Organizing for Freedom Across Prison Walls


– Here to welcome you to our workshop, Organizing for Freedom
Across Prison Walls. Before I do that, I did
wanna do a quick shout-out to our comrades in Chicago. Love and protect. (audience applauding) Mothers United Against Violence. I just, you know, I meant to mention them earlier in the welcome. They have been a core part
of Survived and Punished, and you don’t forget Chicago, so I just wanna make sure that we mark their
wonderful, wonderful work. Okay. So welcome to the California Coalition for Women Prisoners
workshop, where we will learn how to organize across prison walls. I’m very honored to introduce the following workshop trainers. Taylor Lytle is an organizer with the California
Coalition for Women Prisoners and a national peer-to-peer fellow. Taylor is a former foster care youth and formally incarcerated. She was caged as a youth, and later, and California State Prison CIW. Upon her release four years ago, Taylor dedicated herself to ending the prison industrial complex. She’s a talented poet and uses her craft to advocate for women behind bars. Welcome, Taylor. – [Woman] Yeah! (audience applauding) – I’m so excited to
introduce Romarilyn Rolston, she is a black feminist
activist and scholar. For three decades, she has organized for gender and racial justice and against the violence of imprisonment. First while incarcerated and more recently as an advocate on the outside. Romarilyn is currently
the Program Coordinator of Project Rebound at the California State University, Fullerton, which provides formerly
incarcerated students with tools and opportunities to help them thrive as scholars. She’s an organizer with
the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, a recent graduate of the Women’s
Foundation of California, California’s Women’s Policy Institute, and a graduate of JustLeadershipUSA’s Leading with Conviction program. And 2014-15 CORO Follow
in Public Affairs alumni. Romarilyn holds a B.A. with Honors in Gender Feminist Studies
from Pitzer College and an M.A. in Liberal Arts
from Washington University. Welcome Romarilyn. (audience applauding) Fabulous Rojas is a gender non-conforming, formerly imprisoned survivor of violence. They organized against
gender discrimination while serving a 15 year
sentence at CCWF in California. They now work with the
Young Women’s Freedom Center and the California Coalition
for Women Prisoners to organize system impacted people to join social justice movements in L.A. They are one of the lead
organizers of Me Too Behind Bars, a campaign to end gender
and sexual violence inside all women’s prisons in California. Welcome, Rojas. (audience applauding) The wonderful Annie
Paradise is a member of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and participates in Firestorm, a project that links struggles against a global (mumble) regime. She is also a part of the
Center for (mumbles) Research and Autonomy Research Collective, where she participates in
Universidad de la Tierra Colletas. The Network of Interconnected
Autonomous Learning Project animated by indigenous
and (mumbles) struggles. She has worked on a number
of people’s investigations into incidents of state violence. Her book on social reproduction and counter insurgency
warfare in the Bay area, is forthcoming with North
Western University Press. Welcome, Annie. (audience applauding) And the great Colby Lenz
is a community organizer and legal advocate with
the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. The Transgender Advocacy Group and a co-founder of Survived and Punished. To do this work, Colby
has been visiting people in California’s women’s prison, for the past, prisons,
for the past 15 years. Organizing Across Prison Walls,
to build people’s capacity for survival and to achieve
release and freedom. Welcome, Colby. – Yes!
(audience applauding) So with no further adieu, I
open this to the workshop. – All right. (audience applauding) – Thank you so much, Alisa, for those fabulous introductions. Hello, everyone. – [Audience] Hello. – Thank you so much for being here today. I’m so excited to be here in New York City at the Survived and Punished convening. S & P, the work that you do
for survivors inside prisons, across this country. Your campaigns have not only freed people, but it’s inspired a movement. So thank you so much, for all of your work and for all the other
organizers in the room, all the other organizations, that are represented, that
are doing moving work, that are freeing folks from captivity. Thank you so much, from
the bottom of my heart. My name is Romarilyn. I spent 23 years in prison, at the California Institution for Women. I was incarcerated in 1988. I was released in 2011. My 8th anniversary is coming up in May, so I’m really excited about it. (audience applauding) I’m so honored to be on this
distinguished panel today, with of course the great Colby Lenz, and Taylor and Rojas and Annie. So with that, I’ll just give
you a little bit of history. So CCWP started inside the women’s prison in Chowchilla, CCWF, from organizers that were transferred to CCWF from CIW. Because CIW was the only women’s prison in the ’80s. It was built in 1952
and so those organizers had experienced a lot of trauma, poor medical care,
violence, while they were at the California Institution for Women. So that of course, violence continued, when they opened up a
new women’s facility. So we’ll be talking more
about how CCWP came to exist and about the organizer, Charisse Shumate, who was our champion and founder of California Coalition
for Women Prisoners. But it started inside by survivors, by those who were neglected, forgotten, and suffering from some
horrendous medical care inside. And still are. But because of volunteers on the outside, connecting with survivors inside, we’ve been able to do a lot of work over the last 20 years. So shout out to all of my
CCWP folks in California. Thank you for all of the work that you do. We’ll be continuing on in our movement and in the struggle,
because, it is real, right? (laughing) Right. Go, Colby. – Thank you, Romarilyn. So the only other question we
had for you to start off was, how did you get connected to CCWP? Or do you wanna say it when
you get back to Charisse? – I do.
