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Legal Updates
· There are 2 new appointments to the Board of Prison Terms, Chair Margarita Perez a former guard, parole  agent and investigator and Susan Fisher former director of the Doris Tate Victims Bureau
· AB 384 would eliminate tobacco in prisons was referred to the public safety committee on 2/17 no hearing  date
· SB 1385 would allow evidence of battering to be considered in a variety of cases and. would allow writs for  cases before August 29, 1996. Hearing before the Sen. Public Safety Committee March 30.
· SB 1522 would require the BPT to provide evidence of threat to public safety. Referred to Public Safety March
· AB 1796 to allow drug felons to receive food stamps, to be heard by Human Services March 23rd.
· AB 1866 would allow media access to prisoners, public safety hearing rescheduled for March 23rd.
· AB 1946 would provide compassionate release for those within a year of death and those unable to care for  themselves, March 16 public safety hearing postponed until March 23rd.


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Senator John Vasconcellos has graciously agreed to author a bill that would amend Section 3041 of the Penal Code, the parole statute. The bill, SB-1522 would help restore integrity into the parole process and require that the Board adhere to a burden of proof that is consistent with the plain language of the statute. The bill would not allow BPT to deny parole unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the inmate poses an unreasonable risk of danger to the community if released. The bill would also require a court reviewing a panel's decision to determine if it is supported by clear and convincing evidence in the record.

After a meeting on Thursday between Carl McQuillion, former lifer and now a successful paralegal, (who brought the need for the bill to the attention of Senator Vasconcellos through his deputy chief of staff Matt Gray), Donald Miller, former lifer and also a successful paralegal, (who made sound suggestions for crafting the language), and other legislative persons, SB-1522 underwent some changes to strengthen it and still allow it to pass, which will be a difficult task.

At least one Republican senator has agreed to co-author the bill if the proposed amendment does not appear to be too radical. It is anticipated that the first amended version will be in print shortly,and, at that time, may be co-authored. Don and I have consulted with a representative of the author about generating support for the bill. It is now time for that action.

I am urging everyone, and I mean down to the last man and woman in or out of prison who understands or accepts the need for strengthening the bill, to campaign to support it. This year may be our one shot to get this statute strengthened. We need unified support like we have never before seen because it is certain that the victims rights groups will oppose it, as will the CCPOA and, probably, the Board.

We need letters and emails sent to the legislators, including the Republicans. We do not want a bi-partisan split on this. We need to convince Republicans and Democrats alike that integrity of the parole process will be better ensured by this bill and that arbitrariness in the parole process only fosters distrust of the government. For those of you who need a guide, a form letter is available at from the California Alliance for Political Prisoners, Inc.; you can also obtain it via email at

This is important, do not merely copy the form letter and sign it; use it as a guide and write your own. Form letters hold no value to a legislator. Take the time to write your own. Especially send your letters and emails to your local Senator and Assemblyperson; you are their constituents and they are supposed to listen to your voice. Convince them this is the right thing to do. Meet with them in your district if possible and speak to them personally. Letters and personal meetings, where possible, from GROUPS, are most helpful. You can schedule appointments when they are at their district office.

Again, we are calling for all-out support for SB-1522. -- If you care about anyone inside, support this bill and start a grass-roots movement in your area, such as your church, to support this bill.

-- Carl McQuillion, CEO, California Alliance for Political Prisoners; and
Donald Miller, VP-R&D, CAPP.

Families to Amend California's Three Strikes
State-wide office: (213) 746-4844
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Union-Tribune Editorial Hidden abuses

March 1, 2004

There have been three previous legislative attempts to provide the news media greater access to state prisons in order to speak with inmates. Each bill was approved overwhelmingly. And each was vetoed, first by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1998 and then by Gov. Gray Davis in 1999 and 2000. The governors were determined to demonstrate their tough-on-crime credentials.

This year could be different.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's public safety persona is solid enough that he doesn't have anything to prove. What's more, the governor has inherited a deeply troubled prison system that is under intense federal scrutiny. Many of those troubles might have come to light much sooner had reporters not been largely prevented from talking with prisoners during the last eight years.

