Imprisoned People Facing Medical Neglect and Violence, Family Members and Organizers Speak Out

Press release received per email:
For Immediate Release – Monday, November 23, 2015
 
Imprisoned People Facing Medical Neglect and Violence, Family Members and Organizers Speak Out
 
Press Contact: Dolores Canales, Family Unity Network, (714)290-9077 dol1canales@gmail.com  or Hannah McFaull, Justice Now, (415) 813.7715 hannah@justicenow.org
 
Sacramento – On November 11th, an imprisoned person at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), faced extreme violence at the hands of prison guards. Stacy Rojas and three others were detained, physically abused, sexually harassed, strip searched in the presence of male guards, and were kept without water, food or restrooms for eleven hours. The group was illegally kept in administrative segregation without a lock up order and have been denied health care support for the injuries caused by these officers. Requests to speak with members of the prison’s Investigative Services Unit have so far been ignored.
 
“I just want to let them know that we have been physically abused, sexually harassed,” said Stacy Rojas, “and that this was just wrong. They used excessive force, totally used excessive force against us and we need help.”
 
The public acknowledgment of excessive use of force and deadly use of force by police has increased throughout the nation. Video recordings of interactions between the police and the public have increased significantly in recent years as technology has improved and the number of distribution channels has expanded. This is not an option open to people experiencing violence from guards behind prison walls and any attempt to speak out is often met with retaliation and increased force.
 
“Our communities in and out of lock up have lived experiences with biased policing — ranging from racial profiling, to excessive, and sometimes lethal, use of force”, stated Patrisse Cullors co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter. “We hear about it more and more in the communities we live in, but rarely hear about the traumatic ways that it manifests in the California prison system. Stories like Stacy’s are happening everyday inside of California prisons and jails with little to no measures taken by authorities to keep people safe and hold law enforcement, such as prison guards accountable.”
 
Advocacy organizations working with people in women’s prisons are familiar with reports of abuse and violence, like that experienced at CCWF last week. The California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Justice Now, the Family Unity Network, the TGI Justice Project and others regularly provide legal and medical advocacy support following incidents of violence perpetrated by correctional officers at women’s prisons.
 
This group of organizations and Stacy’s family members are requesting an independent investigation of the violence and excessive use of force used. They are requesting medical care and safe housing for Stacy and all those involved. The group also demands an end to the violence imposed on women, transgender people, gender nonconforming people, and communities of color within the California prison system.
 
“My sister is at the end of a fourteen year sentence and it seems as though some would wish to take that away. This has never happened [to Stacy] before. We have never had fear for my sister’s life”, said Adriana Rojas. “My sister Stacy Rojas’ constitutional rights have been violated by being stripped searched by male guards, assaulted by means of kicking and stomping, taken outdoors in near 40 degree weather, threatened with rape, humiliated, placed in holding cages for nearly 12 hours, and deprived of food and water.” Albert Jacob Rojas added, “They were denied medical attention and denied the right to speak to internal affairs. We ask that anybody who cares about human rights and women’s rights please join us in demanding justice for all.”
 
Family members and advocates are calling for:
  • An immediate independent investigation into the violence and excessive force used by guards in this incident.
  • Suspension of guards involved pending investigation.
  • Comprehensive medical treatment for injuries sustained during the incident.
  • No retaliation for speaking out against this abuse.
 
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Letter from Women in CCWF concerning forced transfers to McFarland and overcrowding

This letter was received a few months ago by someone who forwarded it to CA PW among others, and apparently nothing has been done yet.

To Whom It May Concern:

I a writing you on behalf of the women in Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
I want to make everone aware of the transfers being forced on many to McFarland California.
I ave just spoken to a returney from McFarland and I want to inform you of what is happening there:

1. The Plumbing Is backing up and clogged.

2. There are no programing or programs of any kind nor will there be according to the staff when asked about them.

3. The Living Quarters are filthy and infested. They are putting all levels of inmates into a dorm setting together. All Custody Levels.

4. CCCMS Inmates were transfered without Meds.or Mental Health Care.

Another problem taking place here at CCWF is we are already really overcrowded in our cells with 8 or more women: The Populaton is soaring here, they are taking the overflow from receiving over 700 women and are placing them in with us. They are all going into general population as if no evaluations have taken place.

Medical has taken ALL our Meds away from us, stating to us that they are too costly and we will not be getting them any more.

I do not know whom to write to get us help?

I do not know if the woman I am sending this to will be giving her name? That will be her decision, but we are going through her hoping she can get us heard.

PLEASE RESPOND to us. We have been asking for help for a very long time.
Signed: (name withheld for now by CAPrisonWatch for anonymity reasons, out of fear for repercussions).

See also the March that the California Coalition for Women Prisoners did in August.


Amy Buckley in Mississippi prison: I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve

From: SF Bay View, September 26, 2014

by Amy Buckley

On July 18, 2014, I was told to pack and was transferred to Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Miss. Since I was not informed as to why I was being transferred, I have surmised that it was for medical purposes because I had abnormal results on some recent lab work.