– Yeah, okay. (laughing) Romarilyn got in so late,
because of delayed flights. So let’s give her an
extra round of applause. (audience applauding) So we’ll bring out each of us will say, just quickly, how we
got connected to CCWP, as a part to illustrate kind of how the organizing and
relationship building works. Then will get into a little
more background about CCWP. Then we’ll do a workshop
style piece with you all, about how to do or keep
doing this kind of work in your region and then
give you an opportunity to connect with people in your region, if you’re not already
connected towards the end, to make sure that we
can use this opportunity of having people come from all over, to strengthen and deepen the work. So I’m Colby. I got involved with CCWP in 2003, after I actually connected with some old, like past CCWP volunteers in
New York, when I lived here. Before that, they were starting
a letter writing program with people in the, basically like, it was a prison in Manhattan,
where they were supposed to be releasing people from
Bedford, but they were not. So that was my, I didn’t
know that they were former CCWP volunteers, but I learned that and by the time I moved to California, I got involved. So I’ve been involved a
lot through prison visiting and the longer that I spent
time in meeting directly, building relationships
and organizing with people who are incarcerated, the
deeper I got into the work and the more it took over my entire life. (laughing) Then, we at CCWP, we used to
have these other organizations that held up the specific
work around trying to free incarcerated survivors in California and that was the amazing
Free Battered Women and the California Habeas Project and both of those organizations folded. Free Battered Women folded into CCWP, but we have now like one
and a half staff people and then a lot of volunteers
and so we could not take on the work of also specifically, we work with survivors,
everybody in prison is a survivor of many things, right? We work to free survivors, which can’t be the main part of our work, because we also do a lot of work to fight against the conditions and to support all people
for survival in the least. So, it’s been amazing to also have Survived and Punished,
to help pick up that work and do so much and take
it to the next level. So that was my connection in and then if you all wanna
sit or stand, either way. People are warming up to the big crowd, it’s intimidating, so. (laughing) – My connections to CCWP, when
I first like knew about CCWP was when they came in to advocate for me. Because, I was being tortured, humiliated. Because of me being GNC, like and, sexually harassed. CCWP came in and met with me and they’ve been a part of my life and I’ve been a part of CCWP ever since. That was three years ago. So, that’s my connection. (audience applauding) – How I got involved. Me and Colby had a mutual friend and I was at her event,
doing a poem, performing and she kind of introduced me to Colby and at that time, they
were organizing around the suicide crisis and
CIW and at that time, a friend of mine that I knew
very well, prior to my release, was a suicide victim, according
to what they were saying. So, she asked me to come out and perform at her vigil that was gonna
be held, my friend in prison. At first, it was just me, you know, doing a poem for a friend that I knew. I fully wasn’t aware of the
work that they were doing. I was actively involved in
non-profit work already. But Colby was very persistent and she invited me out to the
annual retreat, at Oakland. I’d never been outside of L.A. At that retreat, it was just like, amazing to me. I never heard of them, they
were like a small non-profit. But, doing amazing work
and I was just like really fascinated and I
dropped every other non-profit and came on home.
(audience laughing) – Drop it like it’s hot.
(audience laughing) (audience applauding) – Hi. I’m Annie. I had moved to the Bay
area and go back to school and at the time, was in a graduate program that was, it seemed like the framework that people kept trying to put on things, was very much a human rights framework and I found myself increasingly drawn to the struggles for freedom
that people were engaged in, anti-colonial struggles,
autonomous struggles and had been doing work in
Kashmir, being occupied Kashmir and wanted to kind of situate some of the work locally, as well. Had always interested in the issues that are facing women and trans folks and the ways that women and
trans folks are resisting, specifically. So found California Coalition
for Women Prisoners. It’s the only organization I had found in the Bay area that’s doing
a lot of sustained work, across walls and directly working with incarcerated folks. And also which has, and
we’ll talk about this more when we do the workshop, but also, which has politics,
which matches my politics anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist comes from a background of folks who organized in San Francisco, Women Against Rape. So very much a politics
that are not organized around some victims are
innocent, some aren’t. Those kinds of things. So that was really important to me in starting to engage
work around what folks are fighting against. I think increasingly, to me
also it becomes really critical to look at like Kashmir, like Palestine, look at areas like women’s
prisons, men’s prisons, where folks are organizing in conditions of just obscene levels
of containment, control, dehumanization, isolation and
what can we learn from those resistances by working
collectively with folks inside. So I feel like Colby (mumbles), not quite as long, but for 10 years now, I’ve been working with CCWP, working with folks inside that just I think, the bonds that we’re able to kind of develop, to continue to fight on the outside and across
walls when our folks come out. To be in places like this and to learn from each other and just, one last thing is, I think
there’s so much right now with sort of current phase
of patriarchal capital that we’re in. There’s so much about it that
is really trying to get us not to care for each other. – Mm-hmm (affirmative). – Mm-hmm (affirmative).
– Mm-hmm (affirmative). – And this came up on the other panel, with Cyan, I’m not sure how you say it, but you know, this idea of how do we care for our communities like
how do we care collectively with just also the kind of the one of our, our, mantras, our, in CCWP,
is caring collectively and just how do we refuse
everything that the state, the capital, a number of
other technologies and forces are trying to do to us, so that we actually stop
caring for each other and instead, just override that completely and roll with each other. – [Woman] Mm-hmm (affirmative). (audience applauding) – Okay, who can tell me
how to get to Chrome? Wait, am I in there? (audience laughing) Remember the video links? – [Woman] Yeah. – I don’t see them on there (laughs). While Andrea comes to the rescue, thank you, Andrea. (audience cheering) – [Andrea] Yeah, wait til I find it. (audience laughing) – Is it to open this bar? Because we can go back. – [Andrea] Mm-hmm, here they are. Remember? – Oh perfect. Okay. Those are some of the panels, some of us were talking about how we’re gonna see if we get
through this without crying, because we all have a
lot of deep, emotional and some of us very traumatic experiences related to the work. I know that probably everybody in the room can relate to that, in all sorts of ways. So, just gonna say that out loud. Some of us are not scared to cry. So we hope you’re not. (laughing) I’m gonna show a short
clip, that introduces you to the founder of CCWP and
then Romarilyn’s gonna talk a little bit more about her and then we’re both gonna
talk a little bit more about CCWP and then we’ll move
to the other workshop part. – [Narrator] This is a story
of the fight for dignity. It is a story of women in prison. It is a story of battered women, poor and working class women and women of color, who
had the courage to say no, to a system of injustice and abuse and the strength to say yes, to life. – We as inmates, did not wanna dime. All we were asking for
was proper medical care for each woman. – Wherever she was, she was gonna fight. If there was any injustice. She’s gonna speak up. – I never thought that she could save so many people’s lives. – So that’s Charisse Shumate. Romarilyn will come up and tell you a little bit more about her. There’s a whole video that
