These pages are written by women, about women. Here’s why.
How powerful is a voice when no one will hear the cries? “Everyone has a voice, but not
everybody has a platform,” said Tracy Brumfield. Brumfield is the founder of RISE Up News. She is one of the formerly incarcerated women featured in our “Over the Wall” section.
Her statement made me imagine someone alone in the woods surrounded by mountain-high trees. The person starts to scream at the top of their lungs, look- ing for a way out, but no one hears them. Not a soul understands the desperation of being separated from the rest of the world and not knowing if they will live or die in this dangerous environment.
All people know is that you strayed off the path. Only a few people wonder how you got lost. You start to wonder your- self how you got lost.
The woods are an unforgiving place. Some have come out the other side battered and abused but primed to help the world. Others stumble out more damaged and disconnected than be- fore. Some never make it out at all.
Women’s voices are growing loud around the world with the #NeverthelessshePersisted, RESIST and #MeToo movements. There is a segment of women who have suffered the same hardships as the women who start- ed these movements, but their voices are rarely heard. The men of San Quentin News are honored to give the pages of the third issue of Wall City to these incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women so we can hear their stories.
Charisse Shumate is one of the women whose stories can be found in these pages. Shumate helped change California’s prison healthcare system. She was the lead plaintiff in Shumate v. Wilson, the first ever class action lawsuit filed by women prisoners in California. Formerly incarcerated firefighter Amika Mota is also in these pages. She details some of the pain, struggles and joys she navigated in prison while she fought fires. We also hear the voices of the young women housed in Ventura Youth Correction Facility. They give us insight into the trials of reckoning with their
actions and growing up in an institution. In our legal section, Sara Kruzan shares her story of surviving violence only to be re-traumatized as she went in front of the parole board. Kruzan has become a parole success story—she now works as an advocate, preparing others for a positive parole hearing.
Some of these stories would not have come to fruition without the help of the California Institution for Women and the Department of Juvenile Justice Administrations. We thank them for getting the word out to the women within their institutions and facilitating getting us the stories. We could always be critical of the administration, but in fairness, they are juggling safety and security concerns with rehabilitation efforts. Once we understand that we are all an integral part of this system of incarceration, we can build the bridges that truly heal our society. This system tests everybody’s humanity—whether you are a prisoner or an administrator.
We also thank the California Coalition of Women Prisoners for their contribution to this project. It’s their continued work both inside and outside of prison that brings awareness to women’s issues. I thank all the contributors and advisers for making this issue possible. All your words and stories have challenged the flawed male belief system I grew up with of being self-centered, domineering and uncaring. Thank you for giving me insight into your trials and strengths. Let me say, I hear you.