrested. This article was written for the Community
Alliance newspaper in Fresno where it will appear in the September
2008 edition. This posting on Indymedia is the first publication of
the article. If you would like to re-print this article in a
magazine, newspaper, or journal, please contact Mike Rhodes, Editor
of the Community Alliance at allianceditor [at]
<http://comcast.net/>comcast.net or call (559) 978-4502.
By Sara Olson
In March, 2008 I was released from Central California Women's
Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, California after over six years in
prison. I won a writ, a portion of one anyway, in October, 2007 in
Los Angeles that agreed with my attorneys that the Board of Parole
Hearings (BPH) had violated my double jeopardy right by adding a year
to a sentence that a real court had already addressed. I got
half-time, so six months were deducted from my sentence and the BPH
commanded staff at CCWF to release me March 17, as the court had ordered.
I called my attorney, David Nickerson. He asked me if I'd received
any sentence calculations other than my facesheet that lists my
charges and time assessed by courts. "No," I said. He told me that I
had addressed my sentence with the proper authorities in prison and,
obviously, they knew more than he or I know about how Case Records
Specialists calculate sentences. Sometimes the ways of the California
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) are simply
mysterious. He asked me, "You don't think that CCWF would release you
in order to bring you back for a big splash, do you?" I replied, "I
have no idea."
There were comments, both inside and outside prison walls, that the
circumstances of my case are unusual. That's not true. In fact, to
varying degrees, they are common. Rectifying these mistakes costs
money in transportation and salaries for escorts. The costs of
incarcerating an individual are well-known. In terms of psychic and
emotional costs to prisoners and their families, those costs are
negligible. There are no penalties assessed if miscalculations are
made on inmate sentences. They are mistakes, that's all.
When I was sent to prison, I initially landed at Valley State Prison
for Women (VSPW), right across a county road from CCWF. Together,
they encompass the largest complex of imprisoned women in the world.
I met a woman there who told me she'd been out of prison for over ten
years since her last trip inside. She was, of course, off parole and
living her life. One day, cops came and told her there was a problem
with her parole discharge. She had not been discharged from parole in
the proper manner, she was told, and thus, she was a violator. She
was rearrested and sent back to custody. She had been fighting this
ridiculous situation for months.
I thought, "Right. I'm sure." New to CDCR, I figured there was
something she was not telling me. Why would this happen? What a
colossal waste of state money to return a person, who was quietly
living her life, to prison for something that could easily be handled
by filling out bureaucratic forms in triplicate. Any additional
punishment could be addressed, at worst, with a fine. But no! She was
rearrested, transported under guard by three of the state's finest
and plopped into costly custody. Her life on the outside went to
hell. It seemed improbable, and I discounted her story and thought no
more about it until . . .
Cindy Villa was on parole. She paroled December 10, 2007. She had
been imprisoned in the Honor Dorm on C yard where she had managed to
forge a life that accommodated her many medical needs. She paroled to
Riverside, California, arriving there at 10:00 P.M. on the bus from
CCWF after a long ride. She tried to find a motel room, but, like so
many parolees, she had no I.D. CDCR does not furnish one at prison
for departing parolees. She found someone who was able to get a room
for her. The next day, she had little money left from the $200 she
got when she left CCWF. She had to pay for the bus ticket and the
motel room: cost $71.00. She had to check in to the parole office and
she had to find a place to live that cost . . . well, nothing,
because she was broke. She went from one post-prison drug facility to
another looking for a place to stay. They were all full.
Finally, she caught a break. She found a sober-living home that could
take her immediately. She called her brother in Washington state with
her last bit of money. She asked him to pay her rent with a credit
card and the facility took her in. Finally, she found herself out of
prison with a place to rest her head so that she could do what she
needed to do to recoup her life.
Cindy began working in the parole literacy lab, seeing her parole
agent and her social worker regularly. She was working part-time to
pay for her medications. She applied for general relief, food stamps,
Medi-Cal, unemployment and Social Security disability. She filled out
reams of paperwork. She reestablished contact with her children, some
out of state. She was getting her life together.
On February 19, 2008, her agent picked her up, told her that her
release date had been miscalculated at CCWF and that Cindy had to go
back to prison. Now! None of this was "her" fault, she was assured.
When she was brought back, Cindy 602'd (appealed) Case Records. She
found out that her sentence had been calculated from the day she
first hit CCWF (03-15-06), not from the day of her arrest (10-13-05).