gives an introduction to her and CCWP’s founding. It’s called, Fighting For Our Lives. You can find it online, for free and it’s an amazing low budget, history. (audience laughing) My brother did the music. So that’s cool. (audience laughing) And also, they, what part
of it you can see in there, which is amazing, but we
don’t have time to show today, is actual footage from hearings inside, where people in the
women’s prison spoke about the severe medical neglect
and legislators came and they filmed it when
they did these hearings. We’ve been trying for
years to get hearings on a million other issues since then. It was some kind of miracle that they were able to organize that. But it’s rare and powerful and
devastating footage to watch and the video in general, will tell you more about Charisse’s story. She was also a survivor
of domestic violence and was criminalized for her survival. So I’ll bring Romarilyn up to say a little bit more about her. Then we’ll show one more short clip. – Thanks, Colby for
giving me a second chance. (laughing) I believe in second chances. Okay. I’ll start with how I came to CCWP. After an incarcerated survivor myself, I did not kill my abuser. My trauma led to someone
else being killed. But I met Charisse, in the reception center of CIW. She was one of the first
people I met when I came in. She was, an organizer
in the reception center. If you know anything about prison, it’s really hard to organize
in the reception center, but she could. She had active roles. She was delivering library books to folks. Passing kites. I mean if anyone could
get anything to anyone, she did that, because
she was very connected to the women at the prison. She just pulled us all in. Around support of one another. So we talk about
community building inside, having a relationship. I think about Charisse Shumate. We called her Happy. Because she was always smiling. She was from Chicago. Had a kid. We had similar stories. So we connected right away. She was one of my first
roommates on the yard. We used to talk a lot, about our lives and what we’d come from and the difference types of violence that we had experienced. She had sickle cell. It was very painful. She suffered a lot and
it was very hard for her to get medical care, at CIW. One of the reasons why she fought so hard, to make sure that everyone
had access to medical care, was because she had suffered inside and she had watched so many
other people suffer inside with cancer, with other chronic illnesses and debilitating diseases. She really felt like if
we’re gonna be sentenced to life in prison, then the state should be responsible for
our care and our well being, as they say that they are. But they weren’t providing
anything for women in prison. We were kind of left to
take care of ourselves. So, I come to CCWP with that. When it was created in 1995. With that history of knowing Charisse, and how important it was
for her to build something, for women to support one another. Her energy was just fantastic. Every time I see her face on screen, and how she organized those hearings and got people on the
outside, people like you, connected to CIW and CCWP and CCWF, behind the needs of women inside, was really phenomenal, back in the day. Because there wasn’t a lot of attention given to women in prison. There still isn’t. That’s sad. But she managed to do that,
in a way that no other has. That’s how I remember Charisse and that’s how I come to CCWP. Just in the spirit that Happy,
was all about surviving. If it wasn’t for her and some
of the other amazing women, who shared their story
early on with legislators, none of us who had suffered
from abuse and survived it, would be out here telling our stories. I definitely wouldn’t have the courage to be standing up here, talking about my experience
with incarceration, if it hadn’t been for the leadership, the guidance and inspiration
that I got from Charisse. (audience applauding) – We’re gonna show one more short clip. – [Woman] But nevertheless,
you have pursued this lawsuit? – I pursued it because of the fact that whether I ever get a parole date or not, I would like to know
myself, as well as any woman in this prison, or any prison
in the state of California, will receive proper medical care. – [Narrator] But Charisse realized, that to change prison conditions, it would take not only legal work, but also pressure from the public. She and other women inside prison, formed a group with people outside prison, called California Coalition
for Women Prisoners. To increase support for the lawsuit to improve medical care. – Her organizing efforts, forced people to stand up for themselves. Forced people to stand up
to the medical department, when they told them that they was wrong and forced people to be
consistent about their care. – She was good at getting letters. She was good at writing
and asking for support and trying to form different
groups to help out. (drumming) – [Woman] Women prisoners under attack. What do we do? – [Group] Act up, fight back! Healthcare is a right. Healthcare is a right. – I believe it’s important to have outside contacts and activists too, because, there are doors
that can be accessed by the people in the community that we will never be able to get to. (group cheering) – Our demands are
compassionate release now for dying women prisoners. – Yes!
– That’s right! – There’s nobody here to
take demands at this time. What I need to advise you,
is that you are trespassing on state ground. – Well, part of your
job, is to take demands – Who do you work for?
– from the public. This is a public vicinity.
– Who do you work for? (group cheering)
(slow music) – So this is just to get you excited about watching that video. (audience laughing) And this is the time
when I cry my eyes out. So Charisse Shumate never
made it out of prison alive and that’s the case for
several of the other women that you just saw. Then there are others that you just saw, who are still organizing
with us, with CCWP, like Mary Shields and other
people out on the streets. We’ve done a lot of
protests since (laughs). To some result. We’ll talk a little bit more about that. But now I just need your help, figuring out how to make this big. (audience laughing) Full screen. – F5.
– Yeah. – So we’re gonna start, we’re gonna give this a little background, a little more background about CCWP. The reason we’re doing this is because, Survived and Punished
team, kind of cross because we thought it might be useful to share a little bit more about CCWP’s history, especially with people
from across the country, given that we had this long history, that we also, we are not
great at documenting it, or making it very public, because we’re really,
really busy doing the work. I think that a lot of you
can probably relate to that. And we have very little staff, right? So we, but I think that what we’ve done, starting from the inside out,
is something that people, we’re learning that people
are interested in it, as a type of model and so
that’s part of why we were asked to give a little more info today. So we also recognize
that as we’re doing it, that there are a lot of people
doing work across the country and we wanna just help
connect with everybody, build more coalition and go from there. So this is a list of
some of the principles that we work by. One is, prioritize the
leadership of currently and formerly incarcerated people, with a focus on people in women’s prisons. Build solidarity between
people inside and outside jails and prisons,
including with loved ones of incarcerated people. Challenge the systemic violence of all forms of incarceration, rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy. Uh oh. Hmm. Cool. You can see it, but I can’t. Then supporting incarcerated
people’s survival and release from prison, guide their advocacy and organizing. And I’m bad, this is not
inclusive of everything, right? So the other thing that
we do, I think well is, work in coalition. And we’re gonna talk about that more later in the workshop part, but that’s where we
also attend to the fact that we don’t, we can’t meet
everybody’s needs, right? So if we had more capacity,
we would be doing more for people in the men’s
prisons, for transwomen in the men’s prisons and
for people in detention and if some of our
members are moved around, then we do the work with all of them. But we work closely with the
transgender, gender variant (mumbles) justice project. The amazing Annetta. (audience cheering)
Jonathan (mumbles). (audience applauding) Then (mumbles) with Survived
and Punished California’s, we support the work to get people free from deportation, ICE detention, as well. So now, we are gonna go to strategies. – Yes.
