VANGUARD INCARCERATED PRESS: Return to Sender – Silenced

by CJ Black

WOMEN ARE PUNISHED WHEN THEY SPEAK UP.

SILENCED.

WOMEN ENDURE RETALIATION FOR. PUTTING PEN TO PAPER. SUPPRESSED.

WOMEN’S VOICES FALL ON DEAF EARS.

FORGOTTEN.

In the Nation’s largest prison for women, Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), women’s voices are silenced. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, CCWF has drastically obstructed our avenues of due process. Impeding our remedies, illegally. They changed our Inmate Request for Interview Form (GA-22), from carbon to non-carbon copies that mysteriously disappear in the mail. Without having proof it was sent, questions and concerns remain unaddressed. In addition, the grievances with merit are being destroyed. Arbitrarily, they alleged “contamination of unknown or hazardous fluids.”

Not all of the women here think in legal terms. However, I showed the camera my clean grievance and deposited it in the appeals box with a handwritten disclaimer: “deposited clean, uncontaminated in unit – # – grievance box, dated and timestamped.” I log the date and time for my records. No matter the merit my grievance may contain, usually with situation, time, date, and camera location, the appeals coordinator either denies altogether or it is redirected into the abyss. All staff misconduct allegations, true or not, go without further investigation with no response or status update.

Attempting to air their grievances, 22 female victims of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) were either denied or unaddressed by Warden Pallares. This misconduct was reported in 2023.

CCWF’s practice of making paperwork disappear is barely a glimpse into their suppression of women’s voices. The system was built by men, for men, ignoring the experiences of women. The majority of women who serve life sentences are incarcerated as a result of murdering their abuser and adjacent circumstances that also violate the law are disregarded during sentencing (Dey, 2022 and Davis, 2022).

Women do not band together to fight for their rights. They stay silent as they have learned throughout their lives. Many women here refuse to file grievances. Staff retaliation keeps the pen away from paper. Further suppression outweighs the potential for success. In class at CCWF, I raise my hand to ask questions for clarification and understanding. Teachers and facilitators alike snuff out my voice.

With the passing of SB 132 went the passing of women’s rights, safety, and security in prison. SB132 was intended to allow “people incarcerated [to] go to the prison in alignment with their gender identity.” However, the first transfer bus contained a serial rapist, along with plenty of men who identify as straight males. We are not talking about a few slipping through the cracks of the system they manipulated. We are talking about busses of copious men, abusing, fighting, harassing, raping, and/or ‘consensually impregnating’ women. Women CANNOT DENY a MAN (SB 132 transfer) from housing in their 8-person cell with 4 bunk beds. We as women can deny other women from housing in our cells, but not those with their junk still intact, or else sent to -AD-SEG. The rules that apply to them, no longer apply to us women.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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