United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
March 13, 2003 Protest
Speeches of March 13, 2003
Speech notes for UNION founder and director B. Cayenne Bird
also the Mistress of Ceremonies of the event
My name is B. Cayenne Bird, also known as email@example.com. I am the director of the coalition sponsoring today's protest United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect or "U.N.I.O.N." founded in 1998. I am a Human Rights Journalist, Publisher, and California media personality for 35 years, a grandmother of four and a mother to a son incarcerated in Mule Creek Prison.
Our purpose here is to let the legislators know that we are angry as hell at the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on us through neglect and torture of our loved ones in prisons and jails. Our purpose is to alert you, the taxpayers, that these conditions exist and are being financed with your money.
We are also here to teach others about our battle plan for real action through initiative campaigns and we hope to garner enough support for a massive class action lawsuit naming everyone who has been callous to our repeated appeals for help for those who are suffering and dying at the hands of our lawmakers. Inmates and their families, foster children who will be tomorrow's prisoners, have no place to go for help. Nobody hears our screams.
If they do, legislators seem powerless to do anything about it. That's how terrible conditions are at every level of this prison state. Here we are paying out billions on juvenile halls, jails, and prisons and they are operating completely out of control of the taxpayers who fund them.
Inhumanity is conducted as business as usual. We could drop a dead body on the desk of 90% of the people working in the capitol and they would just work around it.
The attitude here at the Capitol is that the wardens and guards are the good guys and everyone connected to an inmate is a liar. The media stands by and allows themselves to be banned from prisoner access and operates in the same manner as many of these legislators. This is how these terrible crimes against humanity are committed in taxpayer financed institutions and are allowed to exist while flying under the radar of public knowledge.
The end result is that voter financed institutions are doing more to create crime than to prevent it. People are returning to their communities much sicker than before their incarceration. Few up here under the big top care. "They are only inmates", legislators say. Inmate abuse and death rarely even make the news.
I went before the Senate Rules committee last summer and many times in the past years and testified against Wardens who were being confirmed. There was no one else representing inmates there except for me. I was treated with derision for voicing but a few of the complaints from inmate families. The senators didn't want me there.
They not only don't care about what is happening to inmates, they don't even want to hear about it. Anyone who complains is a liar. There truth is offensive to them, confronting the evil of this prison system is too much of a stretch for those born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Why do we put them into rule over us?
The UNION is here today because we want to change the unbearable callousness and incompetence of our legislators and the court system. The only reason in the world things are this bad is because there is no official prison reform group with enough voters and funds to rail loudly enough against these inhumane practices.
Yes, there is a social justice movement that has been going on for 20 years. God bless every activist who has gone broke trying to organize the families of prisoners. So many don't understand that they outnumber all these other oppressive groups and their pain is coming from nothing but better organized voting lobbies than prisoner families, and those groups use the government to do their bidding to promote the prison slave industry. These special interest groups get together and put their own candidates into office.
The prisoners are the pawns in all these ugly little games and the California human bondage industry then becomes the largest growth cottage industry in the United States. Human bondage is our main state product.
"What can I do about it?", you ask with your pockets empty and your heart broken. Well, here's the plan:
We are looking for support for a broad based lawsuit that will cover every area of cruel and unusual punishment. Excessive sentences, wrongful arrests and conviction, prosecutors who distort or withhold evidence and have no consequences to them for doing so, psychological intimidation and torture to "break" inmates, visiting restrictions which take effect on March 20 which punishes children, increases in family restitution to half of what you send to your loved one, possibly denying packages, continuing medical neglect and unsanitary conditions which cause disease.......we have THOUSANDS of reasons to sue.
But we cannot do that unless thousands of people contribute to make this possible. Depending on volunteers to do this fierce fighting never works out. It is crippling to take the attitude that some lawyer, judge or legislator is going to rescue you. That is never going to happen. We must organize and rescue ourselves by sharing the load across many shoulders.
Last summer we gathered 66,000 signatures to Amend the Three Strikes law and could have done much better if those 6500 workers were in our UNION database helping out.
There is only 160 days to gather almost a million signatures, so you don't begin until the resources are together. That is what we are doing now, putting together supporters. If everyone here teaches this formula to TEN PEOPLE and signs them up in the UNION and they then continue the process and SIGN UP ANOTHER TEN EACH, we could grow in leaps and bounds. Our commitment as U.N.I.O.N. members is:
1. Write one ten sentence letter to the editor of a local newspaper every week about a current prisoner news topic. This provides the public with education.
2. Show up to important hearings and protests when called or send someone to stand in your place.
3. Legislators seldom read email or mail or respond to it. They do respond to seeing their names in the newspapers and they note how many people come to a protest. If you are silent, they assume that you are happy with current laws and bills. So silence is the worst possible position to take.
4. We invest time in finding and educating others who will then also write letters to editors and show up for protests. The formula for success goes like this.....
6500 X 200 each totals 1.3 million, that's enough to finance each campaign. Both money and people are necessary to do the right actions and at the right time.....IN UNISON ..so our voices are heard loudly by the lawmakers.
6500 X 200 signatures on each FORMAL initiative passed through the Secretary of State can change ANY law or vote out any bad politician. That totals 1.3 million people which is enough to qualify anything for the ballot in our state. So 6500 people willing to work a little, about 2 hours per week, can build the voting group required to change any law.
Think United Farm Workers or any other labor union, except that we are a citizen's social justice group.
It is important to name in these lawsuits people as individuals. California has paid out $356 million in prison and jail mismanagement lawsuits since Davis took office (that we know about). Millions more lawsuits are pending. Some 5000 lawsuits are filed against the State each year, but the total settlements are hidden from public access. Journalists can't even get these figures. So unless people who are exhibiting the callousness are named publicly, there is no motivation for them to enact reform.
The topics to be shared with you today are diverse and you will find very little duplication of facts in these alerts to the legislators and the citizenry from qualified professionals, most of whom have a loved one in prison. This news in our U.N.I.O.N. newsletter and rallies is not found in most media, and is coming from people on the front lines of the helping professions.
We have many exciting speakers scheduled and I will be your mistress of ceremonies. Our Senate Sponsor is Senator Don Peralta of Oakland, but our views are not necessarily his.
We thank both Senator Peralta and Jerry Brown for their efforts on come new sentencing legislation which is in progress. They need your input to get it through the legislature. Please see our table during and after these events to subscribe to the U.N.I.O.N. newsletter for $30 a year and continue to bring education and active pressure on our lawmakers together.