– I’ll move it, for you.
– Strategies. Well thank you, Colby. So some of our strategies include, prison visiting. Prison visiting is a huge
component of what we do. It helps to build membership
within the prison. It helps to provide training
for incarcerated survivors. It helps us to keep them informed and keep their face to
face really critical connection and relationship. Because, visiting is so important. Sometimes, you can’t get that
really honest conversation through a phone, because
phone’s are being monitored. Letters are being monitored. So our visiting team really
does a lot of important work going in CIW and CCWF, with
the prison visiting team. The letter writing campaign. Unbelievable. Just being able to get that letter back. I think Caley Savage was
talking about how important it was when she got that mail, to have the type of support
from folks on the outside and during her campaign
and how she took time to write everyone back. It’s really important, when we’re inside, to have that connection with the outside. You have no idea what a
postcard, or a letter, or, you know just a slip
of paper, just saying, just hang in there, you know? We’re out here marching for you, speaking for you, taking care of you. Then, the newsletter. The Fire Inside. Beautiful. I mean, when we would get that, on a quarterly basis inside, the letters of support that were in there. The advocacy that was
going on, on the outside. The messages that we can share
between prison to prison, was just a way to communicate. So, the work of just having
visiting and having someone to write that letter and
then having the information from the outside coming
in, is so important. Because when you’re in the prison, you know, you feel isolated. You feel like you’re not
connected to the real world. Everything is so censored and, you just don’t have access. Well these are really some
of the important tools that we use, and some of the
very important strategies to help us build coalition across California and the country. – So for our organizing campaigns, there’s been a lot of organizing campaigns and advocacy work over all of the years. Since 1995, we just put up
a couple examples of them. Then I know Taylor already mentioned the suicide crisis at CIW. So CIW’s prison had the
highest suicide rate, of any prison in the country. Eight times the national rate
for people at women’s prisons in like a most of it since
2013 and 2017 to ’18. So we worked with family
members of the lost loved ones to fight against that,
to demand investigations and to basically demand attention
and an end to the crisis. If we had more time, I would have Taylor talk more about that, but you can always chime in after. Then Me Too Behind Bars,
which is Roja’s Mission. Do you wanna say a couple
words about what that is? – [Rojas] You can let Annie. – Oh, Annie, yeah. – [Annie] Sure. So Me Too, (mumbles). – Yes.
– Yes. – Just quickly and then
Rojas you can jump in too. Me Too Behind Bars, is a campaign that we’ve been
working on collaboratively with folks inside when we found out about a specific incident of guards attacking a group of what we like to say, transgender, non-conforming and violently queer folks inside. Another words, folks that were not playing the games
that the guards wanted to play and were viciously attacked for that and maybe Rojas, you
can talk a little more, Rojas is one of the plaintiffs, in a lawsuit that we were able to organize together with a legal team outside. I think one of the
things we talk more about in coalition building too, but one of the things that these folks did inside was, they were able to, they were, one of the
reasons they were attacked was documenting the abuses
that they were facing at the hands of guards. They were able to kind of circulate out that they had been attacked and also then immediately activate kind of an entire network that they had inside, other people who were also being attacked, for gender related reasonings. Or gender related, in gender related ways, by the guards. So, Me Too Behind Bars, has kind of become this way to shed light
into some of the abuses that people are facing inside. Do you wanna add to that? – Yeah. I also feel that it’s a way of like being out queer and still speaking on it and letting everyone
know that we’re out here speaking for them, because
they’re in there speaking to us. CCWP let us know what’s
going on and that makes them more powerful like it’s,
and you can’t even imagine, to have your friends all and be excited even if it’s for a couple minutes that they’re talking to you and it’s because you’re
out here saying like, “Hey, we’re launching Me
Too Behind Bars campaign.” You know and they’re just
like, “Damn, like do it.” Just the excitement. And your phone call’s almost over and you know, you get sad of course, but just to hear them
for them few minutes, you know, excited so. That’s what we do behind bars is like doing it for all of us, yes? That’s what I wanted to say about it. – Thank you so much. (audience applauding) The last campaign we’ll mention that I think some people know about, is our campaign to drop life
without parole sentencing. So in short, drop LBOP. We work with many people
serving life without parole in the women’s prisons and
work with lots of other groups working with people, including transwomen in the men’s prisons serving life without. We wanna end life
without parole sentencing and obviously also the death penalty still exists in California
and other extreme sentencing. And we’re working along
coalition with people about that. If you’re not plugged in
to support the campaign, we would love it if you
and your organization nationally we’re part of the movement to end life sentencing
and life without parole and sentencing in the death penalty. Kelly Savage, who you saw earlier, is one of the main reasons
why we have this campaign. Because she and many other people serving life without having organizing strong in the women’s prisons in
California and demanding attention to a population of people sentenced to and Nia Noran of course,
also on the panel. They have been doing
such amazing organizing around life without parole on the inside and then coming out. So, stay tuned for more about that. – So as you know, CCWP was
formed around grassroots advocacy and organized in the prison. So a lot of that work still continues and now we’ve actually
built some organizing and policy teams to do legislative work. These are just a few of the campaigns that we’ve worked on recently. Thank you, Colby. So raising the poverty threshold. Some of you may know,
when you’re incarcerated, you have a trust account,
where folks can send money, so that you can buy food or materials, or whatever you need inside. Well in California, up
until January 1, 2019, the poverty threshold was one dollar. So if you had one dollar,
or more on your account, then the state did not have to provide any hygiene items for you. Writing materials, notary services. Anything like that. You were not exempt
from medical copays so. You had to take care of yourself. So one of our campaigns last year, was to raise that one dollar to $25 and we were successful in getting that poverty threshold raised from one dollar (audience applauding)
to $25 a month. So now anyone that has $25 or less, has access to hygiene
items and writing materials and notary services, which
this one bill provided those services and resources to over 80,000 incarcerated people. So that was really an incredible thing. Out of that bill, we were also addressing medical co-pays, which of
course most people have healthcare if you have healthcare, you have a medical copay. You have a copay in California,
if you’re in jail or prison. So we are fighting to
eliminate medical copays, which was part of that
indigent bill last year, that was carved out. Because of the revenue that it brings to the state of California, it’s almost a half a million dollars, that the state of California
is able to collect from incarcerated folks
inside, by that copay. So we’re working to eliminate
that through legislation. But we’re also able to get the California Department of
Corrections or Rehabilitation to author a regulation on March 1st. Today, huh? So that came out maybe a week ago, they announced that as
of March 1st, today, that medical copays would be eliminated throughout the California prison system. (audience applauding) So yeah, (mumbles) for that. – Last two real quick. (mumbling)
– Then suicide prevention and reporting was out of an audit, that was conducted by and
ordered by Senator Connie Leva and so we’re able to now
have annual reporting about suicide attempts,
that we weren’t able to have before this bill. Then, long term sentencing,
we’re still working on some sentencing enhancements. Eliminating sentencing enhancements, which are very costly
and doesn’t reduce crime in our communities. It doesn’t do anything but cause more harm to families and communities. So we supported the Felony Murder Rule, which we’ll talk more about maybe later, because it’s around, – It’s time.
