Friday 25 January 2013 5pm-7pm
The California Coalition of Women Prisoners and other groups are protesting the transfer of women prisoners from Valley State Prison (which is being converted to a men’s prison) into the two remaining women’s prisons in the state. Even before the transfer, Chowchilla, with a maximum capacity of 2,000, already has a population close to 4,000.
This move has resulted in terrible overcrowding and other abuses, the deterioration of health care, the forced displacement of thousands of people all which are shattering the lives of prisoners and of their families.
Our protest supports theirs and highlights the situation of women prisoners here in the UK.
Did you know that:
Two-thirds of women in UK prisons are in for non-violent offences and the “criminalisation of survival”: shoplifting, non-payment of fines, sex work, offences linked to drug addiction and so-called benefit fraud – unlike well-paid bankers who steal from the public, women living in poverty get prison.
Over half of women prisoners are mothers; every year 17,000 children are deprived of their mothers’ care by prison, which Baroness Corston has described as “often nothing short of catastrophic”.
Over half have themselves been victims of violence and one in three has experienced sexual abuse. Unbelievably some are in prison as a result of reporting rape and being disbelieved, while their attackers go free.
Women of colour are the fastest growing sector in the prison population and are three times more likely to get a prison sentence than white women. Immigrant women who are alone in the UK are often deprived of what families provide and suffer the agonies of separation.
Scores of women self-harm and even take their own lives while in prison. Pauline Campbell (photo) mother of one of six women who killed themselves in Styal prison in one year, was arrested numerous times for protesting at prison deaths. Our protest will commemorate her extraordinary contribution.
Women prisoners suffer “excessively punitive” treatment that many of us would consider torture. How else to describe “separation visits”; where mothers are forced to say farewell to children who are being taken for adoption, in the main visiting hall?
Thousands of others – women and men — are imprisoned but are innocent. Jailhouse lawyers – prisoners who study the law to represent themselves against injustice and abusive prison conditions — are targeted by the authorities.
In the UK, 150,000 people go through prison each year, hundreds of thousands more are ex-prisoners or their families, yet prisoners are disregarded and disparaged by the government, media and other voices in authority.
Every cut in housing, benefits and other resources is bound to result in more women, particularly mothers, being criminalised and imprisoned. The government knows this very well.
Some of the worst criminals have never been locked up: from serial rapists and murderers, MPs stealing “expenses”, to bankers and corporations defrauding taxpayers, and prime ministers who should be tried for war crimes.
London protest called by:
Global Women’s Strike (GWS) firstname.lastname@example.org, Women of Colour in the GWS email@example.com, Legal Action for Women firstname.lastname@example.org, Payday men’s network email@example.com. Tel: 020 7482 2496
“We are given bedding you wouldn’t want even your dog sleeping on.”
“Everything we rely on to survive, including medical and legal, is highly impacted by overcrowding. Overcrowding is the issue. It causes everything else to come crashing down like dominoes.”
Demand an end to overcrowding! Our loved ones deserve humane living conditions and their freedom! Bring them home!
The Chowchilla Freedom Rally Coalition includes members from California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Justice NOW, All Of Us Or None, Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, Fired Up!, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project, Critical Resistance, Youth Justice Coalition, Global Women’s Strike, Occupy 4 Prisoners, Asian Pacific Islander Support Committee and the California Prison Moratorium Project.