Please share these
messages with all your friends!
· There are 2 new appointments to the Board of Prison Terms,
Chair Margarita Perez a former guard, parole agent and investigator
and Susan Fisher former director of the Doris Tate Victims Bureau
· AB 384 would eliminate tobacco in prisons was referred to the
public safety committee on 2/17 no hearing date
· SB 1385 would allow evidence of battering to be considered
in a variety of cases and. would allow writs for cases before
August 29, 1996. Hearing before the Sen. Public Safety Committee March
· SB 1522 would require the BPT to provide evidence of threat
to public safety. Referred to Public Safety March
· AB 1796 to allow drug felons to receive food stamps, to be
heard by Human Services March 23rd.
· AB 1866 would allow media access to prisoners, public safety
hearing rescheduled for March 23rd.
· AB 1946 would provide compassionate release for those within
a year of death and those unable to care for themselves, March
16 public safety hearing postponed until March 23rd.
CALIFORNIA LEGISLATION SB-1522
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Senator John Vasconcellos has graciously
agreed to author a bill that would amend Section 3041 of the Penal Code,
the parole statute. The bill, SB-1522 would help restore integrity into
the parole process and require that the Board adhere to a burden of
proof that is consistent with the plain language of the statute. The
bill would not allow BPT to deny parole unless there is clear and convincing
evidence that the inmate poses an unreasonable risk of danger to the
community if released. The bill would also require a court reviewing
a panel's decision to determine if it is supported by clear and convincing
evidence in the record.
After a meeting on Thursday between Carl
McQuillion, former lifer and now a successful paralegal, (who brought
the need for the bill to the attention of Senator Vasconcellos through
his deputy chief of staff Matt Gray), Donald Miller, former lifer and
also a successful paralegal, (who made sound suggestions for crafting
the language), and other legislative persons, SB-1522 underwent some
changes to strengthen it and still allow it to pass, which will be a
At least one Republican senator has agreed
to co-author the bill if the proposed amendment does not appear to be
too radical. It is anticipated that the first amended version will be
in print shortly,and, at that time, may be co-authored. Don and I have
consulted with a representative of the author about generating support
for the bill. It is now time for that action.
I am urging everyone, and I mean down to
the last man and woman in or out of prison who understands or accepts
the need for strengthening the bill, to campaign to support it. This
year may be our one shot to get this statute strengthened. We need unified
support like we have never before seen because it is certain that the
victims rights groups will oppose it, as will the CCPOA and, probably,
We need letters and emails sent to the legislators,
including the Republicans. We do not want a bi-partisan split on this.
We need to convince Republicans and Democrats alike that integrity of
the parole process will be better ensured by this bill and that arbitrariness
in the parole process only fosters distrust of the government. For those
of you who need a guide, a form letter is available at http://politicalinjustice.org
from the California Alliance for Political Prisoners, Inc.; you can
also obtain it via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is important, do not merely copy the
form letter and sign it; use it as a guide and write your own. Form
letters hold no value to a legislator. Take the time to write your own.
Especially send your letters and emails to your local Senator and Assemblyperson;
you are their constituents and they are supposed to listen to your voice.
Convince them this is the right thing to do. Meet with them in your
district if possible and speak to them personally. Letters and personal
meetings, where possible, from GROUPS, are most helpful. You can schedule
appointments when they are at their district office.
Again, we are calling
for all-out support for SB-1522. -- If you care about anyone inside,
support this bill and start a grass-roots movement in your area, such
as your church, to support this bill.
-- Carl McQuillion, CEO, California Alliance
for Political Prisoners; and
Donald Miller, VP-R&D, CAPP.
Families to Amend California's Three Strikes
State-wide office: (213) 746-4844
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Editorial Hidden abuses
MEDIA ACCESS TO STATE'S PRISONERS
March 1, 2004
There have been three previous legislative
attempts to provide the news media greater access to state prisons in
order to speak with inmates. Each bill was approved overwhelmingly.
And each was vetoed, first by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1998 and then by Gov.
Gray Davis in 1999 and 2000. The governors were determined to demonstrate
their tough-on-crime credentials.
This year could be different.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's public safety
persona is solid enough that he doesn't have anything to prove. What's
more, the governor has inherited a deeply troubled prison system that
is under intense federal scrutiny. Many of those troubles might have
come to light much sooner had reporters not been largely prevented from
talking with prisoners during the last eight years.