I would like for us all to walk the halls of the legislature today so that we can confront those who propose murder by medical neglect such as Senator Jeff Denham. We need to ask for help for Beverly Diaz, a young mother who will die without a transplant. Her elderly mother called me just before I came here today and asked me to appeal to you to help save her life.
Let's not agonize.....let's organize
Most high God...we seek your wisdom in this time of great darkness that prevails with humanity and human souls...namely with those who are incarcerated as inmates and who more times than not - at the hands of brutal individuals who know no mercy...
As a loving and merciful God - truly your heart must be hurt for those human beings that you created and who through lack of knowledge and your light have stumbled on life's path and are now captives in a place of utter darkness...namely an inmate
Dear God this gross darkness is pervasive throughout the whole of what is called a criminal justice system...We acknowledge that this darkness is due to lack of insight and compassion for human beings - human beings who are now incarcerated - by those who are elected to create laws that protect human life and dignity...Father, they have given life sentences to your children who stole food and medicine. Is this not the work of the devil?
We call upon you for wisdom, direction and knowledge that will create the 'light' that is needed to wipe out the utter black darkness that swirls around inmates lives and the persons (correctional officers) whose job it is to protect and preserve human life and dignity behind steel bars and prison yards.
We pray that the media will find courage to expose the truth of the horrors the taxpayer's dollars are financing. They are operating from a position of fear and failing us Lord.
God your Holy word says that we are to seek the Lord while he may be found...and we are to call upon him while he is near...
That is why we are praying this today at this moment in time for a sign of your goodness and compassion towards those who seek you out on behalf of inmates lives....Because we believe that you love inmates and their families because you are a God of love and compassion and mercy...
Indeed Heavenly Father...the thief on the cross went to paradise because of your total forgiveness toward the frailties of human beings...
Hear us this day oh God - because your Holy word says "may the wicked forsake their wicked ways"
You have remanded everyone to visit those in hospitals and prisons, yet the callous rulers now say that some inmates will no longer be able to visit their family members, even behind glass. Even Satan wouldn't stoop this low, yet this has happened. Punishing children will surely make even You cry, Lord.
Dear God for us who pray this prayer may the wicked whose callousness - apathy - and cold-heartness which bring misery and hurt and sorrow to inmates lives be dealt with swiftly by YOUR justice and displeasure...and may your equity be swift...
Charles Wesley, paralegal student, former inmate at Chino State Prison who ended up completely disabled after being denied medical help (well documented) will speak on the importance of packages for prisoners and oppose the bill proposed by Sen. Brulte to end them. His crime? Joy riding. A lawsuit has been filed against the State and all parties responsible at Chino State Prison
Ladies and Gentlemen my Name is Charles Wesley; I am a long time member of the UNION which stands for (United for No Injustice Oppression or Neglect) I would like to bring to your attention SB 206, a terrible bill proposed by Senator Brulte.
This bill would require the California Department of Corrections to establish a pilot program at Pelican State prison to eliminate the Inmates Quarterly Packages And replace it with an expanded inmate canteen program. (Which will eventually go statewide). It doesn't guarantee which items would be "expanded" and can we really trust CDC to do anything but inflate prices and limit selection? NO!
The bill states, the director shall specify what items are to be sold and at what price, Profits from this phony bill will go to the Inmate Welfare Fund And to run the canteen they promise, I have been a Chairman on the Men's Advisory Counsel in Chino California and after years of research our committee could never find out what the inmate welfare fund is and what it buys.
My question is where is the Money?
Most inmates work for less then 20 cents an hour and they depend on family members to send them in food and clothing 4 times a year. Most of the food served within the prison is inedible, has been prepared in unsanitary conditions, and the portions are very small. The hunger pangs do not go away after chow time. When you work 8 hours a day (slave labor) a prisoner looks forward to having a can of tuna and soup, and a cup of coffee. At 20 cents an hour you cannot afford to purchase these items at the canteen. Many inmates have no family to send them packages nor are they able to work, so they are left to starve.
CDC alleges that this bill is necessary in order to deter violence and drug abuse and to neutralize a threat to the security of the institution and the officers and I quote "The Flow of narcotics into the institution from the outside must be stopped, and therefore, it is necessary that this act take effect immediately".
The way to stop the flow of drugs into our Prisons, is to start searching the prison Guards and the employees; they are the ones who are bring in the drug for a huge profit. They need to have see through lunch pails and DOGS sniffing them when they come to work if reducing drug traffic is the goal.
Our country is only as good as we treat our prisoners and feeding grown men and women on $2.45 a day is inhumane. Our loved ones are paying the price for there crime. They have been removed from society. Yet they are being tortured, and malnourished during their incarceration and coming out sicker then when they went in.
I know from first hand experience that this is the case, because I was given five years in a hellhole for "joy riding" and ended up totally disabled in my back over it. Prison is a place where people are destroyed, not healed.
If the California Department of Corrections continue to take away the very few privileges that prisoners have left there will be no incentive for them to control their behavior. If the CDC continue to restrict contact with prisoner's families, The security of the institution is at stake. And maybe this is what they want to justify their huge budget.
Most prisons have x-ray machines to examine packages and to make sure there is no contraband concealed within the package. Also if the staff would do a better job of searching the items sent in: there would be no concern of drugs coming into the institution.
This is more about making the families of prisoners, who will now have HALF of the money they send into inmates seized as "restitution." This totals millions of dollars of profit from the people who can least afford it, the families of prisoners.
Inmates need to feel that personal touch of comfort through having items that only their moms or wives know makes them happy. The sterile, heartless approach of CDC cannot make that happen. Packages are a tie to their families that is very important.
I ask you pressure your senators and assembly members to VOTE NO ON SENATE BILL 206, to get active with our UNION so that you know when these threats come about. We have fought against losing packages every year for five years straight and won, but with the budget crisis and the idea that families can't organize a big voting group, we might really lose this year.
There are certainly more serious issues such as the horrible visiting regulations that mean certain categories of inmates will never be able to see their minor children again, even through glass. These are mean spirited and do not promote healing or family ties. They are simply torture.
The inmates cannot fight back for themselves, only those of us with the power of the vote can stand up for them together in the UNION. If we aren't heard, then we must un-elect those who aren't listening and do initiative campaigns. There is no justice, there is no compassion anywhere in our criminal justice system.
We must demand it.
THANK YOU: Charles Wesley
Our speaker to abolish the death penalty is Tommy (not Thomas) Clinkenbeard, Esq. He is on the board of directors of Death Penalty Focus which is the largest member based anti death penalty organization in the country.
Mike Farrel is president of the board. Clinkenbeard is also on the board of directors at Loaves and Fishes. He is a trial attorney at the public defenders office assigned to the homicide unit in the Sacramento Public Defender's office.