The court had given her credit for time served in jail plus
seventy-four extra days which the prison did not add to her
calculations. Cindy Villa is doing time for possession of a
controlled substance. Case Records also insists that she has two
strikes when she had made a deal in court for one strike only. First,
she had an out date of June 4, 2008. Then, Case Records recalculated
and told Cindy she would parole 12-10-07. The prison put her out.
Then they sent her parole agent to bring her back, drove her all the
way north in one day, and told her that she made a deal for two
strikes when she made a deal for one. Now, her release date is
November 13, 2008. Oops!
When I was returned to prison, a woman got in touch with me. K. came
to CCWF with eighteen months to serve. She wanted to go to firecamp
at California Institute for Women (CIW) in southern California where
she would have her sentence reduced to 35% and she could be near her
mother and daughter who live in southern California. She needed to
have at least fifteen months left on her sentence to qualify for
firecamp where prisoners are trained to fight the state's wildfires.
When she came to CCWF, K. was told she had figured her sentence
incorrectly and that she had only eleven months left. "Well," she
thought, "less time in prison." Four months before her release date,
she went to another classification and was assured that all was fine.
She signed her parole plans and waited for her out date.
She called her mother and told her that everything was on track for
her release. Her daughter repainted her mom's bedroom. K secured a
place in an aftercare program. The three women were excited.
Four days before her parole date, K. received a copy of a letter sent
to her parole officer on the outside. It stated that her sentence had
been recalculated and that she still had another year left to serve.
K. received no personal notice of the change herself, only the letter
sent to her parole officer on the outside. She went to her counselor
and her yard captain and complained loudly. She pleaded to go to
firecamp. She was told, "No". She had less than fifteen months to
serve so she was not qualified while, when she first arrived at CCWF,
she was. Oops!
Melissa was paroling on January 24. She sent her television home so
she would have some entertainment when she got out and found a place
to live. She kept the t.v. rather than donating it because,
realistically, she figured she would not be rolling in dough. She'd
need the t.v. A few days before her release date, she was told that
her sentence had been miscalculated and she had to stay until late May. Oops!
A while ago, I was standing in the strip search line after weekend
visiting. I was behind a woman whose husband came to see her all the
time. She was anxious to get out and to go home. Her daughter had had
a hard time while her mother was in prison and ended up in the
hospital. I asked, "What are you still doing here? You should be gone
by now!" "Well," she said, "A day before I was supposed to go, they
told me I had another month." I asked, "are you sure? One month!"
Good luck. Oops!
One morning recently a woman came up to me in the dayroom in my
housing unit. She was nervous. She had received a parole ducat the
night before that indicated she was to parole that morning! She told
me, "I've got another year on my sentence and a parole hold!" I asked
her if her counselor had told her anything about this or if she had
signed any parole papers. "No!" she answered. We went to the "cop
shop", the bubble in the middle of the day room. The C/O called R&R
(Recovery and Release) and asked about her. "Oh yeah, that's a
mistake. She's going out to court." Oops!
On Monday, March 17, 2008 I was released on parole. On March 22 at
12:20 P.M. I was picked up at my mother's house and driven to CIW in
Corona, California in a security caravan that involved three Chevy
Suburban-sized vehicles and several members of a parole strike team.
I was deposited at CIW for one hour. Then another Suburban, a sedan
and three cops drove me from Corona to CCWF. By 9:00 P.M. I was back in prison.
After I won a writ of habeas corpus in July, 2004, I had a year
deducted from my sentence that had been augmented by the BPH from the
original five years, four months with half-time to fourteen years
with half-time in 2002. After another BPH hearing and a post-BPH
classification in 2004, I got a facesheet that indicated my release
date as September 2008. I knew that was wrong. The true date was
September, 2009 .I called one of my attorneys. "What should I do?" I
asked. "Tell them!" he replied. So, I did.