– Time to stop talking. (audience laughing) – And as I pass this mic,
does this one work yet? I will just say to the (mumbles), part of our strategy, our approach is, as you’ve heard, survival in the least. So if people can’t survive their time, in order to get released,
then we won’t have the people. So that’s why it’s so
important for us to change the conditions in ways like
the non-reformist reforms, that people have heard about,
to try to support people to survive their time to get out. Then these three amazing people (laughs), are gonna get up and then lead us, oh, you don’t need this
because there’s a (mumbles). Lead us in a little workshop style and then we’re gonna carve
out some time at the end. Yeah. – This just is a map of
the prisons and names, so pardon me, in California. (audience laughing) Where I’m from. In California and just quickly, one of the things we’d like
you to sort of think through, is imagining how you can find out
(mumbling) where these prisons are located. How far they are from, – Oh shoot.
– Organizing areas that we may already be in, for example, as you can see in California. So many of them, the women’s
prisons are not close to urban areas. So we go out to visit
with folks in Chowchilla, which is a three hour drive from the city and so just kind of try and find out where are these facilities are. What the history is of these facilities and Romarilyn’s giving us a history of CIW at the beginning.
– You shouldn’t. – But not just, so what’s the
history of the institution, has it always been engendered
in a particular way? Did it shift over? When did it shift over? When was it built? What was it designed for? All those institutional history, but also what is the history of struggle that’s coming out of that institution? So have there been struggles against solitary confinement there? Have there been struggles against environmental issues there? So what is the history
of both the institution and what’s the history of the
struggle coming out of it? What’s showing up in the
media about particular and jump in and grab this thing whenever. I know we have seconds, – Yeah.
– but you can also grab. What’s showing up in the media around particular
institutions is for instance, is it coming out that there’s no heat in an institution? You can learn something
about what’s happening there and who’s organizing around, – [Woman] (mumbles) got no heat. – what’s showing up in the media, that was also true of the suicide crisis that has come up several times where suddenly the organizing
that’s going on inside, the contacts that are
being made from inside with loved ones outside, is
then driving the media process, where people are responding. – Even if like where
the prison is located, like let’s, I’m gonna say Chowchilla, because that’s where I was
at, you know what I mean? We were watching the news
and the water was a problem. There was too much arsenic in the water. – Mm-hmm (affirmative).
– And see things like that, like, hey the community members, like people were worried about them, but nobody’s worried about us
and we gotta drink that water. – That’s right.
– Like I can’t buy no bottled water,
you know what I mean? We’re drinking that. So, like um, things like that, you know? Just look into that,
like, just think about like what prisons maybe
puts the prisoners, like what are they going to do? Like, damn, because we don’t
get bottled water like that. It ain’t for you. Like Romarilyn said, things get expensive. Copays, all that. When your family puts
money on your (mumbles), they take more than half
of it, so it gets hard. You know, those are the hard problems, so try to kind of like think
of those kind of things, you know? – [Woman] That’s great. – Excellent, yeah. We also have up there researching
existing organizations, direct service could
be something more like, in California, we have legal services for prisoners with children. Different legal groups
that are always going in, so any organizations that
are doing direct services are good to contact with. Mostly because they’re already going in. – Or that have resources like, you know, you can hook up people with jobs, like, you know, maybe go to those (mumbles)
or find different resources. That too. Because we get out. We’re in prison and it’s
hard and then we get out and it’s hard. (laughing)
So, you know what I mean? – Hard.
– It’s like, damn, you know? I personally didn’t get any education. I was punished a lot on
top of being punished on top of being punished. You know I missed a lot. I’m not that model, I
wasn’t that model inmate. I always resisted. So, yeah I was punished a lot, so yeah. If you imagine that. Getting education and all, like, I tried I was in college courses, but then I was taken to the hole, you lose those privileges. I mean, you’re getting
out and I even am like embarrassed to talk to all of you. I’m (mumbles) right now, but I’m like, “Oh there’s part of me.” You know you feel like,
like I don’t meet up to like what I’m supposed to. Makes me feel, thank you, yeah. – [Woman] Love you, Rojas! (audience cheering and applauding) – Should I switch?
– Just to like re-echo that phrase quickly, like you know, the entire time I was in
there, I was always resisting. It’s like one of those moments
where we try not to cry. – [Woman] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. – But also, like so much
to learn from that moment, just in terms of, there’s always
resistance going on inside, as we all know. So how can we approach working (mumbles), by recognizing that and like
even if we don’t see it, knowing it’s there and
having to look for it. That’s also true for the
organizations outside, because there’s always people outside that love the people inside and are organizing on the inside. – [Woman] That’s right. – Oh, here we are. (laughing) Organizing inside, what do you guys think? You can say a couple things
about folks organizing, organizing inside? – Mm-hmm (affirmative).
– What are some of the things that have been going on like in? (mumbling) – [Woman] If ya’ll cry, I’m gonna (mumbles).
