[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
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
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
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