I went to my counselor, a CCI (CC-for Correctional Counselor). I told
her that I owed CDCR one more year. She was sure I was wrong. Then I
went to the CCII, the head yard counselor. She spent forty-five
minutes assuring me I didn't know what I was talking about. At my
next annual classification hearing, I told the yard captain about my
dilemma--who smiled at me like I must be nuts. In 2005, I went before
the Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) because I was
seeking approval to apply at the state level for an interstate
transfer to prison in Minnesota where my husband and children live
and where I, before landing at CCWF, had lived for over a quarter of
a century. Since CDCR moves with the bureaucratic pace of a glacial
ice age, I wanted to make sure that it was understood how much time I
had yet to serve. I didn't want Minnesota DOC to reject my transfer
request because I did not have enough time left on my sentence. I
stated to the entire ICC, headed by the Chief Deputy Warden, "Let me
be perfectly clear. You forgot the bank robbery." The Chief Deputy
Warden looked at me with benign amusement and replied, "Thank you
very much, Ms. Olson." Oka-a-ay.
I thought that surely the error would be discovered. There was still
time. Before one is released, there are recalculations, I thought. I
could understand the lack of concern if the mistake was in CDCR's
favor but not if it was in mine. After all, Case Records Specialists
had reportedly miscalculated around 32,000 inmate sentences statewide
in the past couple of years, all to the CDCR's advantages. Prisons
want to keep everybody in custody forever, especially in California.
The particular beauty of the California incarceration system, for the
state, is that once a prisoner is caught up in it, it never lets you
go. It is designed for release, revocation and re-incarceration over
a lifetime; the famous "doing life on the installment plan" credo.
The entire law enforcement industry is constructed to hold on to a
body once it is captured in its clutches. There are regular parole
sweeps on the outside when cops raid poor communities looking for
parolees who are screwing up; in the wrong place at the wrong time,
maybe smoking pot without a medical marijuana prescription, involved
. . . you know . . . in this or that, and other major crime. The
raids are reported on the t.v. news in Fresno. I remember when I
first saw a story about a parole sweep. I wondered, "What the hell is
a parole sweep?" I had never heard of such a thing.
When I got out for those few days in March I had to go to a parole
orientation meeting or, I was warned, "You'll be revoked." I went.
Out of the thirty or so gathered group of parolees, I was the lone
woman. The m.c., the head of the local parole strike team or some
such entity, introduced himself. He told us the local parole office
had an 80% recidivism rate, assuring most of us that we would be back
in prison in no time. He recited the rules for the surprise raids on
our domiciles by the strike team that we could all look forward to
undergoing. Yay! There were tables set up around the room with people
offering services to help parolees reintegrate into the "free" world.
These services and "God" were looking out for our interests. We had
to visit the tables and get the signatures of a specified number of
people at the tables--about ten signatures--or "you'll be revoked." I
walked out of that meeting feeling I had momentarily escaped the
inevitable trip back to prison. I was right.
There was no parole revocation hearing for me. My attorneys filed a
writ over my rearrest. Of course, I lost the writ. I never expected
to win. My attorneys say the judge cited the case, Green vs.
Christiansen, for the proposition that officials have the power to
recommit a mistakenly released inmate. That's all it says. There's no
decision or analysis of any circumstances. Green relies on a 1958
case that does the same thing; merely states that officials can do
whatever it is they do. The 1958 case cites an 1898 case in which the
state re-incarcerated a cattle rustler. So that's it.. Cattle rustling.
All the publicity or whatever, the
all-scandal-all-the-time-and-weather-and-sports crap which passes for
news in contemporary U.S. media obscures what really is going on in
the country and the world, that accompanied my re-incarceration, I
can only explain as . . . "The War on Terror" People either buy it or
they don't. It is propaganda and it is distracting. If one is
distracted, then the propaganda worked. In my case, there was no
"story." There was simply a short-lived family reunion.
A friend sent me a copy of a L.A. City Council resolution that
implores the governor to force me to spend my one year of parole in
California for, perhaps, a bit more punishment for me and for my
husband and our girls. That is L.A., eternal vengeance. One of my
co-defendants, now long released and off parole, had no problem
paroling to his home out-of-state but his case was not from L.A.
My husband calls Los Angeles "the toxic center of your subjugation."
I just call it "Chinatown".
You can write Sara at:
Sara Olson W94197
P.O. Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610-1508
Previous articles by Sara Olson:
Saturday Nov 17, 2007
Golden Gulag - Book Review
Wednesday July 25, 2007
Wednesday May 16, 2007
Rehabilitation, Orange Crush, and Little Fallujah
Monday February 26, 2007
A Modern Modest Proposal
by Sara Olson, Caren Hill, J.S., & April Watson
Saturday Oct 28, 2006
Inhumane Treatment of Prisoners in Chowchilla
Saturday Jul 22, 2006
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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