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On the surface, the recent “retirement” of the wardens from two of California’s women’s facilities appears to be a needed move in an effort to reform California’s violent correctional system. While many Californians are just beginning to agree that our Department of Corrections does more harm than good, many legal advocates and anti-prison activists have been fighting to make that very point from both inside and out of prison for years.
The issue of “gender responsiveness” as an excuse to open more prisons has been rearing its ugly head lately with the expansion of CDCR’s supposed “reentry hubs” and “community based facilities,” totaling 4,090 new beds altogether. Yet one woman in the new Female Community Reentry Facility (FCRF) in McFarland recently called Justice Now, saying she feels like “they were sold a dream.”
On Sept. 25, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1135, the prison anti-sterilization bill authored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and bi-partisan co-authors and sponsored by legal and human rights organization Justice Now. The bill proceeded to the governor’s desk after passing with unanimous floor votes out of both the Senate and Assembly, with support from organizations like ACLU Northern California and Black Women for Wellness.
On Thursday, July 31, communities impacted by incarceration, immigrant detention and escalating violence against women and children will march to the site of a new women’s prison in McFarland to demand its immediate closure. Advocates will convene at McFarland Park, 100 Frontage Rd, McFarland, Calif., at 5 p.m. CDCR has contracted with the GEO Group to run the McFarland prison. The GEO group, like the state of California, has been challenged by prisoner hunger strikes, protests and lawsuits due to the deplorable and inhumane conditions of their facilities.
Russell Maroon Shoatz is out of solitary confinement! Hugo Pinnell had his first contact visit in 40 years last weekend. Kiilu Nyasha announced this wonderful news at a reception following the second public hearing on solitary confinement called by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, Feb. 11.
I am recovering from a huge blow – my computer was taken along with other personal irreplaceable items. We stopped by Loon Point to visit the shore before driving back to the San Francisco Bay Area Jan. 30. It was early, we’d just finished our first session of the Winter Quarter. We left our luggage in view in our cohort’s car. In Oakland, we’d not have done that, but somehow the seashore, mountains and quiet terrain deceptively seduced us.
Gov. Brown’s 2014-15 budget will contract 5,633 new prison beds in state while funding the expansion of four new prisons and allocating $500 million for more jail construction. Advocates celebrate a series of parole reform victories outlined in the proposed budget while pointing out that lifting some of their extreme limitations could easily prevent Gov. Brown’s costly prison expansion plans.
The recent conversion of Valley State Prison for Women into a male facility has led to a dramatic increase in the use of solitary confinement: Ad Seg at CCWF and the SHU at CIW. Concurrently, there have been several suicides in Ad Seg and the SHU in recent months, at least one from an alleged “overdose.” The excerpt from the letter quoted above is one of many that indicates how desperate the situation is.
On the 20th anniversary of the demise of my father, Fred Ali Batin Sr., the 18th anniversary of the Maafa Commemoration San Francisco Bay Area – the Ritual Sunday is Oct. 13, 2013; see http://maafasfbayarea.com/ – and approximately the 60th day of the hunger strike to end the inhuman conditions in California’s Security Housing Units or SHUs, I just want to pause and reflect.
Yesterday’s ultimatum by the three-judge panel puts Gov. Brown and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on notice to present a plan for further reductions in the state’s unconstitutionally crowded prisons within the next three weeks. Advocates who have criticized the governor’s criminal justice realignment plan as inadequate were quick to praise the court decision.