A guide to California incarceration bills, continued

Read the four incarceration-related bills in their entirety:
VISION Act – https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB937
Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act – https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB1225
Incarceration Identification Card – https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB717
C.R.I.S.E.S. Act – https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB118

Opportunities to take action:
ICE Out of California Factsheet – http://www.iceoutofca.org/uploads/2/5/4/6/25464410/vision_act_ab_937_fact_sheet_4_1.pdf
Write a letter of support – https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ba4p7U9_wSB_f_Cp-SRAt4z6qr_mS2DvExMZoaD80I0/edit
Check out a toolkit – https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_A5at8pScR4nC0nZVO4GpYsXKLiHlnt8qZQtE7H88wA/edit
T-shirt fundraiser – https://www.bonfire.com/vision-act-campaign/
Urge Gavin Newsom to stop transfers – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kK4agEaJPhzMDIt8Iw8TnD2_72a7gD6H/view

Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act:
Support incarcerated artists – https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-incarcerated-artists?utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer
Demand dignity for incarcerated women – https://act.thedreamcorps.org/sign/demand-dignity-for-incarcerated-women/?source=dcweb-button
Check out The Canteen Project – https://restorecal.org/the-canteen-project/
Donate to The Canteen Project – https://restorecal.org/donate-for-covid-19/
Help free survivors – https://docs.google.com/document/d/1t3E23XUab6iujFg9aadWTw5ElMNsl6scequ0S_lQ4Dw/edit

Incarceration Identification Card:
Why it’s needed – https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/leaving-prison-without-a-government-id-can-block-access-to-housing-jobs-and-help

C.R.I.S.E.S. Act:
Programs in action – https://oaklandside.org/2021/03/17/in-a-major-shift-away-from-police-oakland-approves-macro-pilot/?utm_source=Oaklandside+master+list&utm_campaign=412760612c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_03_20_01_53&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8612bcc0f3-412760612c-333438522

Excerpts from letters of correspondence with women incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility:

“What gives me hope is my faith that someday all wrongs will be made right somehow someway. What keeps me going is love. The love that I receive from my family, children, friends and sometimes complete strangers just like you:-) It amazes me when people show me love. Love overcomes all things.” – Stacey

“ I finally found who I am, all those years of trying to please people, trying to fit in, trying to be loved and accepted.. I know who Jennifer is and I’m happy with myself. I’ve let go of the past, dealt with my hurts, disassociated myself with old friends/gang lifestyle, repaired relationships etc. I needed this wake up call so when I step out of these walls I’m stepping out a much better person. I have a passion to help at risk youth.” – Jennifer

“For me I know way too much,because I’m a comfort care/hospice worker here in CCWF. Its the no one dies alone program..I’ve been doing this program for years yes I’ve been with ladies when they take there last breath here on earth..Some have family and some do not.So I’m there family, friend all in one.You actually learn a lot from people who are passing, on how to live.Crazy I know but very rewarding, I have learned how to live through each of them.” – Tiffany

“Its so easy to say who I was then and who I am now, but the shame remains. I have worked to ensure that my life never returns to what it was. There’s never been a reward, as there’s no time off, no closer to home, the amends and self improvement has been purely motivated by intrinsic drive for self improvement.” – Michelle

“These relationships have been role models to help me see how to conduct myself upon leaving prison.I have developed a ture friendship my best friend has just paroled I miss her and that’s hard.To see friends go and your only communication is email.People in prison have the same personalities as people in society.The only difference is that if people are caged in you get people who act out.” – Katherine

“I view hope as giving back and helping others to find hope. knowing I am part of a solution keeps hope alive.” – Naomi

“Everything I knew was imposterd .It was confusing.young, somehow I felt it was all my fault too.Anyhow all that to say when new people came around to get close to me I learned not to trust them or to leave before they left me.so that way I would never be as hurt and lost as I 1st had as a kid. It was either that or do everything in my power to keep people, bending all my own moral rules or breaking my own spirit to fulfill someone else’s wants and needs so they’d never want to leave me.” – Jaimi