Mr. Clinkenbeard has handled many homicide cases including Nicolay Soltys and currently Mr. Whitehorn who was in the paper this weekend. He has 20 years experience in criminal defense
by Tommy Clinkenbeard, Esq.
Civilized Nations around the world have seen the Death Penalty for what it is. It is archaic, barbaric, and cruel. It serves no legitimate purpose. It is a tool to cultivate hate and promote on going violence. In Calif. There are over 611 men and women on death row. 60% of these people are people of color. Almost all come from impoverished and dysfunctional backgrounds.
Across the country there are now over 3700 people on death row. Most share similar backgrounds. Since 1977, over 7000 people have been sentenced to death in this country.
Today, in the U.S, individual leaders and states are recognizing the inherent problems with a death penalty system that is racially and economically biased in its application. It preys on the poor and the mentally ill. Since 1976, over 700 people have been executed in this country. At the same time over 103 people have been exonerated and freed from death row
People are freed from death row after being cleared by DNA, or prosecutorial misconduct is discovered.
The DP is a flawed and inhumane system of injustice. The US is one in only six countries in the world that will sentence juvenile offenders to death. We share this abomination of human rights with China, Iran, and Iraq!
We are at a time when social service programs for the homeless, children, and the elderly are being cut. At the same time Gov. Davis proposed spending millions of dollars to expand Death Row. The Death Penalty system cost our state over 60 million dollars every year. Our political leaders would rather continue the circle of violence, than educate our children.
President Bush and Gov. Davis preach family and Christian values. Yet, their religious leaders, their faiths do not support the death penalty. And, since when did hate and revenge become a family value!
Their hypocritical approach to justice and refusal to acknowledge the truth about the death penalty was reflected last month at a hearing in front of the Missouri Supreme Court.
As reported by the New York Times, a prosecutor was trying to block a death row inmate from having his conviction reopened based upon new evidence. The article goes on to state that the judge was getting exasperated and asked, "are you suggesting that even if we find Mr. Amrine is actually innocent, he should be executed"? The prosecutor replied, "That's right your honor". This prosecutor believed that the cost and time involved in allowing death row inmates to address new evidence was clogging up the courts. Therefore, deny the person claiming innocence on new evidence a hearing-even if he should in fact be innocent.
Last year we presented Gov. Davis with about 100,000 signatures calling for a moratorium. Across the country, state legislatures are asking and discussing moratoriums. Our Governor will not even discuss it. So, while Illinois, The New York City Council, the municipalities of Philadelphia, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Atlanta, Tallahassee, Nashville, Detroit, Buffalo, Santa Clara, Menlo Park, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, West Hollywood and California's leading newspapers such as, LA Times, the Chronicle and Examiner, the San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and nationally over 2100 organizations and faith communities are all calling for a Moratorium. Our Governor still refuses to even discuss the issue.
The real axis of evil is our legislatures, our President, and our Governors who are still willing to execute the innocent, the mentally ill, and our children!
It's high time we Abolish the Death Penalty!
It costs more to prosecute capital cases than regular cases.
UNION Protest, March 13, 2003
Cut Billions from Corrections - our budget recommendations Speech
Frank Courser, single father of five children with a loved one in prison, manager of Ralph's grocery store in San Diego gives our group's recommendation on how to cut billions from Corrections. The legislators are overlooking some much needed options that would better protect the public safety. Frank presents a few of our UNION recommendations to cut billions from Corrections. More can be found at our website.
I want to thank you all so much for being here today. My name is Frank Courser I am a single father of 5 Children. I am a grocery manager by trade and have been a retail manager for over twenty years. I'm here all the way from San Diego because I am angered by how out of touch our lawmakers are about the budget issues facing California.
Seems that special interests are so in control of legislators that they will lie to the public to protect those that fund their campaigns. I manage a multi million-dollar business and we must follow a budget. I also manage my home budget. We have a beautiful home, I keep my family fed and clothed without any public aid. I am very fortunate! California is in a crisis because of those 134 special interest groups who make all the laws and run our lives. It is time to take our state back and demand that the money spent for public safety isn't causing more crime than it is creating! The decisions made today by our lawmakers will affect our children for generations to come. Will it be schools or prisons? Twenty years ago, before then Governor Pete Wilson aspired to run for the Presidency on a tough on crime campaign, California was the envy of the world for its education. Twenty years ago we had 12 prisons with 22,500 inmates and a 400 million dollars budget.
Over the last 20 years we have built 21 new prisons and ONE new college. If you're not disturbed by this, you should be! The prison budget is now 5.24 billion dollars! There are many other corrections costs spread across several budgets which are hidden from public view. We now have 33 prisons with 157,000 inmates. Did we have a crime wave I missed! NO!
This came about due to tough on crime legislation popular with many politicians and financed by the California correctional peace officers assoc. This little known union built itself on campaign contributions to almost every lawmaker in the state, and for those who did not agree with their agenda, it is political suicide. You either agree with them, or your opponent would receive large sums of cash to defeat you. Political extortion! This is why so many lawmakers today are deathly afraid to cut the budget of the most wasteful and mismanaged state agency, according to state auditors, the Department of Corrections. In fact they try and defend this waste.
UNION members and others have pointed out billions in savings that could be achieved in budget cuts to this state agency. They have been ignored out of fear of the CCPOA and the greed of those we trust to spend our money wisely The voters do know better! And a fine example of this is prop 36.A drug diversion program approved by 61% of the voters. This highly successful program has by their own admission caused a significant drop in prison population. Almost all of our lawmakers including Gray Davis and the CCPOA opposed this. But the voters knew better and it has saved us millions. Gray Davis is now attempting to cut funds for this program. Once again today the voters know better!
Our Governor has claimed that education was his first second and third priority. He has proved that prisons were his first second and third priority. And guess what! Our lawmakers sat on their hands and let him get away with it. They signed a generous raise for the prison guards without ever reading a contract. Everyone believes in fair wages but 33% is obscene The Governor has proposed 5 billion dollars in funding cuts to our schools, 2500 schoolteachers will be laid off in San Diego alone! Yet the prison budget will increase 50 million-dollars.
This backward thinking has lead us into fiscal abyss. For those children on the edge of failing in school and the children of those sentenced under the three strike law? They do have a future! In a state prison! And guess who pays the welfare for those wives's and children that are left behind. Nobody is a disaster like California. We demand this change now! We must not waste time money or lives any longer. Our recommendations are.