I originally left this compound on Sept. 24, 2010, with the hope of never seeing it again, but here I sit. I wish I could say that things here have improved. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

CMCF is the processing center for all men and women coming into the prison system. This facility also houses just over 2,300 men long-term and less than 1,000 women who are compound-restricted due to medical conditions such as AIDS, pregnancy and heart problems and those with life sentences. Sadly, this is one of the worst – it is the worst for women – facilities in the state.

Conditions here are deplorable. There are 116 women per open zone (dorm) and no air conditioning. Lice, boils, staph infections, scabies and AIDS are rampant. The food is barely edible. Medical care is insufficient to non-existent. Mold grows on the shower walls and no matter how many times you scrub it off it grows right back. These are simply a few of the problems here.

Since arriving here on Friday, I have yet to be seen by a case manager and have not been issued any clothes. For five days now I have been wearing the same jumpsuit I was made to put on for being transported.

I approached Lt. Bates several times attempting to ask about getting clothes, only to be swatted away like I was a pesky fly. I also approached the case manager, Ms. Gattis, who said she would see me later but failed to do so. I have also written both of the above and received no response.

Without seeing the case manager, I cannot use the phones to contact my family because I have to fill out a phone list and get a PIN number to do so. Ms. Gattis would also be able to address any issues and concerns that I have at this time. To add to this incompetence, I have yet to see a doctor to find out what, if anything, needs to be done concerning my medical needs.

Being back here saddens me because I see the condition of some of these women. Many walk around like zombies, drugged out of their minds and seemingly unaware of their surroundings.

It is easier for a person to see the prison psychiatrist and get any psych drug available, even if they do not need it, than it is to see a nurse or medical doctor when one is truly ill. Many are denied medical care until hospitalization is the only option left and others die waiting to see a doctor.

I know how easy it is to get stuck on this compound, lost in this broken system, forced to work in inhumane conditions without pay or be written up for refusing to work until you land in Max. Despite being prisoners of the state of Mississippi, we have the right to receive prompt medical treatment, clean clothes to wear, a clean and safe living environment and access to our families, i.e., phone calls and visits.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections may not care about my health, but my health is important to me and my family. When I came into this system I was healthy and I plan to leave healthy! I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve. The beast will not win!

I will not give up until I receive the medical care I deserve.

Send our sister some love and light: Amy Buckley, 150005, CMCF-2A B-Zone 162, P.O. Box 88550, Pearl, MS 39288. Transcribed by Adrian McKinney from handwritten letter.

Amy has cervical cancer – write the Parole Board to release her

Amy Buckley is known across the country as a wise and courageous advocate for women prisoners. This is the Bay View’s most recent letter from Amy, postmarked July 30. Activist Twitch Entropy reports hearing from Amy that as of Sept. 6, despite an apparent diagnosis of cervical cancer, she still hasn’t seen a doctor, though she’d been in severe pain for a week. She hopes the cancer will be arrested with a hysterectomy.

Back home, her father is suffering from advanced mantle cell lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer, and her son needs her. So her aunt is gathering parole support letters.

Your letter should be addressed to State of Mississippi Parole Board, Attn: Steve Pickett and Parole Board Members, 660 North St., Suite 100A, Jackson, MS 39202. Don’t mail it direct to the board but rather to Amy’s aunt: Trish Gray-Lee, 862 Jolly Road, Columbus, MS 39705. Amy deserves a special dispensation for her own and her father’s medical crises, justifying a supervised medical release, Twitch suggests.

Please Sign these letters for healthcare for people in prison in California!

Being in physical distress locked in a cell turns into a truly terrifying experience when you can hear the cops banter with each other about you being a “crybaby”…and they’ll get to it when they have finished cutting it up with each other. It’s especially terrifying when you are experiencing symptoms you don’t understand & you have witnessed others calling for help only to learn that person didn’t survive.
-Sonja Marcus, formerly incarcerated woman, survived 18 years in prison


On July 30, 2014 a woman committed suicide in the Solitary Housing Unit (SHU) of the California Institution for Women (CIW), in Corona. According to information gathered by the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), there have been seven preventable deaths at CIW so far in 2014 and three attempted suicides since July alone. None of these deaths have been made public by CIW or CDCR although they signify a state of crisis in the prison.

Prison officials have failed to inform bereaved family members of these deaths in a timely and respectful manner. Margie Kobashigawa, the mother of 30-year-old Alicia Thompson, who died of an alleged suicide on February 24, 2014 in the SHU, was ignored by prison staff. 

“Nobody from the prison would call me back, nobody would talk to me. I was planning to pick up my daughter’s body and suddenly CIW was trying to cremate her again, and quickly. To me it’s like they’re trying to hide everything,” said Margie. As she prepared her daughter for burial, she found no signs of hanging trauma to her body and has reason to believe her daughter died from some other type of violent force.

