I have been a member of the U.N.I.O.N. for about a year and a half now. I joined because I needed and wanted news regarding California prisons. Before joining the U.N.I.O.N. I spent hours and hours online researching newspapers and online websites just to keep up. I spent $30 to help with costs so that I wouldn't have to continue wasting valuable time to continue searching for information. Now Cayenne faithfully has the newsletter in my mailbox everyday saving me all that time and keeping me more informed than I ever was able to do on my own. I now use my free time to write letters to the editor and to legislators and others. Because of Cayenne's encouragement I have learned to fight for myself. I live in Virginia yet I have had many letters published in California.
I flew from Virginia to California last October for the SHU debriefing hearings. Cayenne and other U.N.I.O.N. members were there and I was able to meet these wonderful people face to face. They along with California Prison Focus and the Friends group were the only ones present outside of a few family members. Is it any wonder CDC laughs at us when they see so little participation. And make no mistake they do laugh. I was sitting behind some CDC staff people and they made mention of California Prison Focus being outside and they were laughing and poking fun at this group.
The U.N.I.O.N. along with the Patrick Crusade helped me with a letter writing campaign to get my friend out of AdSeg at that hell hole of a prison High Desert. He had been there for over a year waiting for a transfer and his counselor told me that they didn't like getting all the letters about him. I know his transfer was a direct result of this letter writing campaign.
I have adopted 30 inmates. I use the newsletter to keep them abreast of happenings and they in turn have begun to involve themselves in letter writing campaigns and involve their families also. They have told me over and over how important it is to know what is going on in the legislature which in the past they rarely knew until it was too late. That group of 30 has grown to over 60 now who I send info to on an almost monthly basis. I read their words of gratitude on a daily basis.
I am personally thankful that I found out about the U.N.I.O.N. and have been able to participate on a limited basis even though I am out of state. If I were in state believe me I would be doing a whole lot more. Cayenne has sacrificed a great deal for this fight we are in. I am thankful she continues despite all the obstacles that are placed in her path.
My son is in prison. I want him out. The only way this is ever going to happen is that a citizen's group organizes enough volunteers and funds to change the laws. The only way to change the laws is to form a massive voting lobby. That's how simple it is, but not if people refuse to organize.
I have watched famous people such as Jesse Jackson, legislators such as Vasconcellos and Hayden, now Rod Wright, call and call to prisoner families to form the necessary MAINSTREAM organization. Time after time they were ignored or their efforts beat to death by small third parties who run prison organizations for political reasons. Often those efforts were destroyed by the families most hurt by negativity, withholding support, not paying dues or showing up to important hearings in Sacramento.
The UNION hasn't been beaten yet. This is due to the extreme personal and financial sacrifice of public relations expert and journalist B. Cayenne Bird. The UNION is mainstream, that's what it will take, a mainstream approach since prisoners are political pawns. 97% of the voters are either Democrat or Republicans. We are oppressed by a voting lobby. The UNION requires action of writing letters and showing up to important hearings, recruiting others to build the voting lobby.
Groups who require no action are accomplishing nothing. If they are led by far left political leaders, they are considered an enemy by Davis and the legislators. The UNION is considered the group who identifies the problems and exposes them to the voters. This political action has cost the families who support it dearly in both time spent and money spent.
Our director cannot work for free forever, she must move on to making a living again. We came this far because of her flexibility and willingness to accept zero for highly specialized work that no one else can really do. We have the UNION system in place, we lack enough funds and volunteers, but have won many small battles.
What holds us back from forming the 6000 worker voting lobby (this will take 60,000 members because only 10% of people will actually work) is the families themselves. They want someone to rescue them, pay for their lobby work, write their letters to the editor, and it can't work that way. It takes 6000 committed people to raise $250,000 for printing and postage and willing to collect 100 signatures each.
It's ridiculous to try to do initiative campaigns like this before the volunteers are lined up ready to go and the money is raised. The UNION is business-like, has a structure unlike most loosely organized groups who never win anything.
The UNION can pull the largest crowds to important hearings in Sacramento, although these crowds are not yet nearly large enough.
I never saw another journalist/publisher/pr. professional who would ever give prisoners and their families five minutes of time, let alone handle their complaints, answer hundreds of phone calls and letters, teach them how to write the media, fight for their rights for NO SALARY. We must do our part or lose the UNION, just like we have lost everything else ever tried for us.