---- Amend the three strikes law, non-violent offenders should be re-sentenced and released. It now cost 28,500 plus dollars each year to incarcerate an inmate. A lot of families exist on this much each year! It is fiscally irresponsible to give a life sentence for a petty crime. This waste does not make any of us feel any safer.
---- Release the elderly and dying. They pose no threat to society and it is wrong to let them die in these cement tombs
---- Treat the mentally ill. Ronald Reagan closed the state homes for the mentally ill. Today the Department of corrections is the largest mental health provider in the state! They provide no care! In fact, after years of physical and emotional abuse they are returning to their communities much sicker than before they were incarcerated. Prisons do not heal. -
--- Offer quality health care for those we do incarcerate. It will save us millions in lawsuit pay outs. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. At the UNION website, we have found $356 million in lawsuit pay outs for prison and jail mismanagement. That does not include millions pending, and these are just the ones we know about. Why does our Attorney General need nearly 100 lawyers on staff in his office?
---- Release drug offenders that should have been treated under prop 36 but did not meet the deadline because it was not made retroactive. Lawmakers have many cuts slated to these programs which are working! This is an outrage
---- Change the parole system to allow inmates to go to the area in the state that will best increase their chance of success. Not just meet them under a highway bridge with the rest of the parolees. California recidivism rate is nearly 60%.
The highest in the nation. If this does not indicate failure what does? We must end this revolving door. Repeat offenders are costing billions. There are at least 600 people who should be paroled to save millions of dollars.
---- Stop the building of new prisons. If these recommendations are followed and people are released, we don't need them and could operate our prison system for years to come with our present facilities without the over crowding we have today. We can close San Quentin and sell the land, which is worth millions.
We must educate and treat our criminals if we wish ourselves to feel safe. Where is the Corrections part of the Department of Corrections? Punishment doesn't heal! Corrections should be solving the problems our lawmakers have created. Join the UNION get involved. Fight back! Write, call, fax your lawmakers. Tell them we want schools not prisons. Make your voice loud so they understand this is what the voters want. Let us change this disaster now!
For the sake of our public safety, our budget, and our children's future.
Let them all know they will be out of a job if they don't take US the voters
seriously. Thank you for your time and don't give up EVER! Save our children
save our schools. I would like you all to take a moment to pray for Beverly
Diaz. She is serving a six-year sentence for a drug conviction and desperately
needs a transplant, which she is being denied. She is dying and wishes
only to spend her last days with her 12-year-old daughter. The department
of corrections will not give her a compassionate release, which would give
her a chance for a transplant or at least to die at home with dignity instead
of on a cold, cell floor. Thank you all for a prayer for Beverly and for
fighting for yourselves and others.
UNION Protest 3/13 Sacramento Capitol
Injustice breaking hearts and backs of Elderly
Don Ward, engineering consultant, senior, grandfather of a three striker
at Tehachapi travels 300 miles to expose devastating effects on the elderly
of the criminal and prison system. Billions in both human and fiscal
costs as children and legal battles fall to the elderly who are left devastated.
Describes his own nightmare. Son incarcerated in Ca State Prison Tehachapi
My wife and I are grandparents of a grandson in prison, caught up in the three strikes law by a traffic violation. Like thousands of others in prison for minor offenses under the three strikes law, he accumulated his errors at an early age between 18 and 20 years old. He has served almost 5 years of a 25 years to life sentence.
Grandparent's homes are being mortgaged and life's savings that should be used for retirement in their old age, are being siphoned off for a better equipped defense or appeals after a public defender has botched the job. We spent $10,000 of our own retirement funds on an appeal before the Fifth District Court of Appeals which failed. This case would have been won by a competent attorney.
Thousands of other grandparents must assume the responsibility for children of incarcerated young people at a time when they should be able to relax. Often these grandparents have spent all of their financial resources and lost their homes. Now they must seek assistance to support their grandchildren on limited incomes driving up the welfare rolls.
The support does not stop once the granddaughter or grandson goes to prison. Their loving support still is required to bring some sense of sanity and order to a hostile prison environment of gangs and sadistic prison personnel who seize this opportunity to kick butt for personal gratification.
We travel 90 miles from our home to the prison once a month to visit our grandson when the prison is not on lock down, which we find out only after we have arrived at the prison. This takes time away from my business and because of my limited staff, I am the only one able to work on weekends to catch up on bookkeeping and secretarial chores. I do not have the luxury of a secretary. Consequently my billing time and income as a consultant suffers.
The Criminal Justice System is an insane system promoting human degradation beyond belief. Born out of the laws of slavery, it continues to breed human suffering for prisoners and families on an ever increasing scale.
For every prisoner you hold in captivity you have affected the lives of at least 30 other members of his family who are trying to work within the system to support their loved one, encouraging him by visits and letters to endure. Without our support and expressions of love he would sink to levels of despair which infect the hopeless like a disease.
Punishment is never discrete. It effects the whole community and nation and why it must be relinquished entirely. Punishment is an idea that arose from slavery in antiquity. As long as you believe in punishment, either for yourself or others, the correction of the error, in your mind and in the nation, will be delayed.
The best prison community is no more than an extreme totalitarian society, and the most it can produce is a good convict who is quite different from a good citizen. He learns to survive in prison by the gang system of survival. There is little or no chance to reform the individual in the present prison system.
My wife and I, as grandparents, have traveled 300 miles to give this talk in support of our grandson and other citizens destined to be trapped in the criminal justice system. We represent thousands of grandparents who do not have the time, energy or resources to carry the battle as it must be done to change this outrageous system. But change it must, or you will have bred a gang system in prison the likes of which will be beyond your imagination or control and one you will come to regret. Nor will you be able to build prisons fast enough, strong enough or hire enough guards and court personnel to stem the growing cancer you continue to support by your lack of common sense to correct the system. As you deprive the prisoner of more and more human needs and privileges, you bring the disaster closer and closer to explosion.
The criminal justice system must change. This system of so called justice began in England as a way to deal with lower class people and slaves by killing them at the gallows where the only chance to escape death was bribery or transport to a penal colony. The same forum persists today. Except we no longer send them to the gallows, although the killing of some still persist like an old habit, The penal colony has been replaced by the prison.
The adversarial court is the same and the defense system is laughable if you can not afford attorneys.
We spend billions of taxpayers money to build more prisons, hire more prison and court personnel to shore up a failing system of mediaeval criminal justice system when we should be spending it to correct the system.
