From the July-August 2015 issue of News & Letters
Chowchilla, Calif.—Prisoner-advocates in Central California Women’s Facility initiated a health information exchange: trauma, surviving it and dealing with the aftermath; gender and sexuality, including Transgender issues; HIV and HEP C; harm reduction; disability health; advocacy and rights for those with chronic illness; family unity and reconciliation.
The June 6 event was huge. California Coalition for Women Prisoners members from the outside co-facilitated tables with CCWP members from the inside.
Many who have been writing for The Fire Inside for years finally had a chance to meet. People from inside, as well as members of Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project, staffed a Transgender table.
One of the many information tables advocated being an ally against bullying. The trauma table also included information about dealing with suicide and healing from suicide attempts. A harm reduction card, prepared by prisoners earlier, addressed how to recognize overdose and what one can do within the prison. We had pamphlets on diabetes, heart health and strokes. Juvenile Offenders Committee, one of the sponsoring organizations, had its own table.
One of the prisoners, an LWOP (sentenced to life without parole) who was recognized by everyone there, said that she lives her life by paying it forward every day.
Many other LWOP prisoners were organizers of the event, setting up tables, staffing them, bringing people to them, and helping with cleanup. The Living Chance Story Project is featuring stories about people who have an LWOP sentence to present them as real people anyone may know.
Throughout the day a band was playing. It made for a fair-like atmosphere, letting everyone feel more like we were attending a community event. People even got to dance.
The day was not just sharing information about health, but acknowledging people taking care of each other under the worst conditions. Such care does exist in the prison and it needs support to strengthen and reinforce it.
It felt like a huge success and everyone wants to know when we will hold another one.
—An event organizer