Radical media, politics and culture.

Prisons & Prisoners

Nuclear Resister writes:

Arrested for Peace? News of anti-war arrests wanted!

The Nuclear Resister newsletter Nukeresister
reports news of all anti-war and anti-nuclear arrests in North America, and
many around the world. Since 1980, we also encourage international support
for the people jailed as a result of these actions.

We need your help to gather and report this news!

DaaaihLoong writes
"Below is a statement from Barrilee Bannister, currently incarcerated in Coffee Creek Correctional FAcility in Oregon. Bannister was one of 78 women transferred from Oregon to a private, [i] male [/i] prison in Arizona, where they were sexually harassed, abused and raped by male staff members. She and the others contacted the media and initiated a lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America, resulting in their return to Oregon, an admission of guilt, a public apology and all lawyers' fees paid. A dozen of the offending guards also lost their jobs. Obviously, the Oregon Department of Corrections has not learned from CCA's blunder:

On Friday, Sept. 6, 2002, at approximately 7:05 am, correctional officer (CO) Bradly approached me while I was doing my laundry. I was wearing my red shorts, blue sweatshirt & white socks with shower shoes. CO Bradly stared at my chest for approximately 20 seconds until I asked him, "What are you looking at?" CO Bradly responded, "Go out to the corridor and help push meal carts." I said to him, "Sir, I'm doing my laundry. It's my day off. I cannot leave my laundry unattended nor can I go out to the corridor the way that I am dressed."

CO Bradly then stated, "Then go to your cell and put shoes & a bra on. Then go help."

hydrarchist writes
Horst Fantazzini, anarchist, robber, prison rebel, spent most of the last thirty years in prison. Last year he was eventually released into semi-liberty. On wednesday December 19th he was arrested, in the company of another anarchist, Carlo Tesseri, near a bank in Bologna and and charged with intent to commit robbery . Horst died of a heart attack in jail on December 24th. Carlo Tesseri remains incarcerated. Fantazzini was famous in Italy as a 'gentle robber' who eschewed violence against individuals. His time in prison intersected with the mass political unrest of the 1970s, during which he won reknown both for his refusal of the authoriatrian practices of the Red Brigades and his unrelenting resistance against the prison system. Enjoy.

"Interview with Horst Fanatazzini, a life in prison:
sentence completion date 2022

What is currently your legal situation and when do
you foressee yourself being able to get out of jail,
at least into semiliberty?

At the moment, my release should occur, more or less,
in 2022. In terms of typologocalical classification, I
think I've been filed in the category "dinosaurs and
tortoises". I think that beyond the freedom committees
of the anarchist milieu, the World Wildlife Fund
section on 'endangered species' should also take an
interest in me.....

hydrarchist writes "The following article was originally published on Counterpunch on September 7th.

Levelling and 9/11

On September 11, 1648, the Levellers submitted the Large Petition with 40,000 signatures to Parliament. The deed was decisive because it set in motion the terrible events that culminated four months later in the execution of Charles Stuart, King of England, and because the Levellers, the first popular democratic political party in European, if not world, history, announced their opposition to the enclosures of the commons, or the privatization of the English land.

It seems to be a pure coincidence that
the Large Petition and the attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin
Towers took place on the same day and month, though the former
was three and a half centuries earlier. The coincidence arises
like magic from the dull miasma of created amnesia. We have
forgotten the history of freedom and the commons. This is not
accidental either: the ruling class dumbs us down, and the dumbing
starts at the top.

"Anarchy Greece" anarchy writes:

Here is the English translation of a leaflet which was handed out to
tourists as they came off their planes at Larnaca airport last night. To
send wherever you like!


Before you begin your holiday basking on the beaches of this
beautiful island, we invite you to read the following:

The Cypriot State, while calling itself democratic, tries in every way
to obstruct and prevent each and every kind of social struggle and the
very act of doubting the State itself.

At this moment anarchist comrade George Karakasian has been a hostage
in the hands of this State since 27/08/02. The only 'crime' our comrade
has committed is that he contested not only the existence of the State
but also its logic of passivity, wage slavery, or 'enclosure' within
the artificial needs required for the preservance and survival not only
of the Cypriot State but of every other State and authority in general.