Parallel bills by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would reverse a set of overly tight restrictions on journalists who seek access to prisoners. Both lawmakers are intimately familiar with the state prison mess.

Romero recently helped conduct committee hearings that documented problems, ranging from gladiator-style combat among inmates promoted by sadistic prison guards, to whistle-blowers being intimidated and, in some cases, being demoted for disclosing prison corruption.

Leno, chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, correctly believes that shining some badly needed light on these and other scandalous situations is the best and most economical way to help ensure they don't become a permanent part of the prison culture.

That corrosive culture has developed because a code of silence among prison guards and prison officials. Absent unrelenting, independent scrutiny, which the media can provide, that culture will get even worse.

In 1996, the Department of Corrections applied for emergency regulations that effectively shut the media out of prisons. The restrictions were approved in such rapid fashion that Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) concludes: "The fix was in."

The Department of Corrections was miffed at coverage of a prisoner being scalded at Pelican Bay Prison and also claimed the media were glamorizing criminals. So the department made it exceedingly difficult for reporters to set up interviews with specific prisoners. Journalists were prohibited from taking into prison any tools of their trade, such as paper, pens, pencils, recording devices and source materials. Last year, the department cut visitation days in half, further restricting what minimal access the media have to prisoners.

Never mind that the prison guards union supported the first two media access bills, citing "the utmost professionalism" of journalists and denying any breaches of security. The union took no position on the third measure.

The Department of Corrections wants to keep the lid on. Lawmakers and the governor should pry it open.

The measures by Romero and Leno would override the emergency regulations, yet would allow the department to deny or limit media access in special cases. Both bills are supported by the CNPA, the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Civil Liberties Union. They dovetail with the governor's campaign promise to open government business to the public. They deserve prompt enactment.


As of October 1, 2003 there were 161, 917 people incarcerated in the State of California at an average cost $26,125 per person per year. It is currently estimated that the Department of Corrections will overspend its budget this year by $544 million dollars which is largely due to pay increases, overtime, and other benefits granted to the prison guards union (CCFPOA) by former Governor Gray Davis.

Eight percent of incarcerated persons are female whose incarceration costs are slightly higher those of men due to greater medical needs. Several thousand women are currently serving life sentences, mostly for convictions involving domestic violence or passive participation in crimes committed by men. The recidivism rate for female lifers is LESS THAN 1%.. Women who have been sentenced to life terms simply do not reoffend. Nevertheless, Governor Davis bowed to the pressures of CCPOA and refused to approve parole for all but 3 battered women during his term: 2 women have been released and 1 awaits release in March.

Due to the draconian increases in sentencing, and the refusal to parole lifers the prison population has aged dramatically with attendant increases in illness and health care costs. For example, Helen Loheac is 81 years old and has served nearly 13 years for a conspiracy case in which no one was killed or injured in any way. Helen is transported to Riverside General Medical Center 3 times each week for kidney dialysis. It has cost the state approximately $750,000.00 for her treatment thus far.

Governor Schwarzenegger has visited The California Institution for Women previously and expressed empathy for the women recognizing that they do not pose a risk to society. In fact he stated that he would run for political office sometime in the future and would not forget about the women there.

The following suggestions would drastically reduce prison spending and pose no threat to public safety.

1. Release battered women as required by state law.
2. Grant clemency to the aged women who are chronically ill or handicapped
3. Release the terminally ill women immediately after diagnosis
4. Utilize drug treatment rather than incarceration
5. Uphold all parole recommendations of the Parole Board


Dear Senator:

It has come to my attention that since January 31, 2004, inmate visiting in the California Department of Corrections has been restricted to only two days a week. This latest penny wise and pound foolish cutback will not only create real hardship for the families involved, but it will also wind up costing the state money.

Most families come from long distances to visit inmates as the inmates are generally transferred away from the area in which they were arrested as a matter of policy. This means that with the rising costs of gasoline, and the already grotesquely inhospitable visiting conditions, it was already impossible for the majority of families to visit except on rare occasions, so clearly, with this new policy, even more people will be left out of the loop.