(laughing) (mumbling) – Well when I was in there and I started organizing the inside, I want everybody to know how hard it is to organize on the inside. You know, on top, you’re
looking at each other and you know you’re gonna do this and you know you’re
gonna get retaliated on and retaliation looks
like an ass whooping, you know,
(laughing) it looks like you’re a bitch, a hoe. Even if they’re cuffing you up, like me, they’re gonna cuff me up. They pull your arms up. You know I don’t know
if anybody ever like, got their arms twisted back,
but you’re gonna bend over and they’re gonna walk
you bent over, you know? And tell you degrading things. But that’s like, and it’s coming. So, you look at each other
when you decide to organize and you’re like, “Hey, like,
we know what we’re doing.” You know, like our eyes
are watering, like. “Are you ready for this?” You know? You were trying to talk to (mumbles). You would try to say
like, “Look I got this.” They’re like, “No, no,
I’ll do it this time.” And that’s what it looks
like, for us in there. So once we did that. It is hard to organize in there. I’m sorry, guys, I’m
getting kind of emotional. But, that’s why. Because organizing in there
means you’re gonna face a lot of retaliation. And our friends that
can’t organize with us, because they’re lifers
and they need to go home, is also traumatizing for them. You know, if my, like them
not being able to speak, because like for a lifer, that means you’re gonna
go home, or you’re not. So, you have to not like
stand with your friend, because, and as a friend
you don’t want them to, because at the same time, it’s like, “Damn, like, this isn’t like my life “that’s gonna get taken
away, it’s theirs.” So they separate us. They try to, there’s these, things that separate us, because you know, this person can’t get away 15, or, you know, you don’t wanna
get uprooted and moved, but like it’s just super
hard to organize in there. But we do it. You have to, be real secretive about it. Like, to keep your paperwork. I mean like, I’m not educated,
a lot of us were not. And that’s also hard, like. Well we’d sat in a circle
reading a dictionary like, “Hey that means this
and this is how we do that.” So but we started organizing
against all the abuse, like just sticking
together and helping write grievances and I mean, like I said, I was just in, I’d just on
the roof and all that, so. (laughing) which is not, yeah, the hole, but. Organizing super hard in there. But we do it and it’s easier
with when we got help out here. – [Woman] Thank you. – So I didn’t, unfortunately,
I didn’t even know organizing was going on,
on the inside of prison. I realized what I seen, like
amongst the younger generation it was like, always a lack
of unity, like I’m not surely I’m gonna fight against injustice. So, like basically I
was, I wasn’t organizing, but I was putting myself
in these positions to where I was defending people and I was getting in trouble for it. So if I would’ve known there
was organizing going on in there, like, I would’ve had a reason to act a ass, so I would’ve did it. Like you know?
(audience laughing) Yeah, I was doing it for no reason. Like you know?
(audience laughing) Nobody knew me. They just seen me shutting
down a guard every second. You know? But it was a lot of things, because of how I believed and how I’m more like set up, like I didn’t allow bullying, because I used to get bullied and because of my size,
I’m naturally bullied. Like, I mean,
– How much time do we have?
– I always shut the guard down like, I was
like legendary for that. (audience laughing)
Like shutting down them. Like, but it was always
for the right reasons, like, you know? You wasn’t gonna treat me in this way. You wasn’t gonna treat this
defenseless person in the way. I got my (mumbles), I had
three false charges put on me, which all was like, you know,
like they didn’t hold up, but still, I had to do my time and asset and was unfair to me. These were the type of treatments I get, normally because of my size
and because I’m not scared to go against, you know,
fight for what’s right. So I did experience a lot of, you know, injust going on in the prison and it wasn’t, I got Part 47 so, I wasn’t a recipient on Part 47. I got released two years, before I was supposed to get released and that was like a blessing, because it wasn’t until
I got my release date, I realized it was no way in
heaven I was gonna be able to do two more years in prison. I just couldn’t see it,
like, suicide attempts. I was that person. It was becoming so overwhelming and I been doing attempts
since I was 13 years old and I feel like I never
found nothing that broke me and prison brought me to my knees, like, it scared me to death and I
have to be honest about it. I know if I go back, I
would not return home, because, it just got that
overwhelming for me, so. Towards the end of my sentence, they had a poetry contest,
saying, I feel like that’s when everybody
got to see who I was, because I love poetry and
people were just like, even staff, like, “I
didn’t know if you were “capable of this, I thought
you were just angry, “you were coming back.” You know? But I thought it was a
beautiful time for me to like show people that I’m
not this angry person, this person they try to portray me to be, a troublemaker and
(mumble), but a real person that just refuses to be treated in a way. So, I was glad to get that side of me out and ever since I been
home, just organizing, because, nobody should ever
be scared to go to a place, or fear for they’ll lose their life, if they go back to a place. So that’s why I stand here. – That’s right, Tay!
(audience applauding) (cheering and clapping) – And I think, one of the things that CCWP that we’re very aware of is, the tremendous knowledge and expertise that’s always coming from inside and that’s at the center
of all the organizing that we’re doing, because, obviously they’re there right now (laughs), so yeah. – Yeah, I’ll definitely talk about this. Connecting with family and friends. Like I said, my own experience, CCWP connected with my family and actually even I mean, they would fly my family to come see me. Like my family stayed at
Sarah Kushner’s house, she’s not here, but another CCWP member. But um, found out my
family used their car. The last time (mumbles) CCWP, that’s how much they supported me. Like that’s how tight we are, seriously. That’s like, (laughs) my family, I couldn’t even tell my
family what happened, okay guys, check this out. I’m from Compton, I’m a
little, you know like, I never, I didn’t cry as much before. (laughing)
The human eyes you know, like you don’t even know
what all like abuse is. You know, unless it’s
really bad, bad, bad. But, you don’t really know like, the abuses like, “Okay like I
don’t got like a black eye.” You know what I mean? But like nothing’s broke, but you know. It’s damn. Now that I’ve really started to learn, I’m like damn. I cry all the time. You know what I mean? So I wasn’t even able to
tell my family what happened. When these strangers came in. Damn, they gained my trust, because first of all,
they weren’t my family and yeah nobody’s gonna
come in there to see me. You know? But because they cared,
they were just like, “No we’re here just for
you to help (mumbles).” So that’s that bond, you
know, like you have to pray with families so they trusted you. You could, that’s how you were
able to support each other. You know, like it’s the
trust that you build with each other, with families, friends. That we built. – [Woman] All right, so yeah. (laughing) – Oh sorry. – I’m sorry.
