[Ppnews] Rallying to end women's prison crisis in California

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 25 13:58:19 EST 2013


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  Angela Davis & Windy Click: Rallying to end women's prison crisis in

By Angela Y. Davis and Windy Click

Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 | 11:27 PM

Just a couple of weeks ago, Gov. Jerry Brown declared California's 
prison crisis over and demanded an end to federal oversight of the state 
prison system.

This declaration was especially troubling given that it coincided with 
reports of severe overcrowding at Central California Women's Facility 
(CCWF), which is filled to twice its capacity, and news that the Valley 
State Prison for Women (VSPW), just across the road, would be closed as 
a women's prison and then filled with men.

Furthermore, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 
(CDCR) plans to open a new facility for women at the notorious Folsom 

Despite threats of retaliation, more than 1,000 prisoners inside CCWF 
and VSPW sent declarations demanding that VSPW not be converted to a 
men's facility, that it be shut down and that thousands of women who sit 
needlessly in horrendous conditions in places like CCWF be released.

Those of us working to end the prison crisis, and those of us who have 
lived inside these prisons, can tell countless stories of ongoing 
suffering: up to eight people living in cells that were built for four, 
or even two; lack of basic hygiene; the spread of infections; and 
failure to address preventable illnesses leading to health disasters.

One of us knew a woman who suffered from a severe stomachache for more 
than six months and when she was finally seen by a doctor was given only 
Pepto-Bismol. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer 
and died shortly thereafter.

The effects of poor health conditions and crowding are especially 
difficult for elderly prisoners, and the widespread use of lockdowns are 
contributing to mental health problems, including suicide. Access to 
jobs, programs and legal resources are largely unavailable. People 
living inside these prisons, along with their advocates on the outside, 
have noted that these unimaginable conditions and the state's decision 
to continue to crowd women and transgendered people into these prisons 
constitute clear violations of human and civil rights.

In 2006, then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that 4,500 people in 
women's prisons could be released. Five years later, the prison 
administration said that 4,000 prisoners -- female, pregnant or primary 
caregivers with less than two years of their sentences left -- were 
eligible to serve the rest of their time in residential homes, 
residential substance-abuse treatment programs or transitional 
facilities. However, since this Alternative Custody Program went into 
effect, only a few hundred people have been released. Why does such 
suffering continue?

One reason given by the prison administration is that there is a lack of 
services and programs at the local level that would support their 
release. Yet while the state offers huge financial incentives for 
counties to build new jails, it offers nothing to expand housing and 
health care programs that are underfunded in most communities, and it 
opens a new facility for women at Folsom Prison. What are we left to 
assume? That even though the prison administration has said that 
thousands of women could safely be sent home, there is a priority on 
keeping them locked up and on expanding the number of cages for them. 
What does this say about how we view the lives of these overwhelmingly 
poor women and transgendered people of color?

We are joining thousands of prisoners and families when we declare it is 
past time to bring our loved ones home. It is past time to stop the 
prison and jail expansion that has devastated our communities. It is 
past time to stop the criminalizing of our families, friends and 
neighbors. It is time to end policies like Three Strikes that leave many 
to needlessly die of old age in cages. It is time to institute and 
expand parole for sick and elderly people. It is time to widen 
alternatives to imprisonment. Thousands of people in women's prisons can 
be freed right now. Money saved by reducing the prison population could 
provide drug treatment, re-entry services, mental health support and job 

On Saturday, people from throughout the state will get on buses and 
travel to Chowchilla to stand in solidarity with the 3,900 women and 
transgendered prisoners who are being crammed into space designed for 
2,000, who against all odds have spoken out against the terrible 
conditions of their confinement.

We will join them in demanding no more cells, no new women's facilities, 
no new men's facilities. We are calling this a Freedom Rally because we 
are fighting for the dignity and humanity of our loved ones. We are 
fighting to bring them -- as well as their families -- home to 
communities that are safe, sustainable and strong.

Angela Y. Davis is a political activist, author and distinguished 
professor emerita at University of California at Santa Cruz. Wendy Click 
is a former inmate at Valley State Prison for Women.

Read more here: 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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