More than 625,000 women and girls in prison around the world, new report shows

More than 625,000 women and girls in prison around the world, new report published by the International Centre for Prison Studies on the occasion of International Women’s Day shows.

Over 625,000 women and girls are held in penal institutions throughout the world according to the second edition of the World Female Imprisonment List, produced by Roy Walmsley and published by the International Centre for Prison Studies, a partner of the University of Essex. The report can be downloaded here.

The study provides information for most countries in the world about the female prison population and the percentage of the total prison population they comprise. It also includes information about trends in female imprisonment. Continue reading

15 Years of Giving Voice to Women and Transgender Prisoners in California

An interview with Diana Block, Pam Fadem, and Deirdre Wilson of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (From Angola 3 News).

On Sept. 26, the statewide prisoner hunger strike resumed after a postponement of almost two months to give the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) time to implement policy changes. The CDCR has reported that as of Sept. 28, almost 12,000 prisoners were striking and public support is needed in order for the strike to be most effective. An update posted October 7 at the “Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity” website stated that “medical conditions are also worsening for strikers throughout the state. We’ve received reports that after 12 days of no food, prisoners are once again losing severe weight and fainting. One hunger striker at Pelican Bay was denied his medication and consequently suffered from a heart attack and is now is an outside hospital in Oregon.”

The current hunger strike demonstrates once again that injustice fuels resistance, and California has a rich history of prisoners, former prisoners, and their supporters taking a stand. Among these freedom fighters is the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), self-publishers of a newsletter entitled The Fire Inside (archived here). CCWP will be celebrating its 15th year anniversary on October 14, with an event in San Francisco featuring longtime anti-prison activist and former political prisoner Angela Davis along with other speakers and performers.
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Where Abolition Meets Action: Women Organizing Against Gender Violence

Where Abolition Meets Action: Women Organizing Against Gender Violence by Victoria Law

During the last decade, the growing movement toward prison abolition, coupled with mounting recognition of the need for community responses to gender violence, has led to increased interest in developing alternatives to government policing. Moving away from the notion of women as victims in need of police protection, grassroots groups, and activists are organizing community alternatives to calling 911. Such initiatives, however, are not new. Throughout the twentieth century, women have organized alter- native models of self-protection. This piece examines past and present models of women’s community self-defense practices against violence. By exploring the wide-ranging methods women across the globe have employed to protect themselves, their loved ones, and communities, this piece seeks to contribute to current conversations on promoting safety and account- ability without resorting to state-based policing and prisons.

Read the rest of the article here, and also be sure to check out all the other fabulous resources at WomenandPrison.org!

Grant compassionate release for Katherine Telemachos

Read and Sign Petition Here

Katherine has had a very hard life.  Originally from South Florida, she was born with a terminal liver disease and in 1981 she became the youngest girl in the US to receive an experimental liver transplant at the age of 10 years old.

Katherine’s health remained stable for a few years. However, at 16, doctors discovered that the medication that kept her transplanted liver from rejecting was causing kidney failure.  Despite attempts to save Katherine’s kidneys, in 1989, just eight years after her liver transplant, she received a transplanted kidney from her mother. She was eighteen years old and her life was about to drastically change.

Katherine fought from an early age not just to survive her illnesses but was also the victim of an extremely abusive father.  Her father abused her sexually, physically, emotionally and psychologically.  She was raped, whipped, cut with knives, sodomized and threatened consistently even when she was ill. She also witnessed his abuse inflicted upon her mother.  Katherine had two motivators for keeping quiet; her father’s threat to kill her and her mother, and her deeply embedded shame. Statistics show that women who have suffered such horrific abuse over long period of time lose touch with reality. She once said that she is responsible for killing her father because she was too afraid to kill herself.

Hours after her father was  murdered by her then boyfriend, Katherine was arrested.  She was prosecuted and received a life sentence. Another man that was at the scene plead out to a lesser charge in turn for his testimony against Katherine.  She has been incarcerated since 1991 at the age of 19 and has been in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections for approximately 20 years.  She is now 40 years old.  Katherine remained silent about her childhood abuse until 2005.

In 2003, Katherine noticed a pea sized lump in her left breast.  Despite relentless attempts in seeking treatment, it was not until October 29, 2007 that she received a bilateral radical mastectomy.  Unfortunately, due to the delay in treatment, the cancer had metastasized to her lymph nodes, lung, bone and chest wall.  She is dying.

Rhode Island Imprisoned Mothers Lose Shackles During Birth

The Rhode Island State Legislature passed a law this week prohibiting pregnant inmates form being shackled or handcuffed during childbirth, and mandates that only the least restrictive restraints be used during the second and third trimester. The Rebecca Project has been working to push such legislation through other states; according to the organization, 11 states (Colorado being one of them) currently have rules on the book that prohibits the handcuffing and shackling of pregnant inmates. Check out Birth Behind Bars to learn how to support birth education and support for pregnant inmates.

Tell Gov. Brown to Release Karen Narita on Parole

Ms. Karen Narita has been in prison for more than 26 years for a murder committed by her abusive husband. She takes full responsibility for participation in the crime and feels tremendous remorse about the victim’s tragic death. Ms. Narita is now a 48-year-old mother and grandmother who poses no risk of future harm if she is released.

Ms. Narita has been found eligible for parole by the California Board of Parole Hearings. This is the second time that the Board has found that she poses no risk to public safety – she was previously found suitable for parole in 2004.