No one should ever be treated as a criminal. The word crime, born in antiquity for barbaric treatment of slaves, should be expunged from our language. The adversarial court must change from a contest of wills between one side using enormous resources to destroy the accused while the puny defense on the other side tries to minimize the damage. Instead, it should be one single entity seeking solutions and medical treatment for an obvious social disease. We are dealing with crippled human beings and should be treated with the respect the same as a person with an illness. A crippled citizen should have treatment to find the hero he truly is for surviving in a society that is bent on destroying him. The challenge to our justice system should be "Never Give Up On Anyone" and change its name and image to "Justice of Equality for All" including grandparents.
My wife and I are the grandparents of one of those unfortunate people
the system has chosen to destroy. We have done what we can to prevent such
fate, but our effort was lost in the slime of bureaucratic glue.
Jo Ann Fawcett Richards -- Independent publisher of Ecobyte newspaper
and Nova Albion magazine. Wife of an inmate with a life sentence.
Has conducted media interviews at 3 prisons, much to the chagrin of the
prison staff. Has contact with several inmates at 8-9 prisons, so
she keep informed of conditions at many facilities. Previously was
a monthly guest on "Let's Talk
PRISON BAN ON MEDIA
Hello. My name is Jo Ann Fawcett Richards. I am an independent publisher and journalist. My husband is an inmate at Salinas Valley State Prison. I have interviewed him at Mule Creek, Lancaster, and Salinas Valley. I have also interviewed Bill Gray at Mule Creek. I correspond with several inmates at 8 or 9 prisons. So, I have a wide range of people who keep me informed of the issues and conditions throughout the California prison system. What I have seen and know is that conditions were better 10 years ago. They have disintegrated over the last several years, so much so that the facilities seem like a warehouse system offering little hope for the inmates. The problem is…who knows this? What is the media doing to tell it like it really is?
The First Amendment says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or the prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." This amendment gives us the right to assemble here today, gives me the right to speak to you, and gives me the right to write and publish what I choose in my publications. I, for one, do not plan on giving up those rights.
Journalists are allowed to write inmates but the letters can't go through "confidential mail." Such correspondence is treated like regular mail to the inmate. Journalists can interview specific inmates if they are approved visitors. They need to have the inmate send them the visiting questionnaire. When conducting an interview, the visiting staff will provide paper and pencil, although they're not enthusiastic about it. At the CDC web site, in the 'press releases' section, you will find the media policies. General access to facilities is allowed with prior approval. I have heard that some journalists couldn't get visiting approval. I was an approved visitor for the two inmates before I interviewed them. Maybe that helped.
My practice has been to interview people I know, and only about prison conditions, issues, and information about topics I might be writing an article about. I haven't tried to visit high-profile inmates.
I have always advised the Public Information Officer of my upcoming visit. He is supposed to tell the visiting staff, but that has not been the case. My processing in those instances has been delayed because the visiting staff has had to confirm my approval with the Public Information Officer.
Another problem has been with the notes that I take during the interviews. With the Bill Gray interview, the acting visiting sergeant was confused with procedure. He didn't want me to take my notes with me; he wanted to be able to review them and mail them to me. He wasn't there when I left, so I had no problem leaving with my notes.
When I interviewed my husband at Lancaster, he was in Ad Seg due to his participation in a sit-down strike in Sept. 2000 about prison conditions at that facility. At the inmates' request he helped draft a list of issues that the inmates wanted to resolve with the staff. My interview included quotes that were negative and derogatory comments made by CO's. As I left, the visiting processing staff read my notes and were not happy with what they read. They didn't want to let me have my notes. I told them that they had to give me my notes. Afterward, I wrote an article about the situation there.
My interview at Salinas Valley went fine. The CO's in the visiting room questioned me about the use of a regular-size pencil, but that was all.
I have found that most prisons aren't used to the presence of the media, and they really aren't prepared for it. I think that the restrictions on the media are designed to make it difficult for information to get to the public. When you talk to the Public Information Officer or warden's administrative assistant, they have canned answers. When I write letters to complain about different issues, I usually remind them that I'm a journalist and I share my knowledge with the public. I have told them that I would be happy to write about positive changes at the prisons, but I haven't seen any to write about.
Another problem that I've encountered is the media representatives themselves. I've called different newspapers with information and know that they basically ignored it. I've also had a newspaper editor tell me that I couldn't rely on what inmates would tell me. I agree that we need to be careful. I was glad to see that the media didn't ignore the fact that the prison system is getting a budget increase and no one else is.
Alexander Hamilton said: "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature by the hand of divinity itself; and can never by erased or obscured by mortal power." The USA Patriot Act is already trying to take away our civil liberties and undermine the Bill of Rights. We MUST NOT give up our rights!
I encourage the media to be more courageous and look more carefully into what's happening at the prisons. We need to be watchdogs, not lapdogs. I'm a small fish in the media pond, but I have access to reliable information. I would be happy to share it with other journalists. The public has a right to know about the goings-on of the CDC. Many of the inmates feel as if they're slowly being cut off from the outside world. There are many angry inmates who may very well take their anger out on the public when they're released if we do not do our jobs to help make things right.
Madelene Hunter, long time foster care advocate traveling from Palm Springs to describe the total meltdown in the foster care system that is destroying children. There is no place to go for help she says, and tells a shocking story of young teens in foster care being diverted into mental hospitals or lost entirely from records in her one on one interviews
FORMER CALIFORNIA STATE FOSTER CHILD CALIFORNIA YOUTH ADVOCATE (MENTOR
OF 3 YOUTH WHO ARE PRESENTLY INCARCERATED IN MEN'S PRISONS
RECIPIENT -(2000) HUMANITARIAN AWARD/WOMEN OF DISTINCTION - RIVERSIDE BUSINESS PRESS MAGAZINE, UNITED STATES CONGRESSIONAL RECOGNITION FOR EFFORTS AS A FOSTER CHILD ADVOCATE KEN CALVERT - MEMBER OF CONGRESS
CALIFORNIA STATE LEGISLATURE - RECOGNITION FOR STATE FOSTER CARE - ADVOCACY
EFFORTS ASSEMBLYMEMBER - ROD PACHECO, PRESIDENT'S AWARD - AWARDED BY PRESIDENT
OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE FOSTER PARENT ASSOCIATION
Speech for 3/13 Protest Sacramento Capitol
Thank you Cayenne for your invitation to join in with today's efforts to gain legislative attention. My name is Madelene Hunter and I am a survivor of the California State Foster Care System...I use the word survivor because due to mis-handling and abuse from a foster father - my life was mangled and crushed as I grappled with the hurt and sorrow of the foster care experience.
In 1988 I was asked to share my foster care experiences with Riverside County's Self Esteem Task Force. This task force came together as a result of Senator John Vascocellos State Self Esteem Task Force legislation.