This is the fartherest anyone ever got toward organizing the necessary lobby and a lot of people invested blood, sweat and tears.
It will be our loss if we don't take it all the way by recruiting and generating the crowds necessary. On the UNION members' published articles pages anyone can see it is the UNION who has made the noise about medical neglect and abuse, about the Three Strikes law, about SHUS, the package ban, the rights of prisoners to file medical complaints against state doctors, on and on...
Who brought the crowd January 4 to stop AB369 and met with legislators, begging for bills to benefit prisoners? The UNION was there, but it can't be there without each member doing their share to build the voting lobby.
I am a professional person. There is no way I am going to have my name associated with any far left group. We have had the best advice, the best director, the best activist training FOR FREE for two years. The rest is up to us. God Bless the UNION and all the team leaders who work so hard.
As a journalist, I find that I do not hear the news of what really goes on inside the State Prison system. I joined the UNION so that I could get the daily newsletter which prints more REAL news than most publications in California.
I could never afford to donate all the time from making a living that UNION director B. Cayenne Bird has unselfishly given, but I do care about humanity.
Getting the newsletter saves me several hours of reading six newspapers everyday for less than 8 pennies, my time is worth more than this small amount.
When I first met publisher B. Cayenne Bird 15 years ago when she owned Bird Publications in Fullerton, I was impressed with her editorial ability and nose for news. Now I think she should be President.
I have interfaced with many of the prisoner families one on one and it is clear to me that their lack of education, negative approach to organizing, refusal to do lobby work, and inability to prioritize what is important in their daily lives is the primary reason everything on their behalf has failed. They sabbotage any rescue which comes about by sitting on the sidelines instead of writing and demonstrating, paying dues and raising necessary campaign money. Until this pattern ends, they will not have the funds or volunteers to be able to change the laws. It took courage for Cayenne to explain the strategic problem of why they are so victimized. She called it out accurately.
But the UNION families
are a cut above those who complain without fighting for their loved ones.
I have met educated, nice people with family in prison which disspells
the myth that only the poor and ignorant and impacted by our police state
and harsh laws. I am proud to be a member of the UNION and
agree with all its goals.
I hold B. Cayenne Bird, who has given everything to get this group off the ground, in highest regard. I personally could never live on nothing and work for so little reward the way that she does, but Cayenne is a person who believes in this cause. Her system is the solution and I don't see any other solutions out there. As a journalist I could not, would not, belong to the other leftists organizations. I wonder what Davis is going to have as an excuse when he sees how MAINSTREAM and intelligent the UNION members are and how hard they work for change. Go UNION!
Jerry Baker, Columnist
Letter of Testimony
I am a member of the UNION because I wanted to do something to fight back for my son who is prison. I didn't know know what to do, no one cared about us except director B. Cayenne Bird. There never was a more supportive person, even though she is three times as busy as most people, she actually answers her mail or makes sure that it gets answered.
I found out about the UNION from one of her college professors from 32 years ago when she was the editorial editor of her college newspaper, the Renegade Rip. He told me that of her teachers still living there are none who didn't predict Cayenne would make a great contribution to the world as a journalist. In spite of walls full of awards, Cayenne is very down to earth and always has a pot of something cooking to warm your insides.
She suffers the same as all of us with poverty due to the time she donates to the UNION, she has a loved one inside, and has all the same restrictions that the rest of us do, but fights back and WINS many battles. This was inspiring to me and turned my energy from grief to action. I found out that I could actually write well enough to get published, something I never knew about myself.
The daily newsletter is well worth the subscription price of $30. I can't imagine how ANYONE could justify not supporting the UNION, especially those who have a prisoner inside. What it does for the prisoners and their families is give them a way to exercise strength through a group effort. Everyone who knows Cayenne well loves her and responds to the Calls to Action. Then we win by making enough noise. It's like magic.
I didn't know that people weren't showing up to important hearings in Sacramento until I saw the UNION is the only group objecting or show support the majority of the time. The legislators and journalists treat us with respect because most of them have known Cayenne for years and she is logical.
Most of the members are middle-aged people who are in helping occupations such as nurses, teachers, pastors, social workers, etc. They all understand it takes 6000 people willing to collect 100 signatures to be able to get initiatives passed. The purpose is to build a voting lobby of workers, raise the money for real campaigns, and change the laws. The focus on prevention benefits all of society.