“What I love is learning about myself and becoming a better person.” – Arlene
“There are several officers here who have let their position and power go to their head and are walking the line of abusing that power. Then there are the peers that hold their power over me because they know I’m fighting to go home and will not do anything to jeoprodize any opportunity I may get that will allow me to go home. The best way to describe it is I keep to myself. I only speak up when I have to fight to get what I should have coming because its my right. Other than that, its better to be invisible.” – Wendy

“the lifers without parole who have in many ways encouraged , loved and motivated me . my heart aches because the very group of people that get excluded from every law every proposition are the very treasures and pillars who equipped individuals like me to be the best , to fight with a fire for our freedom! and this fire is fueled by those who have no hope of seeing outside these walls. man, my heart breaks daily. I am who I am because of these people!” – Michelle

“I struggle with faith but I am for sure a spiritual person. I am a mixture of christian, budhist and wiccan, completely contradictory faiths which is why I say spiritual. I do have a great support system though…
Most powerful advice would be from my mom a game from the movie Pollyanna, “Always find something to be glad about.” So I am pretty good about counting my blessings. One day or moment at a time helps me too.” – Sheyna

“First I’d like to say I enjoyed reading about what you wrote about self-reflection and finding ourselves in relationship to others. Wow what a concept. I could identify with that, yet no one had ever spoken on it to me before. Its true, it does happen and has happened with me and others in here. I have noticed that too. It seems to me that other people bring out sides of our personalities that are hidden. Various people bring them out when we are sharing in our groups, intimate things we were unable to share, until the group. I think by getting support from others in groups, we find the courage to share our deepest truths…our hurts from the past for example. … For me, I gained Insight by seeing the past through others eyes. So I was able to view myself and others through eyes of compassion, rather than through eyes of condemnation and shame.” – Julie

“I am now 43 yrs old and have acquired an AA degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences. This semester wth the 2 classes that I am taking I should obtain the credits to get another degree in Arts & Humanities and also in American Studies. I also like to learn. It isn’t easy…. You’re so right. But I work so hard. Literally, I loose sleep over some of these exams. I am very hard on myself when it comes to that. I guess I’m just tired of always being the “looser” type, so I do my very best in school. Everything I do today is in some way conducive to my ultimate goal — freedom from this place.”

“Okay… got it … you’re a teen. I just read the part of your email where you said we will have to face judgement by people out there. I got emotional. I always think of that. I still can’t wait to get out. I think that if I can endure this I should be able to handle that right? 🙂 People can be so mean huh? I get it … I understand it.” – Karina

“I too have family members who have kept my whereabouts a secret from their children. The sad truth is that it can hard for families to accept that one of their family members is in prison. Just recently my sister told my niece that I was in prison…my niece is twelve. And I get it, my sister just wanted to protect her child from….maybe embarrassment.” – Leticia

“Nevertheless, God has been with me all these years. He has lead me to wonderful people and allowed me to take classes that have totally rehabilitated and changed my life. Today I am a very different person from the young woman I was in 1988. My son is a wonderful man, a terrific father and husband and that is all I could possible ask for.” – Karen

“I am a heterosexual independent person who grew up around all types of ethnicities, sexual orientations, and people of different faiths. I have been very fortunate to have embraced diversity. My relationships aren’t defined or limited by race. However I do experience my fair share of racism. People either love me, hate my Black excellence, are intimidated by me, or avoid me because my presence convicts their soul or conscience. I’m very loyal, fair minded, wise, helpful, open and honest so people trust me and like being around me no matter what their ethnicities and beliefs are. I’ve had white supremacists confess they want to work on themselves after meeting me giving them a totally different perspective on Black women. That’s quite the compliment. I’m glad you aligned with me. You be you always. You don’t have to lean into whiteness or be less ethnic or phase out your culture because other people make false assumptions about you. Don’t allow people to hold you to their ridiculous social standards.” – Tomeika

