For Immediate Release–March 21, 2013
Crowding at Women’s Prisons Remains Key Issue
Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Californians United for a Responsible Budget
Ph. 510 517 6612
When: Friday March 22, 8:30 am
Where: California State Building, 350 McAllister Street, San Francisco
San Francisco— Formerly incarcerated people and prisoner advocates plan on voicing their urgent concerns about ongoing prison crowding at a conference being organized by UC Hastings College of the Law on California’s notorious prison system. The conference, Correctional Crisis: Realignment & Reform Symposium, lists more than two dozen speakers, many working with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Elected officials, academics, CDCR officials, criminologists, and law enforcement will discuss various state and county responses to the “seismic changes” in the California Prison system since 2009. Since former prisoners and prisoner advocates are not well represented on the Symposium’s panels, they will be rallying outside to call attention to the deteriorating conditions and ongoing health crisis women and transgender prisoners are facing inside California’s prisons, amid claims by the CDCR that the crisis has been resolved.
As Hafsah Al-Amin of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners points out, crowding rates now exceed 200% of capacity at Central California Women’s Facility. “It took two lawsuits, decades of organizing, and hundreds of needless deaths to break the public silence about the California prison crisis,” says Al-Amin. “Now the CDCR and the Governor are trying to tell us once again that everything is fine and the crisis is over. In reality, women are suffering terribly inside prison and in the county jails, and they are speaking out and fighting for their dignity. We cannot and will not abandon that fight.”
In January more than 400 people from across California converged on Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla to demand an immediate end to the crowding crisis at that prison. Under the state’s own guidelines, over 4000 women, or nearly half the state’s women prisoner population, are eligible for release under the CDCR’s Alternative Custody Program. At the Correctional Crisis symposium, advocates will continue to push for release of these women, along with compassionate release for ill prisoners, parole for elder/geriatric prisoners and immediate changes to healthcare access.
“If you want to understand the crisis in corrections, from the county level to the state level, you only need to look at how it is affecting women,” says Courtney Hooks of Justice Now. “In the past few months, since Valley State Prison for Women was converted into a male facility, women at CCWF have seen their health care deteriorate rapidly. Instead of releasing thousands of women who are eligible to live in their communities, counties like Los Angeles and San Mateo are proposing building new women’s jails.”
Activists will be making their issues heard at a rally in front of the symposium at 8:30 a.m and throughout the day at the various panels and plenaries. Emily Harris, statewide organizer for Californians United for a Responsible Budget notes, “If you are going to hold a conference on the Correctional Crisis, you must include the people directly impacted by the crisis – prisoners, formerly incarcerated people and their communities.”