That day, as I shared with the audience my - struggles and all that ensued from mis-handling of the foster care system...I was met with applause at the end of the presentation. Then something remarkable happened. A woman approached me from the audience. She greeted me warmly and she shook my hand.
"You shouldn't be here you know" she stated. I was momentarily confused and grappled with her words...Then in a soft voice - almost a whisper she said "Madelene, women like you who experience the kinds of trauma and abuse that you have - don't as a rule...survive. I felt my eyes fill with tears and I shook my head in agreement...I knew - oh how I knew how true her words were...because there was more than one time - in my life's experiences...I wanted to give up.
As I turned to leave, I asked her who she was...'Dr. Anna Bovell' Professor from the University of California - Riverside...I was truly touched...by her words.
But the reality is for every one of me - there are quite literally thousands of thousands of children who didn't make it. These are the children that for the most part - make UP inmate population within California's prison system.
These are the children which foster parents have told me about that are spiraling out of control with their lives - as early as 18 months as signs of 'at-risk' behaviors exhibit themselves. Without the proper - intervention these children's lives become boggled and laden with baggage that - takes your breath away when you consider that for the most part - there is no intervention for them.
This is no proper handling for them - their lives become in meltdown status in early child-hood ages and melt right into the criminal justice system. Sometime ago, I was sharing my story with a group of foster parents.
As I spoke, one woman in particular seemed to 'agree' with everything I said. I spoke of my own 'at-risk' behaviors in childhood and teen age years. I told of the anguish of my life and diminishing of my personal beliefs of worth and value as a human being - as I seemed to make all the wrong choices for my life...adding burden and heartache to myself and those around me...
When I finished speaking...this woman approached me. She shared with me that her SON was a correctional officer in a state men's prison..."Madelene...my son has told me that for a fact - many of the inmates that he is assigned to - are former foster children"
I knew that she spoke the truth...and I know that these lives of foster children - who are filled with misery - only move on to more misery as they become sucked into the criminal justice system.
Please sign on with Cayenne Bird and the UNION's efforts - and do all that she is telling US to do...so that inmates can have the dignity and justice they deserve to become a reality...and never forget California's foster children...as being deserving of LIFE - LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Robert Driscoll, father of 7, member of the LA Archdiocese Catholic Detention Ministry, speaks boldly against current parole policies and recommends a different approach to save billions.
Married Father of 7, 2 Grandchildren. Lives in Woodland Hills, CA Member of St. Mel Parish Justice and Peace Ministry, son incarcerated in Ca. State Prison Lancaster.
There are five ways to be released from a California State Prison:
1. Complete a determinate sentence
2. Compassionate release
5. Feet first
Only 1 and 5 occur in this state. Finish your sentence if you can or die.
I'd like to talk about paroles as they apply to lifers.
On a recent visit to San Quentin prison one of our elected officials said he plans to announce a series of initiatives in the coming weeks to "redress the persistent failures of the state's criminal justice system." He promised to begin work on a program to better prepare convicts for release. He also said, "The prison system in California temporarily incapacitates but it fails to prepare the 70,000 inmates it releases every year to do anything but return to desperate lives of crime," he said. "That must change and I intend to lead efforts at the state Capitol to make sure that happens." I hope he considers the more than 5,000 that are lifers with who were not released.
I am addressing those who have politicized of paroles system in California. I am the father of an inmate serving an indeterminate sentence in a California State Prison. His sentence is indeterminate because we do not know when he is going to die.
I am addressing legislators who have passed draconian laws in order to win election and re-election and have twisted the system to one or retributive rather than restorative justice..
I am addressing the District Attorneys and Attorney Generals who have lost sight of the goal. The goal was to find the truth and get a judgment reflecting that truth. It has become win the severest penalty possible to further one's career.
I am addressing the Courts that have kept mum while the legislature usurped their power at the lower levels with mandatory sentencing and become a rubber stamp at the higher appeal levels. That rubber stamp says guilty.
I am addressing the parole boards that can only recommend for release 1% of the thousands worthy of parole. Professor Franklin Zimring of the University of California Berkeley says, "That may be the politically safest way to run a parole board, but the problem with that is that it is a manifest perversion of what the legal structure is set up to do." Further, a board that is asking to make eligible inmates who are denied to wait 5 years instead of 1 year for the next review.
I'm addressing the governor who can only be forced by the courts to let a paltry few of the miniscule amount of the parole board actions to be implemented. This is his infamous and very revealing tough on crime "not on my watch" quote.
I'm addressing the press and media who are strangely quiet and have allowed themselves to be locked out of the prisons and haven't a clue to what is going on inside our prison walls.
I am addressing the CDC who have failed to prepare 99 % of the inmates be eligible for parole.
Lastly, I am addressing you the relatives and friends of inmates who must come together and fight for humane justice.
The system must change from retributive or revenge to restorative justice. I'd like us to hear some new words in the justice system. Words like restoration, rehabilitation, redemption, correction, and even parole.
Inmates are sentenced TO prison AS their punishment. They are not sent to prison to BE punished. Without rehabilitation the criminal justice system is a failure. It fails what most Americans believe in people can grow and change if/when given a chance.
The America I grew up in defeated Totalitarianism, Nazism, and Fascism. The America I knew then rebuilt Japan and Germany into powerful democracies and strong allies.
Can we not do the same for our own? Can we not have a Marshall plan for Americans? Are the inmates not Americans? Are they not human?
Can they never be forgiven? Do they have no remorse? Do they not mature and grow and regret their mistake. Doesn't he change? Cannot the prison try to improve him? Any of them?
Where is the compassion for the more than 600 inmates over 70 years old. Now if Jack LaLane was an inmate I'd think he could be a threat to society if released but what kind of a state holds septuagenarians in prison?
Lets talk about pardons. There are no pardons. They all were guilty, there were perfect trials, they haven't served enough time. End of discussion.
It is the job of the CDC who have named their prisons Correctional Facilities to get these inmates ready to transition back into society. Apparently they have done a poor job because less that 1% get even a nod of approval from the board.
The Board of Prison Terms must be a tough job too because if an inmate is turned down, they don't even want to speak to him for 5 more years instead of every year after he is eligible. California state prison is the human equivalent of the "roach coach". You check in but you never check out.
And who makes up the parole board? Is it full of wild eyed anarchists letting any and all go? No it approves less than 1 % and is made up of mostly former police, corrections personnel, and of course victims advocates. Great pay, good benefits producing little or nothing. Where are the professional criminalists, psychologists and psychiatrists trained in evaluating the inmates
If you won the lottery and gotten board approval, guess what? The Dr. Kavorkian of governors then kills the slim chance you had. Yep, he will deny every petition and if you are fantastically lucky the court will ORDER your release. So we've had 3 in the last few years and two were women who killed their abusive mate and wouldn't even be tried today.