“What makes me who I am ? All of this. To omit any of it would fragment my identity. We are all made up of our life experiences, and it is from my experience that I learned how to be my own heroine and a champion for change. You asked what I do in my spare time, and the answer is, I am always thinking of ways I can help this world become a better place.I also enjoy music,reading,writing and meeting new people.” – Latasha

“I personally felt that I was misjudged….but, as time has past I have been able to understand that I was somewhat that person…and sadly some of society will define you by the things and choices we make….without knowing who you are …and if you have to go and appear before the board of parole hearings.. the process is the same!..as well as the survivors are define everyday by the senseless crimes that are committed against them.” – Janett

“The hardest was last May I learned I had stage two colon cancer. So I ended up going in and out of the hospital for six months. I was quarantined by myself the whole time. Doing that by myself was hard, but I was graetful for a good out come through it all. I am doing well now,so far cancer free. This week we start to open up some programs and work. I’m happy to be starting back at my job here. Well I need to go for now. I hope this finds you happy and well. Have a great day.” – Kim

“On a lighter note, you are adorable, what I would wish to eat first? I don’t even know. I love Asian cuisine! I love Mediterranean food and Mexican too. I love meat and anything spicy! I would probably want a steak and asparagus and potatoes. I honestly wouldn’t care though because i love food! Are you a vegan or vegetarian though cause you mentioned your favorite meal was something with tofu? Sounds good and I would be so willing to try it.
We do get phone calls on a dialy basis just at random times and I always want to talk to my mom, sisters and brother! We are very close and love them dearly.
I’m not sure about my spirit animal and never been asked the questions but I love zebras because they are free and can not be tamed. Oh and i love penguins because the females are the hunters and gatherers, they only mate once and they are about community to bring up their children.” – Perla

“People, us humans don’t wake up one day and say I’m going to commit a crime or I’m going to be racist and prejudice. There’s a reason behind every action, every choice we make. Much of what we do can be learned behavior some maybe lacking something and go out and search for it elsewhere when it starts with self, Could it be Love, acceptance, guidance, maybe its self worth? One doesnt know until we really take a good look at ourselves. We uncover, discover and come to accept the character flaws and work to become a better human being. Im a true believer that if we want to see change, It starts with Love and i mean loving yourself and being content in your own skin. Once people master the love and self worth then they can love others and give back to others, the community the generations after us.” – Cynthia

“I learned a long time ago to be grateful every single day for the blessings in my life. I wake up each day and find five things to be grateful for, before my feet touch the ground. I thank the universe for the friends I have, my kids, the ability to see, the freedom to make choices, and anything I feel needs to be mentioned. Then, at the end of the day, I repeat the process only I challenge myself to find five different things morning and night. Negativity breeds and positivity grows. I’d rather grow in positivity than fester in negative thoughts.” – Mimi

“And this loudness persues me all day. Correctional officers yelling instead of talking because they can. Building alarms ringing because there is a fight or a medical emergency. More officers scream, one after the other, “Get down! Get down! Get down!” bulky sets of oversizied keys clang like a grand father clock in time with their gate when they slap on the officers thighs, boots pound on the pavement as they run bye, their faces scrunched tight in agression, prepared for battle as they grab and shake thermus sized pepper spray cannisters with high power nozzels. A fight they allowed to escalate to create an opportunity to use violence because “inmates don’t understand nice”. There is no deescaltion here only the forced stop caused by the collison of the officers. Like freight trains carrening towards a car on the tracks.” – Mychal

“I thought the legal system would not see through my lies and would let me get away with the horrific crime I had commited. I had assumed everyone belived my lies just as I did, thank God I was wrong. I felt like justice would be served and I would come out on top. I’m so thankful I was wrong because I wasn’t really before I was slowly dying inside and out.
Before I got here I felt like my life was over, I had no idea what prison would be like. I was super scared about comming to prison” – Valerie

