California Institution for Women, June 1: Sometime between 6:30 and 7 p.m., several vehicles simultaneously arrived and parked along the side of the road running parallel to the eastern face of the prison and recreational yard. Shortly thereafter, at least 50 people appeared in the road, making a lot of noise. Prisoners migrated to the edge of the field. Some time passed before we were able to collectively process what turned out to be an unexpected display of compassion.
Immediately following our realization that these were some sort of activists choosing not to turn a blind eye to our plight, came the heart-breaking awareness that they were also probably the families of the women who recently died here. Little kids came carrying epitaph signs, with a different name for each of the women that passed last year. They carried other signs protesting the “Correctional Industry,” or with slogans like “CARE not CAGE.” The group loudly beat a drum as they marched to the nearest point of proximity to us. A woman with a megaphone prompted the two groups, convicts and civilians, to yell short phrases in unison such as: “It’s not suicide!” and “We want out alive!” They said many times that they’re fighting for us on the outside and that we have not been forgotten. Their sincere gestures meant a lot to us.
The demonstration was peaceful but emotionally overwhelming; many people on both sides of the fence were crying. Generally, I try to ignore the injustices of a judicial system often controlled by inhumane government agendas because it all seems so far beyond my control. I assumed the rest of the world was ignoring me back.
I am relieved to know that this mass incarceration trend is being scrutinized by the public and that many people out there are advocating for change. Suddenly, the situational dilemma in which we live does not seem as hopeless.