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Belly of the Beast Film Screening and Discussion about Forced Sterilizations in California’s Women’s Prisons

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 -
2:00pm to 3:30pm PDT
Zoom Meeting
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Between 2006-2010, 144 people were sterilized without consent in California’s women’s prisons. This atrocious human rights abuse was kept secret from the survivors and the public. Forced sterilizations are part of the long legacy of eugenics, reproductive and racialized violence, and social control of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and poor communities within and outside of US prisons and in ICE detention facilities. For years, current and formerly incarcerated survivors, advocates, and lawyers have fought to expose this pattern of abuse in California’s women’s prisons, demand accountability from the California Department of Corrections, and seek reparations. Advocates are currently pushing for proposed legislation, the Sterilization Compensation Bill (AB 1007), which would provide reparations for survivors of forced and involuntary sterilizations in California.

Join us for: 

A film screening and thought-provoking discussion on this subject. We will view Belly of the Beast, a documentary film that follows illegal sterilizations in California’s women’s prisons and the struggle of impacted women and advocates to see this illegal practice come to light and finally end, and to find some measure of justice for survivors.

We will host a community screening on May 4th from 12-1:30pm PST, followed by a discussion from 2-3:30pm PST, featuring key individuals in the film, the filmmaker, and representatives from the organizations (Back to the Basics, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and Latinas for Reproductive Justice) working on AB 1007.  Attendees will also have the option of viewing the film on their own in advance of May 4th.  We hope you will join us. 

About the Film

When an unlikely duo discovers a pattern of illegal sterilizations in women’s prisons, they wage a near impossible battle against the Department of Corrections. Filmed over seven years with extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated people, BELLY OF THE BEAST exposes modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons.

The pastoral farmlands surrounding the Central California Women’s Facility, the world’s largest women’s prison, conceals the reproductive and human rights violations transpiring inside its walls. A courageous young woman, who was involuntarily sterilized at the age of 24 while incarcerated, teams up with a radical lawyer to stop these violations. They spearhead investigations that uncover a series of statewide crimes, primarily targeting women of color, from inadequate access to healthcare to sexual assault to illegal sterilization. Together, with a team of tenacious heroines, both in and out of prison, they take to the courtroom to fight for reparations. But no one believes them. As additional damning evidence is uncovered by the Center for Investigative Reporting, a media frenzy and series of hearings provide hope for some semblance of justice. Yet, doctors and prison officials contend that the procedures were in each person’s best interest and of an overall social benefit. Invoking the weight of the historic legacy of eugenics, BELLY OF THE BEAST presents a decade long, infuriating contemporary legal drama.


Cynthia Chandler, Co-Founder, Critical Resistance and Justice Now
is the director of the Bay Area Legal Incubator, an Oakland, California-based, social-mission, legal incubator launched by the Alameda County Bar Association to accelerate the launch of affordable, community law practices. She has over 20 years’ experience as a social entrepreneur, activist, academic and attorney. She co-founded and built several innovative social justice organizations, including Critical Resistance, Justice Now and the Eviction Defense Center.
Erika Cohn, Director/Producer, Belly of the Beast
Erika Cohn is a Peabody, Emmy and DGA Award-winning filmmaker who was recognized by Variety as one of the 10 Documentary Filmmakers to Watch in 2017. Most recently, Erika directed/produced The Judge (TIFF 2017) and co-directed/produced In Football We Trust (Sundance 2015). Belly of the Beast, a NY Times Critic's Pick, is her third feature documentary.
Kelli Dillon, Executive Director, Back to the Basics Community Empowerment
Kelli Dillon is a City of Los Angeles Commissioner and Co-Chair of Empowerment Congress Southeast in addition to the Executive Director of the non-profit Back to the Basics Community Empowerment. She is a survivor of domestic and state violence.
Aminah Elster, Campaign and Policy Coordinator, California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Aminah Elster is a Campaign and Policy Coordinator with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners where she leads its work to combat the reproductive oppression of those confined within CA women’s prisons. Aminah’s  motivation to achieve racial and gender justice is rooted in her own lived experience as a Black formerly incarcerated woman and navigating the intersections of those identities. She is committed to fighting the impacts of decades of systemic oppression and liberating criminalized survivors.
Anuja Mendiratta, Manager, Race, Gender and Human Rights Fund (moderator)
Anuja Mendiratta (she/her) manages the Race, Gender and Human Rights Fund, which supports efforts that promote racial and gender justice by challenging the criminal legal system and mass incarceration in California. RGHR focuses on the system’s impact on women and girls (inclusive of cisgender, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals), prioritizes the leadership of formerly incarcerated women, and invests in efforts that build the justice movement and advance systemic change.  Anuja co-founded the California Criminal Justice Funders Group (CCJFG) and serves on its steering committee.  Anuja is also the Principal of Philanthropic + Nonprofit Consulting, and works on critical environmental, gender justice, human rights, racial and social justice, and cross-movement issues.
Carly A. Myers, Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
Carly A. Myers is a Staff Attorney with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), where she works on a variety of litigation, legislation, and policy initiatives aimed at increasing nondiscriminatory access to healthcare and reducing health disparities experienced by people with disabilities. She received her J.D., Order of the Coif, from Vanderbilt University Law School, and her B.A., cum laude, from the University of Florida. Over the past seven years, she has worked with numerous nonprofit organizations, including DREDF, the Tennessee Justice Center, the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Vanderbilt’s Medical-Legal Partnership with the VA Hospital, and Disability Rights Tennessee. Prior to law school, she worked for five years at a physical rehabilitation hospital, where she was exposed to systemic problems within the healthcare system and how it particularly disadvantages low-income people with disabilities. 
Ena Suseth Valladares, Director of Programs, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice
Ena Suseth Valladares is the Director of Programs at California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. She has worked on reproductive justice issues for nearly 15 years, primarily working on reducing health inequities and improving access to social and health services through community-informed research and policy.  Ena received her B.A. in Integrative Biology from the University of California at Berkeley.  She completed her MPH, with an emphasis in Community Health, from California State University, Long Beach


Target Audience

This program is open to NCG members and nonmember funders.