“I feel that if a person stays true to who they are inside, if they are okay with who they are, if they love themselves and believe in their truth and have a genuine heart, then they can continue to have that heart full of true feelings no matter where they are. I have the best support system in my family and friends and I keep love and hope in my heart. so I wake up and smile, thankful for another beautiful day, and I do my best to spread good feelings and stay away from the negativity that surrounds us all, free or not.” – Delfina

“I see a young girl who was able to embrace her imperfections and seek help. I see a courageous girl. For being so young, your ability to recognize and articulate is inspiring and shows a maturity beyond your years.” – Arlene

“I never know about god. but came to know him in the worst , most shameful moment of my life… in the moment of the crime I committed I just felt in my heart say,stop, end this now . its not too late. trust me. and in that moment I just knew that in order to start new I had to face my consequences yet with this reassurance that god would walk me through every step of the way! I have never been the same since . my relationship with god is my most treasured relationship. it is my very source my light my guid my comfort my hope.. god is the very lover of my soul.” – Michelle

“We tend to be hard on ourselves because we dont have as much love for ourselves and dont know how to see the good in ourselves.” – Sheyna

“ I would have to say that my relationships with other life term inmates has been and will always be the most profound.. as a juvenile lifer I have to do serious soul searching and develop a level of honesty that would make most people uncomfortable.. and I talk about all of my ugly past and things that I have done that Im ashamed of and the women that I am close with in here we all share these things and support one another without judgment.. its a blessing.. we have a very deep connection.. and being that we are also in prison which is one of the most humiliating and shameful experiences of most incarcerated peoples lives.. so that in and of itself really has an impact.. there is a huge relatability factor…” – Rachael

“I am a mother of two. I have a 20 year old son and 22 year old daughter. Both are so sweet and smart. I’m so proud of them especially being that they have been deprived of a mother and father both being in prison. Most people don’t realize how detrimental incarceration is on so many children and yet there are no programs, no mentors, no outlets for these children. I’ve looked high and low for help for my kids to no avail.” – Stacey

“My theme song though would be Bitch by Merdith Brooks.” – Sheyna

“you asked about my trial well I felt like I was in a fish bowl and all fingers were pointed at me and I was the worse person ever but then I still felt like I was not heard and no one cared I realized I was alone hearing what the DA had to say about me was unreal I was painted as a monster you are treated as if you are guilty first and judged as garbage which I believed.” – Naomi

“What makes me happy? What makes me motivated? Well, I help a lot of people – so I know I can make a difference no matter where I am. I also do my best to laugh and make others laugh.” – Amber

“You ask what brings me joy inside and outside of prison. I find beauty and joy in prison by admiring nature the birds, trees, and flowers… I want to Thank-you for celebrating my parole suitability with me. Let all your classmates know I appreciate their happiness for me. I received my ducat for parole planning tomorrow It is so exciting for me. Because 24 years ago when I began my sentence, anyone who received any kind of life sentence would not ever parole.” – Tina

“For me I get my strength from my boys. They were 4 and 8 when I left them to be raised by there Grandma. I felt that as time went on they would resent, hate, disown, not speak to me. It turned out that it was the opposite they are my biggest fans. They make me want to be a better me. I have shown them how to heal. I was in prison way before I was in this prison. I am thankful I came to prison to find me.” – Diana

“This lady never cursed,raised her voice,cleaned and cook all before 6:00 am everyday breakfast,lunch and dinner.This lady was what I called a super women.” – Katherine

“Thats why I believe we shouldn’t put others too high on a pedestal. We each have our own unique qualities. It took me many years to stop comparing myself to others, and to appreciate my individuality. I believe God made us all different so we can complement one another. We all have different gifts. For years I felt sorry for myself and believed I had nothing to offer others.. Then I began to share my poetry with others and found that even when I didn’t like my own poem, it spoke to someone else… This made me so happy that I could bring a little happiness to others through my poetry!. It encouraged me to keep writing poetry and share it more…” – Julie