Parallel bills by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los
Angeles, and Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would reverse a
set of overly tight restrictions on journalists who seek access to prisoners.
Both lawmakers are intimately familiar with the state prison mess.
Romero recently helped conduct committee
hearings that documented problems, ranging from gladiator-style combat
among inmates promoted by sadistic prison guards, to whistle-blowers
being intimidated and, in some cases, being demoted for disclosing prison
Leno, chairman of the Assembly Public Safety
Committee, correctly believes that shining some badly needed light on
these and other scandalous situations is the best and most economical
way to help ensure they don't become a permanent part of the prison
That corrosive culture has developed because
a code of silence among prison guards and prison officials. Absent unrelenting,
independent scrutiny, which the media can provide, that culture will
get even worse.
In 1996, the Department of Corrections applied
for emergency regulations that effectively shut the media out of prisons.
The restrictions were approved in such rapid fashion that Jim Ewert,
legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA)
concludes: "The fix was in."
The Department of Corrections was miffed
at coverage of a prisoner being scalded at Pelican Bay Prison and also
claimed the media were glamorizing criminals. So the department made
it exceedingly difficult for reporters to set up interviews with specific
prisoners. Journalists were prohibited from taking into prison any tools
of their trade, such as paper, pens, pencils, recording devices and
source materials. Last year, the department cut visitation days in half,
further restricting what minimal access the media have to prisoners.
Never mind that the prison guards union supported
the first two media access bills, citing "the utmost professionalism"
of journalists and denying any breaches of security. The union took
no position on the third measure.
The Department of Corrections wants to keep
the lid on. Lawmakers and the governor should pry it open.
The measures by Romero and Leno would override
the emergency regulations, yet would allow the department to deny or
limit media access in special cases. Both bills are supported by the
CNPA, the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Civil
Liberties Union. They dovetail with the governor's campaign promise
to open government business to the public. They deserve prompt enactment.
AND SANE REDUCTIONS IN PRISON SPENDING
As of October 1, 2003 there
were 161, 917 people incarcerated in the State of California at an average
cost $26,125 per person per year. It is currently estimated that the
Department of Corrections will overspend its budget this year by $544
million dollars which is largely due to pay increases, overtime, and
other benefits granted to the prison guards union (CCFPOA) by former
Governor Gray Davis.
Eight percent of incarcerated persons are
female whose incarceration costs are slightly higher those of men due
to greater medical needs. Several thousand women are currently serving
life sentences, mostly for convictions involving domestic violence or
passive participation in crimes committed by men. The recidivism rate
for female lifers is LESS THAN 1%.. Women who have been sentenced to
life terms simply do not reoffend. Nevertheless, Governor Davis bowed
to the pressures of CCPOA and refused to approve parole for all but
3 battered women during his term: 2 women have been released and 1 awaits
release in March.
Due to the draconian increases in sentencing,
and the refusal to parole lifers the prison population has aged dramatically
with attendant increases in illness and health care costs. For example,
Helen Loheac is 81 years old and has served nearly 13 years for a conspiracy
case in which no one was killed or injured in any way. Helen is transported
to Riverside General Medical Center 3 times each week for kidney dialysis.
It has cost the state approximately $750,000.00 for her treatment thus
Governor Schwarzenegger has visited The California
Institution for Women previously and expressed empathy for the women
recognizing that they do not pose a risk to society. In fact he stated
that he would run for political office sometime in the future and would
not forget about the women there.
The following suggestions would drastically
reduce prison spending and pose no threat to public safety.
1. Release battered women as required by
2. Grant clemency to the aged women who are chronically ill or handicapped
3. Release the terminally ill women immediately after diagnosis
4. Utilize drug treatment rather than incarceration
5. Uphold all parole recommendations of the Parole Board
INMATE VISITING POLICIES
It has come to my attention that since January
31, 2004, inmate visiting in the California Department of Corrections
has been restricted to only two days a week. This latest penny wise
and pound foolish cutback will not only create real hardship for the
families involved, but it will also wind up costing the state money.
Most families come from long distances to
visit inmates as the inmates are generally transferred away from the
area in which they were arrested as a matter of policy. This means that
with the rising costs of gasoline, and the already grotesquely inhospitable
visiting conditions, it was already impossible for the majority of families
to visit except on rare occasions, so clearly, with this new policy,
even more people will be left out of the loop.
