Freedom Rally to Draw Hundreds of Bay Area Resident to Central Valley to Protest Women’s Prison

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—January 23, 2013

Freedom Rally to Draw Hundreds of Bay Area Resident to Central Valley to Protest Women’s Prison

Press Contact:   Adrienne Roberts

California Coalition for Women Prisoners

Office: (415) 255-7036 x 314

Mobile: (415) 519-0378
San Francisco—Hundreds of Bay Area residents will be getting on buses and into cars Saturday morning, making the long trek to the Central Valley town of Chowchilla where they will join hundreds of other Californians from Los Angeles and the Central Valley at a Freedom Rally in protest of horrendous living conditions in the notorious prison, Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF).

Some participants have a loved one at the prison; others have spent time inside; while others are activists and residents working to shrink California’s massive prison system.  All are concerned about the humanitarian crisis in CCWF, and are demanding immediate release for as many people as possible.

“We are traveling all the way from Oakland to the Valley to make the point that attempting to relieve the crowding crisis in men’s prisons by crowding women’s facilities is inhumane. You solve prison crowding by releasing people—period,” remarked Roger White, Campaign Director for Critical Resistance.

CCWF is at nearly 200% of its capacity, with 3,918 women and transgender prisoners packed into a facility designed to hold 2,000.  Despite threats of retaliation, prisoner advocacy organizations Justice Now and California Coalition for Women Prisoners received over 1,000 declarations from people inside CCWF and the nearby Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) highlighting a lack of basic medical care, increased tension and conflicts among prisoners due to crowding, increased lockdowns, and seriously reduced  access to jobs, programs and legal resources.   People inside CCWF are calling the treatment of prisoners and their conditions gender discrimination and a violation of their civil and human rights.

“Californians should care about this issue because we are talking about the importance of people’s lives. People die because of the inadequate medical help,” says Theresa Martinez, of Justice Now who spent 23 years of her life locked in California prisons. “Taxpayers are paying to keep warehousing people instead of figuring out how to set them free.”

Against the wishes of residents in Chowchilla, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) recently converted VSPW into a men’s prison. Instead of releasing people and closing VSPW, the CDCR is squeezing over 1,000 women and transgender people into the two remaining women’s prisons, in addition to a newly opened section of Folsom prison.  Organizers of Saturday’s rally are demanding that VSPW be closed altogether, and that the state respond to crowding at CCWF by releasing prisoners through Alternative Custody Programs, early parole for elderly people, and grant compassionate release for terminally ill people and medical parole for permanently incapacitated prisoners.  The CDCR itself has noted that at least 4,000 prisoners held in women’s facilities could be released immediately.

“When we lock so many people up, it affects all of our communities, our families and our friends,” said Krys Shelley, of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners who was imprisoned for over 12 years in Central Valley prisons.  “We need California to pay attention.  We should reevaluate cases, look at the sentencing laws, look at parole and release programs.  Let’s bring our loved ones home.”

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