“It really hurt that I was left alone in here.. but i knew it was my choices that led me here. but thats what also made me realize i always have a choice. i mafde the choice that consequentally severed m relatioships wih people and its equally my choice to rebuild them.” – Jaimi

“The most valuable piece of information that I’ve learned while doing groups and workshops is very simple.. hurt people hurt people.” – Jennifer

“I deserve to be loved, the same reason all people should be loved, to feel safe and secure. If we don’t love ourselves, we can lose ourselves, when we love ourselves, there’s a sense of identity.” – Michelle

“I do belief that you should always be yourself no matter who or where we are!..I also belief that it is so easy for us to come complaisant.. in our mindset..so, it always a good thing to keep on learning..I can honestly say that in here it is so easy to become complaplasiant with being ok as following the same lifestyle othersdo..woman are rooted in the rooms they live in … when they are in a relationship they have “kids”…and they take ownership of the room …for me i ask myself is this really how people out there really act…is this normal?…i personaly don’t want to be defind by these walls…even if it’s PBS…i will watch…just to lern…what i nerdd i am lol…” – Janett

“Who doesn’t like to be complimented though? We all do.Sometimes the need is so desperate though, that we try become everything that we are not to get them.Why? Because compliments also make us feel seen:visible.Conversely, when we’ve gone to great measures and nobody seems to notice, we can feel invisible.” – Latasha

“As for my challenges this year with my health, most the medical professional I’ve dealt with have treated me well, even kindly. CDCR has contract with hospitals through out the state. These hospitals have wings just for inmates.
So the nurse and doctors are use to inmates there. I had some amazing nurses, and the surgeon that worked on me was very kind. There were ones that were mor standoffish, but the good out number that. I did have an unusual experience for prison and medical. I think of it as a God thing. Normal it tacks months to get needed help. I was in the hospital in a week getting cared for right away. Things just fell in to place. Its help my faith grow.” – Kim

“SB132 passed allowing men who identified as women to enter and live in a female institutions. The issue with the law is its vague and that leads to men manipulating the system and coming here and living and sharing space with us with foul intentions.
The fact is its inevitable that a man can over power a women and not to forget many of us have had a male abuser. Listening to the the women’s fears including my own make my heart sad we have zero control over this situation, in fact no one even asked us how we felt. Please don’t he me wrong there are cases of transgenders that belong here and are welcome but how are they going to prevent the predators from comming here to harm us.” – Valerie

“We are hard on ourselves because it is a learned behavior people are either hard on us too, or we see people being hard on others and themselves. I practice loving myself by focusing on nurturing what needs special attention in my soul at the time. I concentrate on putting my mental health above everything else. I am purposeful in preserving the grace and tenderness in me while moving through trauma filled spaces. Its a delicate balance but my inner peace is on a pedestal today. I am no good to anyone if I am in shambles inside.” – Tomeika

“Do I remember my 17th birthday? I can’t and the reason being is I was abandoned by my mother and my father was in prison,long before I was that age but before then I was taken from my childhood by being raped at 13 and not only having my virginity taken but becoming pregnant with my first set of twins as a result and I kept my sons who are now 26 but from that point on,my life wasn’t mine anymore… Aaron Stewart is right in saying that about us never having an adult life.I was 19 when I committed my crime,20 when I was arrested,21 when I was sentenced and 22 when I made it to ccwf.I had the mindset of a wounded lost child.Survival was all I knew and adaptation was something I learned long before prison.So I seen it as another place to figure out how to survive in.” – Aniyah