Yet while it has been shown that inmates
who are able to stay in close contact with their families are way less
likely to return to prison, this policy deliberately ignores this finding.
Perhaps it is helpful to elucidate a bit on the present visiting conditions.
At some prisons, visitors sleep in their cars overnight outside of the
prisons so that they can get a place in line in the mornings that will
allow them to only wait a couple of hours to be processed. At other
visitors come in two and a half to three hours before the visiting time
(whether it be in the afternoon or morning) and wait in line in rain
or snow, so that they may be processed. If they are even a few minutes
late, the line is generally so long that they have to wait even longer,
but even though it may be raining, visitors at most institutions are
not allowed to bring umbrellas or wear mufflers or gloves of any kind.
While being processed through the numerous check-in stations, they are
subjected to being treated much like cattle while officers bark orders
at them to march forward, stay behind the line, change under wire brassieres
(lest they set of the metal detector) turn around or bend over (to let
officers assess if their clothing is too tight, too short, of the wrong
color, or of too low a cut). During any of this time during the process
of being given visiting slips, checking in through the different check
ins including the metal detector (where the women must remove all metal
form their under wire or hair and all visitors must remove their shoes
and walk without them to the other side of a check in point in bare
feet on a freezing filthy floor) it behooves each person to attempt
to constrain their urine (very young and very
old alike) because if they do not, they have to wait in line all over
again if they miss the turn in which they were called. This is always
a challenge because the generally filthy and out of work bathroom facilities
are few and far between, and so have long lines themselves.) Add to
that the humiliation of being treated with distain and suspicion by
virtually the entire prison staff; the inedible food in the vending
machines (which has often made this particular visitor ill) for which
you also have to wait in line, sometimes for hours; the constant harassment
by officers if you allow yourself to display any spontaneous affection;
officers who for some reason [usually prejudicial] decides to capriciously
not to call the inmate you have come to visit; the meanly intrusive
regulations about attire, behavior and demeanor which make the whole
experience more nightmarish than fulfilling; and you have a recipe for
discouraging even the most hardnosed visitor.
We know that our prisons are filled to over
double their capacity as it is, yet, years ago, before this overcrowding,
inmates were allowed visitors seven days a week. Now that we need even
more visiting days to accommodate the overcrowding, the opposite has
been dictated. It is clear that in California rehabilitation or any
effort at the same is a
thing of the past. Prison education budgets have been slashed, and inmates
rights, (originally aimed at curbing riots and promoting self-esteem
for more effective reintegration into society) have been all but completely
rescinded. Reintegration into society is no longer a concern, perhaps
because the push is to keep all people convicted of crimes in prison
indefinitely, but so far, we still have laws (the Three Strikes Law
and the current parole policy with regard to Lifer inmates, notwithstanding)
permitting some inmates to be released.
Clearly, those inmates who get visitors are
easier to manage. They help to keep the rest of the prison population
in line (at a time when riots are starting to resurface due to the deplorable
conditions in the CDC) when there is a disturbance in the yard because
they dont want to miss the chance on seeing their families. The
money that is spent by having those few officers necessary to monitor
the visiting room, will be gotten back by having more manageable inmates,
and inmates who are less likely to become part of the recidivism merry-go-round.
If there is anything you can do to counter
this latest egregious wrong from going into effect, please consider
not only the hardship it will cause for people who already have to stand
in line, often in the heat without covering for three hours or more,
but also the long term ramifications of such a policy making.
Our penal codes and our backward thinking
policies have become the cause for much derision among more forward
thinking European nations as well as in Canada. In my mind, their criticism
is well taken. I worked as an academic instructor for the CDC for fourteen
years, and my observation has been that our polices are mean-spirited
and retributive at their core, rather than rehabilitative. Unfortunately,
such policy making is counter productive. While it assures employment
for correctional officers, it costs the tax payer exorbitant amounts
of money that could be better spent on improving rather than exacerbating
current prison conditions, not to mention on educating our youth before
they wind up in prison by virtue of their poor education.
Please use your influence, not only to stop
this present attack on the families of inmates, who generally have to
bear the brunt of these policies, but to stop the attack on any rehabilitative
policy making. Californias prison system deserves more scrutiny
than it is getting.
Committee for Women in Prison