History of the Action Committee for Women in Prison

The Southern California Criminal Justice Consortium held its initial Conference Seeking Justice '99 at California State University at Los Angeles in May 1999. At the first meeting following that conference a number of working committees were formed, among them the Action Committee chaired by Amanda Perez. Subsequently the interim Steering Committee asked that work on behalf of women in prison no longer be part of the Action Committee mission and that those interested in forming a committee that would deal exclusively with women in prison submit a proposal to do so the interim SoCalCJC steering committee.

On October 5, 1999 a meeting was held with interested individuals and several representatives of the Wages for Housework Campaign. Margaret Prescod drafted a proposal to form the committee.

The proposal was accepted and the Women's Committee was formed. Thandi Chimurenga became the chair. The Committee was called various names ... the Women Prisoner Action Committee, the Women's Committee, and the Women's Action Committee. Finally, in April 2001 it was decided to call the committee the Action Committee for Women in Prison,

In May 2001 Susan Burton became the Chair.

The committee supported legislation to improve conditions for prisoners and parolees and opposed legislation that would harm either group.

Representatives of the ACWIP

· Spoke at International Women's Day in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
· Staffed an information table at the Women's Coalition South Bay Summit in April 2001
· Spoke at UC Santa Barbara about Women in Prison in May 2001
· Met with State Senator Nell Soto in July 2001
· Spoke at the CA Commission on the Status of Women hearing in Sacramento in August 2001
· Spoke at the Palos Verdes Unitarian Church Social Justice Committee in February 2002
· Participated in a protest of conditions at the Skilled Nursing Facility at CCWF in April 2002
· Attended a meeting to consider the Public Health Implications of Incarceration convened by Nancy Stoller of   UC Santa Cruz in July 2002
· Met with a representative of LA County Jail regarding treatment of women prisoners in December 2002.
· Met with Sr. Louise Bond to discus forming a San Bernardino/Riverside chapter of ACWIP in January 2003
· Attended the family advocacy network retreat in June 2003
· Were part of a panel presentation on "Women in Criminal Justice: Justice or Abuse?" at the Biannual   International Meetings of the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington DC in June 2003
· Met with Lt. Gov Bustamante's LA office Director to discuss prison issues in August 2003
· Met with Senator Gloria Romero's Office in August 2003
· Met with the Head of the California Women's Caucus, Hannah Beth Jackson in Santa Barbara
  September   2003 
· Met with House Representative Jackie Goldberg, November 2003
· Met with the Speaker of the House, Fabian Nunez's Office in January 2004
· Held numerous visits with Representative Hilda Solis for the Maria Suarez Case

The "Adopt an Elderly Woman" Program was initiated in June 2001 as a result of the suicide by hanging of a 60 year old woman at CIW on Mother's Day. This program was subsequently renamed the "Pen Pal Project".

In May 2002 the committee, through the CJC, received a grant for $25,000 from the California Endowment to address improving the health of women in prison. In May 2002 the Gina Muñiz Memorial Internship (honoring a woman who died of medical neglect by prison staff) was created at the CJC retreat for representatives of the Northern and Southern CJC Steering Committees. Sherrie Ross was selected as the Gina Muñiz intern and provided staff support for the committee for the entire grant period from a shared office in Long Beach. In May 2003, Gloria Killian completed a "Survey of Medical Care Provided to Women in California Prisons". Two hundred fifty copes were printed. The grant also provided funding for a "Women in Prison and Health Issues" Conference held at California State University Long Beach in March 2003, which was cosponsored by the Women's Resource Center at CSULB.

In August 2002 the ACWIP organized the Los Angeles demonstration at the State Building as part of a statewide protest of Gov Davis' denial of parole for women given dates by the Board of Prison Terms At the end of 2002 organizational conflicts occurred between the Tides Foundation and the Criminal Justice Consortium and between the Northern and Southern California CJCs. The ACWIP voted, at its February 2003 meeting, to continue to act independently as an informal association.

In May 2003 it was decided that ACWIP would incorporate and would seek a nonprofit agency to act as umbrella agency until incorporation is complete. Susan Burton, after serving 2 years a Chair, nominated Gloria Killian for the position to which she was elected at the May 2003 meeting.

In June 2003 a representative from the California Coalition for Women Prisoners met with ACWIP to discuss ways in which the groups through out CA that focus on women's issues could work together more effectively.

ACWIP joined several other organizations fighting for inmate rights and decent post-incarceration treatment December 2003 for the first Statewide congregation of prisoner's rights groups. We continue to network and fight for compassionate treatment of women who are or who have been incarcerated.

Recently, ACWIP has been actively involved in the Maria Suarez Case. We are working closely with representative Hilda Solis.