Politicians should not decide the fate of inmates because they do not have the courage to make a decision and they know there is no price they must pay if they keep them in prison. That is up until now!! Now we must unite and save our loved ones. Either get rid of the indeterminate sentences or those who promote them. Or we can set objective standards to obtain release without political intervention. Otherwise the effect is that prisoners once promised parole are, in fact, today sentenced to life WITHOUT parole. What is the human cost of this process?
A quote from Dostoevsky in The House of the Dead. "The degree to which a society is civilized can be judged by entering its prisons."
A similar sentiment was uttered by Winston Churchill.
I've been asked to comment on the bills that affect the criminal justice system. There are 60=odd bills affecting many areas. I was struck with the number. Why are there so many and what do they do? The answer is that for 30 years our elected officials have found votes in being able to brag about their tough on crime posture. Longer sentences, new criminal offenses, new enhancements, more difficult procedures flood the system. It now takes a computer to calculate sentences.
Most are just bad laws. Paroles are revoked each year at the rate paroles are given. If denied parole the board wants to go 5 years without another review Everything is hedged with "if good reason exists" or "unless the Board says no" so we can pretend to give a benefit but really don't. Inmate privileges are removed, quarterly packages are removed, no organ transplants are allowed, but geriatric prisons are proposed!
Several of these bills continue the punish, punish, punish system. It always amazes me that the penalty for a crime is dependent not on what was done but who did it, to whom, with what, and what might have been said. I have not met with anyone that feels the system works any longer. Nor have I found anyone with the courage to begin the massive job of doing anything about it. Tinkering yes, overhaul no.
I am encouraged that a 3 strikes correction is in work I hope every case is published but it is a step to use the unpublished ones. I hope we can stop trying to kill the mentally disabled and retarded. If we can finally begin to rehabilitate and provide drug treatment we will not only save money but lives. A parole hearing once every five years is wrong. Vote NO on AB280.
Medical Neglect Speech
John Videen, M.D. Internist, nephrologist, educator addresses
how co-pay policy discourages inmate medical care, medical neglect, opposes
the proposed transplant bill, MTA's are a violation of the Hippocratic
oath, unsanitary conditions in prison are causing disease and more. A compelling
statement of how a lack of prevention is causing untold damage to inmates
and endangering the public safety.
I used to be proud of living in California, now I'm ashamed. California used to set trends, now it is backwards. Here we live in the 21st century, in glorious California, with Silicon valley just to the West, premiere Universities all around, and the best health care in the world at every community Hospital, yet amongst us live more hungry children, more uneducated, more uninsured and more incarcerated than ever before. I heard Finland emptied its prisons this past year, they didn't need them any longer. Did you ever think that we Californians would look toward Finland as a trendsetter?
We are here to rally against injustice in our prison and prosecutorial system. There are two concepts I would like to talk about, that are destructive to our cause by their very nature. These are: an inflated ego and unnecessary fear.
Let's talk about our egos for a moment. Americans believe we are the best, strongest and most righteous community in the world. I happen to agree. But be careful, with that belief, right or wrong, comes defensiveness. For example, if you strike up a conversation with your neighbor say about medical negligence in prison, they will simply not believe that prisoners are mistreated.
This is America, for God's sake. It is only those who are in the know, who communicate with those on the inside, who know the truth. Yes, prisoners in this country, in this state, are denied access to proper medical care. The system is broken and cannot be fixed. Health care costs too much to provide and we have too many inmates in prison. This is a fundamental problem. Oh yes, the CDC will pull some numbers out of a file and compare their numbers of visits to numbers of visits that a typical HMO might provide, but let me tell you if you don't already know, the HMO system is broken and cannot be fixed also.
On the outside you have freedom to chose your doctor and access to care. There are bad doctors everywhere. But if you or I do not feel like our doctor did not do the right thing or if treatment didn't work, we are free to go right back, to chose another doctor, to go to a chiropractor, naturalist, acupuncturist or simply to the emergency room. An inmate cannot. An inmate has no choice. An inmate is at the mercy of a guard who might be having a bad day. A guard who might want to deny someone access to healthier as a form of punishment or retribution. An inmate cannot just go get a second opinion.
In California, nurses can also be guards, these are the so-called Medical Technical Assistants or MTAs. Now, a nurse is supposed to be a patient advocate, someone whom the patient can trust, someone who takes a solemn oath to not inflict any sort of punishment on a patient. Can the inmate trust an MTA? I think not. So when you strike up that conversation with your neighbor about prison conditions, be ready for his ego and his defensiveness. Encourage him to have an open mind and listen. Change will come when more and more Californians know what is going on in their backyard and get together to do something.
Now let's talk about unnecessary fear. Have you all gone out and purchased your terrorist survival kits? I think you should, but let's not call them terrorist survival kits… How about earthquake survival kits, or perhaps wildfire survival kits. They serve the same purpose. Please do not respond to fear tactics that the Government spews through the media. Fear is a powerful tool that controls your thoughts, actions and votes. Ten years ago our politicians whipped our community into a state of unnecessary fear and passed the three strikes law. You should fear your government's shortsightedness and incompetence. You will hear fear tactics used to make you think that inmates are wasting our tax dollars.
It was fear that inmates were wasting healthier dollars that lead to the $5 inmate co-pay bill. This system loses money. It costs more to administrate than it receives. The CDC's own administration doesn't want it. Why does it exist? Because a politician used fear as a ploy to make political hay.
Remember, inmates are humans, they are our brothers and sisters, parents and children. They deserve basic human rights they deserve wholesome food, clean water, decent living conditions, education and rehabilitation. Recognize language that singles them out as the cause of all of our problems. There is a bill out there that would deny organ transplants to prisoners SB 38. This is a fear tactic, pure and simple. Our prisoners are not to blame for the organ shortage, don't blame them, don't single them out. It is hate speech. It hurts them and won't solve the problem. Fill out that organ donation card, that's the solution. Why aren't our terminally ill inmates released under compassionate care? Fear of course. Use your own judgment don't be fooled by fear.
Inflated ego and unnecessary fear. Recognize these problems and do not underestimate their power. Keep an open mind, question authority and please do not vote out of fear.
I will leave you with a short message that I want you to focus on, a real fear of mine that we as a group can do something about today. Prisons are unsanitary places. Prisons are dangerous places. There are estimates that over 40% of prisoners carry hepatitis B or C. When you are sent to prison, you are deprived of your freedom, not your health. But many contract their disease in the prison.