The parole decision now goes to Governor Brown. Please urge the governor to uphold Ms. Narita’s parole. Thank you.

Sign the Petition by the California Coalition for Women Prisoners!

Resisting Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex

–An interview with Victoria Law

By Angola 3 News

Victoria Law is a longtime prison activist and the author of the 2009 book, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women(PM Press). Law’s essay “Sick of the Abuse: Feminist Responses to Sexual Assault, Battering, and Self Defense,” is featured in the new book, entitled The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism, edited by Dan Berger.

In this interview, Law discusses her new article, which provides a history of radical feminist resistance to the criminalization of women who have defended themselves from gender violence. Furthermore, Law presents a prison abolitionist critique of how the mainstream women’s movement has embraced the US criminal justice system as a solution for combating violence against women.

Previously interviewed by Angola 3 News about the torture of women in US prisons, Law is now on the road with the Community and Resistance Tour.

Angola 3 News: In your essay “Sick of the Abuse,” you write that “a woman’s right to defend herself (and her children) from assault became a feminist rallying point throughout the 1970s.” You focus on the four separate stories of Yvonne Wanrow, Inez Garcia, Joan Little, and Dessie Woods. All four women were arrested for self-defense and their cases received national attention with the support of the radical women’s movement. Can you briefly explain their cases and why they were so important for the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s?
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This Wednesday: Monthly Letter Writing Night

Women's liberationJoin Denver ABC for our monthly political prisoner letterwriting night. This month we will focus on women identified prisoners that are being caged for their contributions to liberation struggles and their personal actions against patriarchy.

Come write letters to amazing and strong women who have robbed banks, carried out armed actions against the state and capitalists, successfully defended themselves against their abusers, and have devoted their lives to women’s liberation.

As always, DABC provides everything you need: envelopes, paper, pens, stamps, addresses, and EVEN DINNER!

This is a kid’s friendly event, so bring the whole family… and your friends!

ACLU Confronts Denver Prison’s Abusive Strip Searches

by Michelle Chen

The ACLU has launched a blitzkrieg against the abuse of women in prison, from a health care crisis in a Wisconsin facility to horrid sexual abuse cases in immigration detention. But its case against strip searches at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility plumbs new depths of degradation.

Prison staff have allegedly subjected women to traumatic and humiliating body-cavity searches using enhanced techniques that supposedly guard against hiding “contraband” in a woman’s genitals. The ACLU’s press release states that the group “has received letters in recent weeks from prisoners at DWCF who complain that being forced to comply with the new search policy—under the threat of being doused with pepper spray—exacerbates prior sexual trauma.”

According to one woman’s testimony to the ACLU:

The [labia] lift is treated differently by officers, but generally involves spreading your legs and parting your outer labia so an officer can do a visual inspection of your genitals. I have had to perform this procedure simply standing; from a sitting position with my legs spread eagle and having a flashlight shined at my genitals; from a standing position with a foot perched on a toilet and an officer’s face inches from my genitals; in front of multiple officers and once in front of an officer and two Life Safety trainees….
Being a survivor of sexual trauma the new labia-lift procedure encouraged my post-traumatic stress disorder. I had periodic flashbacks …. I have also witnessed women literally crying when they were subjected to the labia lift…

The ACLU doesn’t categorically object to visual inspections for security. But this distinctly invasive kind of probe, not to mention the unsettling alliterative moniker, seems deliberately aimed at dehumanizing women and rendering them utterly powerless over their bodies. The abusive impulse reflects the perverse power imbalance inherent in the prison system. The racial and gender lines that stratify Colorado’s prisons project the same intricate oppression on a mass scale.

According to the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, “85% of women sent to Colorado’s prisons last year were convicted of a non-violent offense”—including many mothers of young children. Nearly half of the female prison population were “diagnosed as needing mental health treatment,” and more than 80 percent were “assessed to be in need of substance abuse treatment.” Moreover, Blacks made up less than four percent of the state population but roughly one fifth of people locked up in state prison.

By compelling women to expose themselves in unspeakable ways, the prison staff teach their captives a lesson: once you’re inside, your body becomes public property

Torturing Women Prisoners: an interview with Victoria Law

Vicky LawBy Angola 3 News

Victoria Law is a longtime prison activist and the author of the new book, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press), which was recently reviewed at Alternet. “This book is the result of seven and a half years of reading, writing, listening, and supporting women in prison,” Law says about Resistance Behind Bars, noting that each chapter in her book “focuses on an issue that women themselves have identified as important.” The chapters include topics as diverse as health care, the relationship between mothers and daughters, sexual abuse, education, and resistance among women in immigration detention. Resistance Behind Bars paints a picture of women prisoners resisting a deeply flawed prison system, which Law hopes will help to empower both the women held in cages and those on the outside working to support them.

In this interview, Law talks specifically about how women are affected by solitary confinement and other forms of torture in US prisons, and what women are doing to fight back. Exposing solitary confinement as torture has been the focus of recent campaigns in Maine, Pennsylvania, and around the US. This is also a central issue in the campaign to free the Angola 3, who are a trio of Black Panther political prisoners: Robert King, Albert Woodfox, and Herman Wallace. King was released in 2001 after 29 years in continuous solitary confinement. Woodfox and Wallace remain imprisoned and have spent over 36 years in solitary confinement, where they remain today.

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