Open letter by the undersigned prisoners
We the undersigned, incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) and the California Institution for Women (CIW), are outraged that CDCR has signed a contract with the GEO Group, the second largest private, for-profit prison corporation in the U.S. According to the contract, GEO will open a new women’s prison in McFarland, Calif., by fall of 2014.
We call upon California state legislators to direct CDCR to cancel the contract with GEO and implement existing release programs instead of opening a new prison!
Once again we are shuffled around without regard for our well-being or our human rights. Since VSPW was converted to a men’s prison in January 2013, we have been subjected to overcrowding at historically high levels – CCWF is now at 185 percent capacity – even while the state is under court order to reduce the prison population.
This is discrimination against people in women’s prisons! As a result of this overcrowding, health care, mail services, food and education have greatly deteriorated. We are locked down more frequently, leading to heightened tensions, drug overdoses and suicides. The prison staff has responded by locking more people into solitary, further violating our human rights.
CDCR could easily implement existing programs to reduce overcrowding, such as alternative custody programs (ACP), elder and medical parole, and compassionate release. Instead, on April 1, 2014, GEO announced its new contract with CDCR to open a 260-bed women’s prison with an “enhanced rehabilitation and recidivism reduction program.”
We are outraged that CDCR has signed a contract with the GEO Group, the second largest private, for-profit prison corporation in the U.S. According to the contract, GEO will open a new women’s prison in McFarland, Calif., by fall of 2014.
This is nothing but a bad April Fool’s joke! The 260 women who are “chosen” to go to McFarland could be released through one of these other programs instead. None of us should be hauled off to showcase a so-called “gender responsive” prison and to put money in the pockets of GEO investors.
GEO is a private corporation whose business makes profit from imprisoning primarily people of color and immigrants. GEO’s press release about the new prison reports expected revenue of $9 million in McFarland’s first year. Think of how much $9 million could do for providing community-based re-entry services!
GEO has been the subject of numerous lawsuits around the country about atrocious, unconstitutional conditions. Private prisons are notorious for operating with even greater secrecy than the CDCR: Assaults are 49 percent more frequent; racist behavior and sexual abuse by staff are widespread.
GEO is a private corporation whose business makes profit from imprisoning primarily people of color and immigrants.
GEO is responsible for human rights violations at many of its facilities. In 2012 GEO was forced to close the Walnut Grove, Mississippi, youth detention center after being condemned for allowing, in the words of federal Judge Carlton Reeves, “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”
In March 2014, 1,200 people detained in GEO’s Northwest Detention Center (for immigrants) in Tacoma, Wash., went on hunger strike to protest the grossly inadequate medical care, exorbitant commissary prices and low or NO pay for work within the center. Other GEO prisoners have since gone on hunger strike at detention facilities in Conroe, Texas, and Stewart, Georgia.
GEO is responsible for human rights violations at many of its facilities.
In January of 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown’s reelection campaign reported $54,400 in donations from GEO Group. GEO Group has spent $7.6 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the U.S. in the last decade.
GEO lobbied strongly to advance laws that increased the time served for drug convictions and other non-violent crimes through mandatory minimum sentencing, three-strikes laws and truth-in-sentencing laws. GEO was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) when the model bill that became AB 1070 (profiling immigrants in Arizona) was drafted. These legal changes resulted in significant profits for GEO.
In McFarland, Calif., GEO has signed a contract incentivizing prolonged incarceration over release by charging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation less per prisoner if the facility is more than half full.
GEO operates reentry facilities around the state, including the Taylor Street Center in San Francisco and the Oakland Center in Oakland. Residents experience these facilities as “re-entry prisons” that are structured to threaten and punish people rather than providing support for people to reenter community life.
GEO lobbied strongly to advance laws that increased the time served for drug convictions and other non-violent crimes through mandatory minimum sentencing, three-strikes laws and truth-in-sentencing laws.
It is shameful that CDCR is about to open a for-profit “boutique prison” that does nothing positive to solve the disproportionate overcrowding in the women’s prisons at this time. Assemblymembers and Senators, please intervene! Stop the GEO prison from opening. Instead use this $9 million to fully implement existing release programs immediately and fund community-based not-for-profit reentry programs.
Thank you for listening to this urgent request,
Natalie DeMola, CCWF
Jane Dorotik, CIW
Fonda Gayden, CCWF
Anne Marie Harrison, CCWF
Valerie Juarez, CCWF
Terah Lawyer, CCWF
ChiChi Locci, CCWF
Maydee Morris, CCWF
Amy Preasmeyer, CCWF
Patrice Wallace, CCWF
Statewide rally to shut down new McFarland women’s prison and support immigrant justice
Rally Thursday, July 31, 5 p.m., McFarland Park, 100 Frontage Rd, McFarland, Calif.
by Debbie Reyes and Misty Rojo
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.
Anti-prison advocates from across the state will hold a rally as a stop on the “Trail for Humanity,” an over 300-mile march by women and children who are walking from Merced to the Mexican border to raise awareness about the deadly conditions that immigrants endure, demanding comprehensive immigration reform and an end to deportations and detentions.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has contracted with the GEO Group to run the McFarland prison on a budget that will cost California taxpayers $9 million a year. The GEO Group is a private company that currently operates detention centers and prisons around the country.
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. “ICE detention centers and California state prisons and jails are an incredibly destructive force in the communities affected by them. That’s why we’re coming together to demand an end to this brutalization of our families and a turn toward healing solutions that are legitimately based in our communities,” says Misty Rojo, staff member of prisoner advocacy groups California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) and Justice Now.
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.
Imprisoned women and advocates argue that CDCR could easily implement programs to reduce crowding and that wasting money on prison expansion has only proven to exacerbate the problem. “People being sent to McFarland are eligible for release under already established programs, and the money being spent to open this prison should be used for community-based re-entry services instead,” states Jess Heaney of Critical Resistance.
Alarming prison conditions are only intensified by the fact that the McFarland prison sits in Kern County, an area plagued by toxic environmental conditions. According to California Prison Moratorium Project (CPMP) organizer Debbie Reyes:
“The city of McFarland is in an area known as an area where people have developed cancer at an alarming rate and a breeding ground for Valley Fever. Instead of reopening new prisons and exposing more people to the toxic health effects of this environment, all the prisons there should be shut down.”
At the rally in McFarland, community members, loved ones of imprisoned people and advocates will make the link between the struggles against brutal conditions in immigrant detention centers and those endured by over 120,000 people locked up in California state prisons. Along with women and children participating in Trail of Humanity telling their stories and speaking about their demands, organizers with CCWP and CPMP will provide statements in solidarity and discuss their ongoing work fighting prison expansion in California.
Debbie Reyes of the California Prison Moratorium Project and Misty Rojo of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners can be reached via Mohamed Shehk at email@example.com.