Not only is hepatitis a risk but so is tuberculosis: California prisons have 10 times the rate of tuberculosis conversion compared to other states. You may hear of outbreaks of resistant staphylococcus infection in our prisons also. Why? One obvious reason: California prisons are too cheap. A Warden of a women's prison here in California simply stated to me that it cost too much to issue soap and paper towels to inmates, let alone disinfectant.
The Department of Health inspects every commercial kitchen in the State, who inspects the prison kitchen? No one! California's prisons are unsupervised and unregulated, but worst of all the Warden's don't seem to think there is a problem. Any inmate who contracts hepatitis or tuberculosis in prison deserves compensation, because the Department of Corrections is negligent in providing clean living conditions and wholesome food. Tell the Wardens to comply with National standards, Tell the Department of Health we want prison kitchen inspections. Tell your neighbor and tell your congressman.
We urge a No vote on SB38 by Sen. Jeff Denham.
R. Chappell, Gives us an overview of Prop 36, it's tremendous success and now cutbacks. She recommends votes on a number of related bills. Her background is where the rubber meets the road on the front lines. 34 years old, married to an inmate in Corcoran (CSP) Mother of 2 boys (present at protest) Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology, minor in Addictive Disorders Lives in Fresno, CA Program Coordinator for WestCare - Women & Children's Residential Program (substance abuse treatment) Former substance abuse counselor at Valley State Prison for Women
My name is Sarah Chappell. I am here today to demand a better solution.
A better solution to locking up drug addicts. A better solution to cutting the budgets of education and human services to give prison guards a raise. A better solution to placing heavier and heavier burdens on the families of California's huge prison population. I am here to demand a better solution to sending person after person to prison without rehabilitation as the goal.
Today there are over 160,000 inmates housed in the State of California's Department of Correction's 33 facilities and over 300,000 people under its supervision. Of these many, many thousands of people, one-quarter are imprisoned specifically for drug offenses, another 21% for property offenses. Now, most of us know property offenses are also drug offenses. People steal to support their drug habits. So if you add the statistics together, you get 48%. This 48% does not include those people whose offenses were against people-a good majority of whom were probably under the influence when committing these offenses. Ladies and gentlemen, that accounts for over 75 percent of the entire prison population! Over 75% of prisoners went to prison because they have a drug problem and they will continue to get out and go back and get out and go back until California makes rehabilitation a priority!
Our prison system amounts to nothing more than a vast warehouse of people. Please, let's not forget that prisoners are people. They are our sons, brothers, daughters, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers. These people are warehoused year after year. Maybe someday they will be released-then what? Their drug addiction has gone untreated; in fact, probably worsened since they were in prison. They are given $200 and sent out into our communities. They are angry, anxious, and frustrated, and turn again to drugs for relief. In fact, almost 50 percent of all parole violations are for non-violent drug offenses.
It's popular these days to be tough on crime. None of us want "criminals" in our neighborhoods. So we lock them up in prison. Lock them up and throw away the key. Lock them up and set them up-for failure. Yet rehabilitation is not California's goal.
California voters came up with a partial solution a few years back called Prop 36. The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act was enacted in 2001 to divert parolees and drug offenders into supervised treatment programs instead of to prison where pre-release and post-release treatment programs and help don't exist. The California Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that this program could potentially save about $20 million dollars in parole operations alone.
It costs about $27,000 per year to house someone in a California prison. It costs about $5,000 to put them through treatment.
Instead our state politicians and our governor want to "realign" our State budget. They want to cut spending on education and human services. They want individual counties to consolidate, cut back, and cut out. The counties will be forced to "get creative" with their funding. Under the current budget proposal, state funding for Prop 36 would dry up and the counties would be forced to absorb the cost of the program. The State Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs would no longer over-see and audit individual programs and long-term studies of effectiveness will cease. The director of Prop 36 has said, "Without state oversight, we will son see Prop 36 become a third-tier, under-funded and local program. A drop off in treatment quality and diversity is guaranteed."
I am the program coordinator for a substance abuse treatment facility. I work with female parolees, most of whom are mothers and grandmothers, every day who have benefited tremendously from programs like Prop 36. One client told me her story:
"My name is Lisa and I am a Prop 36 client. I am a mother of two boys. My disease started after I separated from the father of my children. I was in a depression and someone offered crank to me. That was it. I was hooked. I was a 25 year old medical assistant and the mother of a three year old and a three month old. A self-supporting single mom. I had a car and my own apartment and a full-time job and a bank account. In three years time, I had pawned my boys off to my mother, lost my apartment, lost my job. My car was taken because I couldn't seem to pay the registration. I got pulled over-the car was impounded and I went to jail. I thank my Higher Power (that being my Father in Heaven) for prop 36 program. If not for this program, I would be in prison for two years. I don't belong I prison. I'm ready to turn my life over to God. I was for years a productive person and I will be again. I don't feel prison would have helped me become a better person nor would it have prepared me to be a productive member of society again."
April, another client of mine, told me, "My opinion of Prop 36 is that is saved my life. Because I honestly believe that I would be in prison if it was not for Prop 36. I feel it has given me this chance to start over. I really feel that this time I'm gonna get it. I want it."
Under Governor Davis' budget proposal, the funding for programs like Prop 36 will be cut severely. The clients who make it into the Prop 36 program will be diverted in shorter, lower cost, outpatient programs and not inpatient, intensive programs that not only provide drug treatment but job readiness skills, child reunification services, and housing referrals.
The success of Prop 36 halted the building of a prison in Delano that would have cost $1 billion dollars and has already closed one women's prison. For every dollar spent on drug treatment, seven dollars are saved due to crime reduction and decreased health care costs. Treatment has been rated at 14 times more effective than incarceration. Criminal activity usually declines by two-thirds after treatment-that is, people are 64% less likely to be arrested after they complete treatment. 64%! Why would we even consider cutting funding to treatment programs? If we want to get tough on crime, then we need to get serious about preventing it. Punishment does not work. Rehabilitation and prevention do.
We as Californians need to demand a better solution. Alternative sentencing and treatment programs are great solutions that would be cut by the Governor's new budget. If we want to save money and reduce the budget deficit, we need to cut back the ever-increasing cost of our prison system. The California Department of Corrections employs more state employees than any other state department. Correctional employees also have the largest union in California. They have the Governor's ear because they give lots of money to listen.
But we are the citizens of this State and we must tell the governor what WE want. . Please speak up. Please write. Please call. Please let your legislators know you want a better solution to our prison system. We must demand a better solution.
AB 112 - NO (because determinate sentences don't work as a deterrent)