On December 6, 2019, members of the California Criminal Justice Funders Group spent the day building connections with women and transgender people incarcerated in the state’s oldest women’s prison, the California Institution for Women (CIW), as well as women recently released from CIW. Representatives from various foundations attended two events: a panel of formerly incarcerated members of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, and staff from Time For Change Foundation, as well as a Long-Termers Organization (LTO) meeting inside CIW.
Photo Caption: CCJFG members after visiting California Institution for Women on 12/6/19. Photo includes: Susan Green, Leslie Krautz (Krautz Family Foundation), Anuja Mendiratta (Race, Gender, Human Rights Fund), Eddy Zheng (New Breath Foundation), Patty Quillin and Molly Johnson (Meadow Fund), Gina Peralta (Heising-Simons Foundation), Iris Garcia (Akonadi Foundation), Adrienne Skye Roberts (CCJFG) and Katy Pelissier (Southern California Grantmakers).
The LTO is composed of people who have served over 10 years in prison, the majority of whom are serving Life and Life Without Parole sentences. Inside the prison, we divided into groups focused on the following topics: Youth Offenders, Life Without Parole, Parole Hearings, Elderly Populations, Felony-Murder Rule Legislation, and Disparity in Sentencing. Together we discussed the historical context of legislation and heard personal stories that brought these policies and laws to life; brainstormed community solutions, legal and movement strategies; and spent time learning about the abhorrent conditions inside CIW that LTO members survive daily.
It was a profound honor to sit with LTO members and learn from the incredible knowledge they have gained through personal experience and diligent research and to witness their commitment to supporting each other and to healing themselves. Too often women and transgender people are an after-thought in the work to mass incarceration. As one CCJFG member stated, “the women I met at CIW instilled me with hope and a sense of urgency to fight for the liberation of people in women’s prisons from this side of the fence.” We left CIW with renewed commitments to prioritize the experiences of women and transgender people, whose unique experiences of incarceration illuminates the interlocking oppressions that drive the prison system.