“Point is, I want to live my life giving back to those who are at risk of coming to prison. I want to save a little Lupe. The path of destructions will only lead you to prison or death. I want to reach out to these kids because many times i felt like everyone gave up on me. Or did not understand my background or lifestyle. I felt abandoned, rejected, neglected and judged. For that reason, i believe i can make a change and reach the “worst of the worst” for i was there once.” – Guadalupe

“its nice to know of someone who can apreciate nature, the simple beauties we still got left. I myself took on bird watching during the pandemic we dont get out as much or at all ,so all I had to look at was outside the window and then I began to notice the different kinds of birds we have here .. gave me something to look forward to , and then there’s the geese !!! ( I’m terrified of them ) now that we get to get out some these geese have taken over the prison . so I’ve had to carry around bread to toss towards them to distract them long enough to be able to make a run for it .lol………..
here in ccwf during the pandemic all self groups were put to a stop , there was no school our support groups were not available . so it was very challenging when phone calls were limited , no visits with family,no recovery . it really put things into perspective and made me re think my purpose . I’ve been able to take a step back and sit with myself and notice where I can continue healing and growing from .. I took the chance and began to utilize a different circle of support .. its been challenging but I’ve had good people around me and my outside support is important for my emotional and mental health .things in the institution have been challenging all rules have gone out the window there is no structure nor consistency , maybe they are trying to figure it out , but in the process have put many of us in harms way , have caused covid spreads and death , in the name of trying to figure it out on their terms not listening to us who live in these conditions ..” – Kanoa

“TBH, I learned in prison that I have choices, as crazy as that may sound… I have choices. I can choose to be happy. I can choose to be kind. I can choose to help others. I can choose to be positive in negative situations. Every day in every situation, I can choose my frame of mind and my outlook on my situation. I have choices. When I tell myself I have a choice, I give myself power.” – Mimi

“My one true love, first love, everything love, is my daughter. that’s something that there are no words for. there is no way to explain the feeling. I’ll tell you the same thing I told her– you won’t understand the feeling until you become a parent yourself. she is a mom now and her little guy has her just melting with all kinds of love. its just amazing how full a heart can be. having her is what keeps me striving to do the best I can, she makes me want to be a better person. she gives me truly unconditional love and support and keeps my hopes high. she is a dream come true that I didn’t know I was dreaming of.” – Delfina

“I have been ever grateful for my maternal ancestors that they were women of courage, faith, and an undeniable ability to see life as the “glass half full”. I believe this is the biggest blessing of my life and has helped me to endure decades of harsh and sometimes impossible circumstances. Someday I hope to be able to research and learn more about my ancestors it would be my last great adventure!” – Lanie

“I know there’s people out there who instead of love they express hate instead of human kindness they are cruel and self absorbing and again it can all stem back from their experiences in life , their childhood and trauma, for others it may be the present moment. Now a days people have a hard time accepting life’s disappointments, the unmet needs. Many become angry, resentful, bitter and not know how to deal the curveballs that life will sometimes throw at us. I’m very observant of my surroundings and when I was out there I could see that some people were in denial and carried this false pride until something tragic happens. No one is perfect, we have choices it is up to each one of us to make the the right one and decide what we want to do to make things better. We all struggle at one point or another. lessons are learned, we win some and lose some. The whole existing part is not enough we need to leave an imprint. We are all different and unique in our special way and each one of us has something to offer each other.” – Cynthia

“My chaplain once told me ‘Do not expect more from a person than they are willing or able to give.’ Although it seems like such a simple truism, it has been extremely valuable to me to remind myself of this. It has profoundly affected my ability to just accept people for who they are, even if it hurts sometimes.” – Kelly

“I want to thank you for asking me that question. It is something I needed to answer becaue I was wanting to avoid it. It also taught me something I did not realize. I did not know I held the core belief that I can’t defend myslef until I wrote it just now in response to your question. You helped me out. It explains a lot of things for me. They say in NA. “The thereputic value of one addict helping another is without parrallel.” You are not an addict but that is the benefit of going to self help groups to learn from others. Again thank you.” – Mychal