– I’m sorry (laughs). Choose a time limited project as a pilot. Example a book drive, a
welcome home committee. Make sure not to make big
promises you’re not ready to keep. Ask participants for a one
or two more pilot projects. Simple just things like, I mean we did so many small projects, as far as name, but I do
wanna pinpoint one thing CCWP does do and a lot of
places don’t do this, we do. Once our members come home, we make sure whatever speaker engagement, or whatever they do, they’re
not doing it for free. So where every place they show up, we offer a stipend and we (audience applauding)
make sure they get paid. – [Annie] Just gonna ask for an example? – Huh? – [Annie] Ask for one example. – Do you wanna do an example?
(laughing) – We wanted to solicit
some other examples. (laughing) If folks also have other examples, – Oh.
– Of like time limited projects that you can do if
you’re maybe thinking about what your commitment might be
to working with folks inside, or if you wanna try
out what it looks like, if other folks done
other projects like that, that we could learn from
that folks could share. Yeah. Thank you. – [Woman] We’ve done, the
folks in Chicago back here, we’ve done baby showers. – Oh!
– Mm! – [Woman] We also for people who were maybe out on bond, or just coming home, we’ve also done art projects. So we made a quilt with some
other folks who aren’t here, for a woman (mumbles) in
Michigan who was pregnant and who gave birth in jail. – Anyone else? – You can turn that mic,
– Oh, go ahead. – Hello?
– Yeah, I think Janette and,
– Supposed to be, there you go.
– Hello, okay. For the Chicago people, I did
baby showers for four years. Just at a random food pantry,
came up with the idea. Look to your baseball team to do, to supply you with needs. The wives of the baseball teams, generally do stuff like this. They supplied us, I
think in six years now, of once a month baby showers,
or quarterly baby showers for up to 20 women. So look to your
– That’s awesome. – [Woman] wives for the baseball team. Or and football!
(audience laughing) – Okay we’re gonna take
one more really quickly, because of time. – [Woman] I wanted to say to you, Rojas. I’ve heard you speak and
I love to hear you speak, you’re very passionate. And everything you say is real and I want you to never ever, ever say, that you’re not educated,
because you’ve been inside that (mumbles).
(audience applauding) (cheering and clapping) – [Woman] That’s right! (mumbling) You work with your community
and you turn that to issues, you have very much insight on this side, to help people on the outside. Please don’t ever say
that you’re not educated, – That’s right.
– Because you’re smart as fuck.
– Yeah! – That’s right.
– And your voice, is very important. Your events is very important. Your voice, our voices,
are very important. So please don’t say that. Don’t ever say that, again. (audience laughing) – We’re gonna move on really quickly. So it says reach out to people and groups with experience to inform
organizing and advocacy. Raise funds to pay people with experience, I mean with incarceration
and reentry to do trainings when possible. Reach out to national councils and other networks for connections to people, groups, with experience. That’s something CCWP,
we believe in allies and other non-profits have
bigger platforms than we do. Just in our work, like we all
feed off of each other, so. There’s no one better than the other. We’re all doing the same work, so. We feel we can use other
people’s platforms, they join onto our platforms. That’s how it’s, you know,
not all of us have the assets. So we lean on each other. But if anybody does have
any knowledge about groups to reach out to, or if you want, like, we know everybody don’t know resources. If y’all maybe willing afterwards, to share resource lists with each other. So people could be more informed, that’d be appreciated. You up there? – [Woman] Not sure, is that working, okay.
– Yep. – Yeah.
– Hi, one thing I wanted to offer to
(mumbling) (mumbles) is working with
(mumbles) organizations. (mumbling) We’re a bunch of nayer do well organizers, and they don’t wanna let
us in to do anything, but being able to work with
(mumbles) organizations sometimes helps the access, so. A couple years ago, we
started a program called (mumbles) we’re gonna go
to Chicago every month for the moms who are incarcerated. – That’s awesome.
– And we started it as a one up, to see if
we could get away with it as a Mother’s Day kind of thing. We’ve been doing it every
month for the last two years. So, if anybody wants to
hear more about that, talk more about that,
come talk to me about it. – Yeah.
(laughing) – Yeah.
(mumbling) – [Woman] Awesome. – Anybody? Oh, you right there, you on the. – [Woman] In Philadelphia, I (mumbles) clubs in our
area and I asked them, with a couple of other (mumbles). Night clubs everywhere for weed. (audience laughing) – Oh wow.
– That’s a mess. – [Woman] That’s (mumbles) (laughs). – [Woman] That’s smart. (mumbling)
(laughing) – [Woman] That’s smart. – That is.
– Yeah. People move behind (mumbles) stuff. (mumbling) – [Woman] Just thinking about
(mumbles) surplus of things that were (mumbles). – That is so, I hope everybody (mumbles). (audience applauding) We’re about to end it. You in the back over there.
– Okay. – [Woman] I can do the (mumbles). – [Woman] Sure, sure. Yeah, sure. – Are you sure?
– Yeah. – Okay.
– Absolutely. – [Woman] Can y’all hear me? – Oh, go ahead girl. – [Woman] I hate microphones. (laughing)
(mumbles), I’m with an organization called Southern (mumbles). (cheering and applauding) And every year, folks organize
like the whole organization for the Black Mama’s Day Bailout. So talk to folks in our region especially if you can get in touch with some folks, if you know folks who are,
just recently released, or who are still in jail, just because they can’t get bailed
out or (mumbles) out, that’s another idea. If you’re trying to build
relationships with folks, on the outside and also,
making meaningful relationships with folks on the inside,
that’s a great way to start. Especially if you really
don’t know anything. To let somebody just (mumbles). – Say it, girl.
– Amen. – [Woman] That part. – So, we’re gonna end, basically
it goes on to move into the next slide. Connect with local groups
to build coalition. As for example, about why
coalition building is important. How to manage challenges
of coalition building. Big non-profits, celebrities, legislators, taking credit for grassroot work. (cheering) Y’all know me. Well it’s not that. But,
(audience laughing) You know, one thing I
learned to be grateful – [Woman] Is that our last slide? – For people
– There’s one more. – That’s making things happen. I can’t be mad, if the
results are coming through. (mumbling)
– Yeah. – But I’m tired of people
bearing fruits of my labor and that’s just realistic,
because I’m just as talented as Kim Cade
(audience laughing) or Donald Tramp, you know?
