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Cherie Williams, a 35-year-old African-American woman in the Bronx, just wanted to protect herself from her abusive boyfriend. So she called the cops. But although New York requires police to make an arrest when responding to domestic violence calls, the officers did not leave their car. When Williams demanded their badge numbers, the police handcuffed her, drove her to a deserted parking lot and beat her, breaking her nose and jaw and rupturing her spleen. They then left her on the ground.
I spend countless hours reading and scanning alternative newspapers, journals and magazines that provide a platform for prisoners who write. I don’t see many revolutionary essays or articles being written by female Texas prisoners. I know you all can’t be content with the conditions you are being housed under, and I know for a fact you are not being given the dignity and respect you deserve. So I must ask: “Why aren’t we hearing from you?”
Too often, organizing work done by incarcerated women goes wholly unrecognized. In her book, “Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women,” Victoria Law focuses on the many forms of activism happening inside of women’s prisons, most of which never reach the dominant media. In the following interview, Law shares ways in which individual acts of resistance are building toward a transformational new reality.
Tomorrow, California lawmakers will hold a hearing about the use of solitary confinement inside its state prison system. February marks seven months since people incarcerated throughout California embarked on the mass hunger strike that has drawn legislative attention to prison conditions. The CDCR released new proposed regulations around its gang policies, and it points to changes already made. Accounts from former hunger strikers suggest that change is slow in coming.
A mass prisoner hunger strike rocked California’s prison system this past summer, drawing international attention to the extensive use of solitary confinement in the United States. Nearly all of the attention, however, has focused on solitary confinement in men’s prisons; much less is known about the conditions and experiences inside women’s prisons.
A bill opposing the shackling of pregnant prisoners, AB 2530, passed unanimously by the California State Legislature, is now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, with 30 days to either approve or veto it. Last year, a previous version of this bill was also passed unanimously by the legislature, but it was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Brown. AB 2530 supporters have created two webpages for the public to contact the governor.
For 15 years the California Coalition for Women Prisoners - activists on the outside together with prisoners on the inside - have published an extraordinary newsletter called the Fire Inside. Hear Angela Davis keynote the anniversary celebration, hosted by our own Wanda Sabir, Friday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m., at the Women’s Building, 3543 18th St. at Valencia, San Francisco.