I am proud to be one of the writers and demonstrators of the UNION.
He was on the medical ward so to speak not that there are any REAL hospitals in prisons. "Prison's are not Hospitals"! I found the U.N.I.O.N. http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Parliament/2398/home.html somehow on the Internet one day. I found them to be my son's life line. The Union people are the ones that got my son out of not only five point restraints which happened to him frequently but Vacaville also illegally put my son in 11 point restraints for seven days.
The Union bombarded the prison with phone calls, mail and contacted the media . The cruel warden, Anna Ramirez Palmer had my son released from these restraints. The prison would not only put my son in restraints but put him in what we all call the cold room. This is a cell with nothing in it at all. He was thrown in this cell completely naked. He had no clothes, mattress, blanket nothing. One time a cell not far from him was having plumbing problems and human waste was flowing into the cold room cell James was in. James complained only to hear the Guard tell him. " Well that is the kind of things that happen to you when you end up here and did nothing about it for some time."
One time shortly after the murder of a inmate which my son is being accused of they also had him in a Cold Room and same conditions: No Clothes, mattress, etc. A brown spider bit him and no one would get him a doctor. Jimmy got so sick he lost all control of his bodily functions and came close to death.
He finally got a doctor then to help him and he had to have special shots for eight days. The torture and abuse my son has endured just goes on and on. I can write fo rever about these conditions.
I have lots of documentation concerning many of these issues. James was put into the system at the age of twelve. He was under doctors care until I lost health insurance after a doctor bill that came to the amount of $100,000. James would have black outs all the time and this brain disorder happened almost over night. I woke up one day to a sick little boy not know what to do or how this happened to him.
James would be truant from school and take my vehicle. He did not even know why, or where he was when he finally would come out of his black out and call me crying and scared.
What I want to tell you all is what my son and I have been through with the System no one helped us. Our lives are destroyed and we live in the pain of wanting only to be together again. A son wanting to be with his mom and free and a mom wanting her son home. I found the U.N.I.O.N. http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Parliament/2398/home.htm and these people along with Cayenne Bird has done more for my son in the short time I been with them than anyone through all these years.
My son and I have hope again for life. Cayenne has taught me along with all members how to organize, how to fight for Prisoner's Rights how to get action when needed.
I first want to thank Cayenne Bird for picking my son up as a Call To Action and exposing his abuse to the legislators and media. I then want to thank every member of the U.N.I.O.N. that has written letters and so much more in the behalf of my son. I am learning how to fight for my son and many other inmates that are treated unjust and believe me there are many. I know the answer to fixing our system is also the changing of laws and Cayenne once again is there to teach us. She is my mentor and my hope.
Thank You, Cayenne and all the other U.N.I.O.N. members. Cayenne, those of us who care about human rights are the U.N.I.O.N.
I have been a member of the UNION for one year now. I joined because every other organization in California whose purpose is to help prisoners is too unprofessional. I liked the commitment letter that UNION members are required to sign. Ten hours a month fighting for my husband is a drop in the bucket! It takes very little time to write a letter once a week, Cayenne never calls us to action unless it is very, very important. The $30 for the newsletter and right to file medical complaints is worth much, much more. Also, Three Strikes is not my problem and I'm tired of people focusing on that problem and ignoring all the other problems. The UNION covers a range of topics that affects more people. Since not enough people are hurt by Three Strikes to be able to form an effective voting lobby, it is necessary that many human rights people come together. I have met advocates for the Death Penalty, many members with Lifers, homeless advocates, members of the Veterans and NAACP, a large cross section of people in the UNION. I also like the way Cayenne keeps us very busy on ACTION while other groups sit around and fight with one another, instead of WORKING on what is important. We get attacked by outsiders, but we don't fight with one another. We don't have pea brains, that's why, but keep our minds on the big picture. I love being a writer and demonstrator for the UNION. And I love getting the daily newsletter and sending it to other people not online. The UNION gives me hope that we can form a voting lobby to change the laws. I work hard to get this done and resent those who don't even try to help their inmate by cooperating and participating in the UNION Calls to Action.
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UNION members paid a surprise tribute to celebrate our director's 50th birthday.