Yet while it has been shown that inmates who are able to stay in close contact with their families are way less likely to return to prison, this policy deliberately ignores this finding. Perhaps it is helpful to elucidate a bit on the present visiting conditions. At some prisons, visitors sleep in their cars overnight outside of the prisons so that they can get a place in line in the mornings that will allow them to only wait a couple of hours to be processed. At other prisons,
visitors come in two and a half to three hours before the visiting time (whether it be in the afternoon or morning) and wait in line in rain or snow, so that they may be processed. If they are even a few minutes late, the line is generally so long that they have to wait even longer, but even though it may be raining, visitors at most institutions are not allowed to bring umbrellas or wear mufflers or gloves of any kind.

While being processed through the numerous check-in stations, they are subjected to being treated much like cattle while officers bark orders at them to march forward, stay behind the line, change under wire brassieres (lest they set of the metal detector) turn around or bend over (to let officers assess if their clothing is too tight, too short, of the wrong color, or of too low a cut). During any of this time during the process of being given visiting slips, checking in through the different check ins including the metal detector (where the women must remove all metal form their under wire or hair and all visitors must remove their shoes and walk without them to the other side of a check in point in bare feet on a freezing filthy floor) it behooves each person to attempt to constrain their urine (very young and very
old alike) because if they do not, they have to wait in line all over again if they miss the turn in which they were called. This is always a challenge because the generally filthy and out of work bathroom facilities are few and far between, and so have long lines themselves.) Add to that the humiliation of being treated with distain and suspicion by virtually the entire prison staff; the inedible food in the vending machines (which has often made this particular visitor ill) for which you also have to wait in line, sometimes for hours; the constant harassment by officers if you allow yourself to display any spontaneous affection; officers who for some reason [usually prejudicial] decides to capriciously not to call the inmate you have come to visit; the meanly intrusive regulations about attire, behavior and demeanor which make the whole experience more nightmarish than fulfilling; and you have a recipe for discouraging even the most hardnosed visitor.

We know that our prisons are filled to over double their capacity as it is, yet, years ago, before this overcrowding, inmates were allowed visitors seven days a week. Now that we need even more visiting days to accommodate the overcrowding, the opposite has been dictated. It is clear that in California rehabilitation or any effort at the same is a
thing of the past. Prison education budgets have been slashed, and inmate’s rights, (originally aimed at curbing riots and promoting self-esteem for more effective reintegration into society) have been all but completely rescinded. Reintegration into society is no longer a concern, perhaps because the push is to keep all people convicted of crimes in prison indefinitely, but so far, we still have laws (the Three Strikes Law and the current parole policy with regard to Lifer inmates, notwithstanding) permitting some inmates to be released.

Clearly, those inmates who get visitors are easier to manage. They help to keep the rest of the prison population in line (at a time when riots are starting to resurface due to the deplorable conditions in the CDC) when there is a disturbance in the yard because they don’t want to miss the chance on seeing their families. The money that is spent by having those few officers necessary to monitor the visiting room, will be gotten back by having more manageable inmates, and inmates who are less likely to become part of the recidivism merry-go-round.

If there is anything you can do to counter this latest egregious wrong from going into effect, please consider not only the hardship it will cause for people who already have to stand in line, often in the heat without covering for three hours or more, but also the long term ramifications of such a policy making.

Our penal codes and our backward thinking policies have become the cause for much derision among more forward thinking European nations as well as in Canada. In my mind, their criticism is well taken. I worked as an academic instructor for the CDC for fourteen years, and my observation has been that our polices are mean-spirited and retributive at their core, rather than rehabilitative. Unfortunately, such policy making is counter productive. While it assures employment for correctional officers, it costs the tax payer exorbitant amounts of money that could be better spent on improving rather than exacerbating current prison conditions, not to mention on educating our youth before they wind up in prison by virtue of their poor education.

Please use your influence, not only to stop this present attack on the families of inmates, who generally have to bear the brunt of these policies, but to stop the attack on any rehabilitative policy making. California’s prison system deserves more scrutiny than it is getting.


Manuela Thiess


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