On March 13, 2014 Shadae Schmidt, a 32-year-old African American woman, died in the CIW SHU. Shadae had a stroke in February 2014 and was prematurely returned to the SHU. She was given medication that made her sick but her requests for a change in prescription fell on deaf ears; and then she died.

CCWP received information regarding these two deaths from friends and family members, but other deaths, suicides and attempted suicides remain shrouded in mystery. 

The majority of people in the SHU have some type of mental health problem, which is exacerbated by solitary confinement. CCWP continues to hear reports that there is no medical staff to monitor people’s vital signs and mental states when physical and mental health crises occur. People scream for help and get no response at all. 

Since the closure of Valley State Women’s Prison in January 2013, overcrowding at CIW has skyrocketed. Medical care has significantly deteriorated and there has been a dramatic increase in the population of the SHU and other disciplinary segregation units. 

Overcrowding has aggravated mental health issues causing an increase in the number of mentally disabled people in the SHU even though this is the worst place to put them.

In August 2014, in response to a court order, the CDCR released revised policies to reduce the number of people with mental health diagnoses in isolation. Policy changes are only useful if they are implemented. It is crucial for the CDCR to transfer all people with mental health issues out of the CIW SHU as soon as possible in accordance with the court order. 

Despite decades of lawsuits to remedy prison health care and court orders to reduce prison overcrowding, the inhuman conditions inside CA women’s prisons continue and have led to these tragic, violent and untimely deaths. In order to reverse the crisis at CIW, CCWP calls for the following immediate actions:
  • Immediate transfer of all prisoners with mental health issues from the SHU and implementation of care programs.
  • Increased healthcare staffing and care for people in the SHU.
  • An independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding all deaths at CIW in 2014.
  • Reduction of overcrowding through the implementation of existing release programs rather than transfers to other equally problematic prisons and jails.
PLEASE CALL, EMAIL, WRITE or FAX these people with the demands above:
Sara Malone, Chief Ombudsman
Office of the Ombudsman
1515 S. Street, Room 124 S.
Sacramento, CA 95811
Tel: (916) 327-8467  Fax: (916) 324-8263
sara.malone@cdcr.ca.gov
Kimberly Hughes, Warden CIW
Tel: (909) 597-1771
Kimberly.hughes@cdcr.ca.gov
Senator Hannah Beth-Jackson
District 19, Senate Budget Committee
Vice-Chair of Women’s Caucus
(916) 651-4019
senator.jackson@sen.ca.gov
Assemblymember Nancy Skinner
District 15, Women’s Caucus
(916) 319-2015
Assemblymember.Skinner@outreach.assembly.ca.gov
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano
District 17
(916) 319-2017
Assemblymember.Ammiano@outreach.assembly.ca.gov
Senator Mark Leno
Senator.leno@senator.ca.gov
Senator Loni Hancock
Senator.hancock@senate.ca.gov
Senator Holly Mitchell
District 26, Women’s Caucus
Public Safety Committee (916) 651-4015
Senator Jim Beall
District 15, Senate Budget Committee
senator.beall@senator.ca.gov
(916) 651-4026
Jay Virbel, Associate Director of Female Offender Programs & Services
jay.virbel@cdcr.ca.gov
(916) 322-1627
PO Box 942883
Sacramento, CA 95811
Jeffrey Beard, CDCR Secretary
Jeff.Beard@cdcr.ca.gov
(916) 323-6001
PO Box 942883

Sacramento, CA 95811

Also from CURB
Please sign here to sign CURB’s letter for decent healthcare at CSP-Corcoran!

Please Sign and Share for Avis and Charmaine!

Please sign and share these important Petitions: 

Avis Lee

For Avis Lee: in prison in Pennsylvania since 1980, to get her parole.

For Charmaine Pfender: in prison in Pennsylvania since 29 years, to get her released.

Read more about their cases and the Women in Prison Defense Committee Let’s Get Free here.

Donna Hill and Charmaine Pfender (Mother and Daughter)

Thank you!

Stop the McFarland GEO Women’s Prison!

From the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Aug 8th, 2014

Letter signed by women and trans prisoners at CCWF and CIW

 STOP THE MCFARLAND GEO WOMEN’S PRISON!

 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 2nd largest private, for-profit prison corporation in the U.S. According to the contract, GEO will open a new women’s prison in McFarland, CA 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% 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.” 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% more frequent; racist behavior and sexual abuse by staff are widespread.

GEO is responsible for human rights violations at many of their facilities.  In 2012 GEO was forced to close the Walnut Grove, Mississippi youth detention Center after being condemned for allowing, in the words of Fed. 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, 1200 people detained in GEO’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA (for immigrants) 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.
  • In January of 2014, Governor 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, CA, 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 at 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.  .

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. Assembly Members 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

March to End Rape, Sexual Assault, and the Exploitation of Women: August 23rd 2014

March at Tutwiler Prison: Rally at State Capitol, Aug. 23rd at 11 AM.

March to End Rape, Sexual Assault, and the Exploitation of Women: August 23rd 2014 11:00 Rally at State Capitol