(audience applauding) Thank you, thank you, Kim Cade. But they been organizers on the ground, doing this from the beginning. You know versus knowing it for years. So,
– Yes! (audience applauding) – [Woman] Yeah. – That just reality, that’s the reality. So we’re gonna check count
50 and all them people with the money. You just gotta be (mumbles).
(audience applauding) I mean (mumbles) lifting up the organizers that’s already here. Who been this 15 years. You know, 10 years. And has, you know, numerous successes. You know, stop, I mean I understand like, they probably capitalizing off – 15 years?
– the Kim Cade. – 22.
– 30 years. – You support that girl for it, but don’t forget about us.
(audience laughing) Don’t, you know? My name should be right next to Kim Cade’s and that’s reality.
(audience applauding) You know?
(cheering and clapping) – [Woman] And it will be. Last one, Taylor.
(audience laughing) (cheering and clapping) – I can’t afford nothing, can I? (audience laughing) Okay, so set up a group
agreements, to the last slide, set group agreements and
some kind of accountability. – That’s awesome.
– Whoo! Accountability, practices early on and we all know, I mean anywhere people’s gathered. You know differences of
opinions and all that, conflict occur, you know. But as long as we stay
focused on the cause and you know, what our goals are, we can overcome everything again. If you’re willing to
take it accountability, whoo, we gonna need (mumbles) for the day. (audience laughing) A-C-C, that’s what we’re
gonna put it (laughs). (audience laughing)
(mumbling) So y’all willing to take A-C-C. – I love it.
– I think you know, that’s one thing about CCWP, such a small group, very poor. But I mean,
– Very poor. Very poor.
– I can see, I mean it says something when you can see there is no money there
and the work that we doing and how effective we are with
the work that we’re doing. (audience applauding)
Compared to some non-profit (mumbles) that’s not doing
what we doing, period. (audience applauding)
That’s why we (mumbles). – [Woman] Rock the mic on that one, Tay. Rock the mic.
(mumbling) And that’s reality, you know? So, my segment is over. (audience laughing) (cheering and clapping) – I wanted to drop a mic
and I didn’t even have one. (audience laughing) Boom! Thank you, Taylor. Thank you, Rojas. Thank you, Annie. – We’re just gonna close out. We intended to have some time for breakouts for regions. We don’t have that time. But I hope that it was
still really helpful to hear from all these amazing
organizers, thinkers, people with a lot of strategy. (laughing) And so much love. That’s the other thing that we
didn’t put under principles, but the thing about CCWP, that drew me in and that has kept me in for so long, is how much love there
is in this community across the walls and support and respect. So we’re gonna do a set
of that for close out. What time is it exactly? – [Woman] 12:58. (laughing)
– We have two minutes, yes. Okay, in one minute. We’re gonna just have
people raise their hands, from different kind of
regions around the country. It’s exciting to just kind
of see who’s in the room. Then also, we’ll just pause after each of those hand
raisings, so you can look around. If you’re not already connected
with people in your region and/or if you are, you can see that you’re here in the same
room and get more connected. We will find other ways to make sure those connections happen
later in the afternoon. So who’s from this area? New York, the northeast? Wow!
– Wow! New York in the house! – New York in the house. Okay great. Who’s from New York Survived and Punished, so that people can
connect with these folks, if you’re not already. Okay, awesome. What about the southeast? On this side here. – We got Don!
– Amazing. – We got Don. – Anyone else over here? Yeah, raise your hands
super high, make some noise. – All right.
– Okay. If you’re not already connected. And then what about the South? I’m from Canada, so if I
get this wrong, I’m sorry. (audience laughing) You can talk about the south,
I know people from the south. Okay from the south? Okay, yes? – Right here.
– We got one here. Okay. Welcome! (audience laughing)
– West Compton! – Anyone from Compton? – West coast. West coast.
– (laughs) west coast. – [Woman] West coast. – Yes!
– West coast. Hey!
– Yeah. – All right.
– Okay, amazing. Any from the Pacific northwest? I know that’s a place. (audience laughing) Okay. I heard that the mid-west
means like the north central? – Mid-west, Chicago, Chicago. (cheering) (mumbling) I’m from (mumbles).
– Okay, mid-west. I’m glad your mics aren’t on. I feel some push back. (audience laughing) Chicago. You’re like your own place, okay. (audience laughing) What about in the center? What is that? – [Woman] Mid-west. – Mid-west.
– You already said it. – The mid-west, see what I mean? (audience laughing)
(mumbling) What did we miss? – Canada.
– Are you the only one from Canada?
– Anyone from Canada? Hey!
– I am! (cheering and applauding) Of course, Andrea. Any other regions we missed? – [Woman] Southwest. – [Woman] South America. – South America.
– South America. (cheering and applauding) – That’s right. America is not the only country, okay. And then. – [Woman] How dare you? (laughing) – South west, south west. Somebody said? – [Woman] Yeah. – Atlanta?
(mumbling) – Okay, okay. (audience laughing) – About Atlanta? I missed a very important.
– The mid-atlantic. – [Cayenne] Mid atlantic. Thank you, Cayenne. Okay. Then Romarilyn’s gonna close. Thank you all so much. – Thank you.
(cheering and clapping) So what we would like to do to close out, is just to have everyone stand and join us in this chant, if you could
do that with us, please. Because it is our duty
to fight for our freedom. – [Group] It is our duty
to fight for our freedom. – It is our duty to fight for our freedom. – [Group] It is our duty
to fight for our freedom. – It is our duty to win! – [Group] It is our duty to win! – We must love and care for each other. – [Group] We must love
and care for each other. – We must love and care for each other! – [Group] We must love
and care for each other! – We have nothing to lose, but our chains. – [Group] We have nothing
to lose but our chains. I don’t feel that. (audience laughing)
How beautiful! Let’s do it again.
– Come on, Rojas! – Come on, Rojas!
– It is our duty to fight for our freedom. – [Group] It is our duty
to fight for our freedom. – It is our duty to win! – [Group] It is our duty to win! – We must love and care for each other. – [Group] We must love
and care for each other. – We have nothing to lose! – [Group] We have nothing to lose! – We have nothing to lose! – [Group] We have nothing to lose! – We have nothing to lose, but our chains! – [Group] We have nothing
to lose, but our chains! – Thank you so much. (cheering and clapping)

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