Last April, a period characterised by the massive and continuous
massacre of the Palestinian people by the Zionist murderers, George
Karakasian could not remain passive. Ignoring the lifestyle that wants
people to stay closed within a personal deadloc in any way be 'judged'
by so-called 'bourgeois legality' - but because we want to show the
dirt, hypocrysy and everything else that the word 'justice', the candy
they hold in their mouths every day, stands for. So in order to to
destroy the illusions which the law serves to foster:

Charge (1): 'Causing serious physical injury to a police officer': If
the symbolic grasp (showing up the hateful the role of the police
present) of the hat of a cop who later talked in front of the cameras
can be called 'serious physical injury', then what can we call the
capturing of the comrade by these cops, his being dragged inside the
home of the Israeli ambassador and continually beaten all over his body
by five of them shouting at him 'fuck your anarchy'. They also injured
his ear by pulling his earring. The extent of his injuries was such that
he was taken to hospital. The democratic procedure did not stop there.
When George Karakasian returned to the hospital next day to take his
case card this had accidentally disappeared. We have already clarified
that we did not present the charges in order to justify them. The
dignified attitude our comrade held in the court (something seen for the
first time in Cyprus) and the fact that he did not ask for it to show
him any clemency, shows exactly what are the feelings of anarchists for
so-called 'bourgeois justice' are.

We as comrades of anarchist George Karakasian feel sorrow of course for
the fact that he is imprisoned by the detestable Cyprus State, but at
the same time we have the joy of knowing that our comrade remains strong
and knows the impact his acts will have in the future in the
revolutionary movement of the island and in future struggles generally.
Our solidarity until the day of the sentence (4/09/02 but which will
also continue later) will take those dimensions it has to, in order that
all those who express the misery of power understand that the attack
they have started against anarchists and all those in struggle will not
remain unanswered.




For communication: exegersi2002

hydrarchist writes Some factual background is useful to grasp the context of the interview with Toni Negri which follows."

Paolo Persichetti was born in Rome in 1962. He became politically involved in the wake of the movement of 1977, and was arrested in May 1987 for involvement in the BR-UCC -- one of the two factions that emerged from a split in the Red Brigades in the early 1980s. He returned to liberty two years later, the period of prevetitive detention having run its course. Convicted in 1991 to twenty two years and six months in prison, he found refuge in Paris where he was arrested in 1993 and then targetted with an extradition order. He returned to freedom in January 1995 thanks to a public campaign in his favour (including hunger strikes by prominent individuals such as the Abbey Pierre).

In what appears to have been a gift between right-wing regimes, the new French government of Jean Pierre Rafarin has brought to a swift end the so-called 'Mitterand policy' which protected political dissidents from extradition. Persichetti, now a professor of political science in University of Paris VIII and living openly in Paris, was arrested last saturday and immediately transported to Turin, Italy. According to sources in the Minsitry of the Interior, now presided over by Nikolas Sarkozy, he is only the first. At least fifteen others are believed to be under threat, including Giorgio Pietrostefani, a former leader of Lotta Continua sentenced some years ago for the murder of the police Commissioner Calabrese (central protagonist in the Piazza Fontana investigation, responsible for the death of Pinelli, the incident that inspired 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist' by Dario Fo).

"Yelensky's Fable: A History of the ABC"

Matthew Hart

For close to a century, anarchists have united under the banner of the
Anarchist Black Cross for the sole purpose of supporting those comrades
imprisoned for their commitment to revolution and to the ideas of anarchism.
Who would have suspected that a few men supplying boots, linen, and clothing
to deportees in Bialostock would have been the meager beginnings of an
organization that has spread throughout the globe?(1)

Recently statements
have been made, referring to the history of the Anarchist Black Cross as
mere folklore. While I admit the history of this organization seems evasive
at the surface level, a deeper search for the organization's history
uncovers a rich amount of information that is far from folklore or fairy
tales. This article is just a small amount of the history that has been
discover in just a couple of years of research. Hundreds of pages filled
with facts regarding the history of the organization is presently being
assembled by members of the Los Angeles Branch Group of the Anarchist Black
Cross Federation in hopes of one day printing this information in books,
pamphlets, etc. We present the information in hopes of bringing unity and
knowledge within the ranks of those who struggle for the support of
political prisoners throughout the world.

Anonymous Comrade writes "Austin Anarchist Black Cross recently published as a pamphlet this paper by Vikki L.:"


Within the scant research published about prisoner activism and instances of
resistance, women are nearly invisible. Although women in prison comprise
under six percent of the nations prison population, their numbers are
increasing more rapidly than those of their male counterparts: between 1990
and 2000, the rate of female incarceration increased 108%.1 However, the
interest in women prisoners' struggles against the prison-industrial complex
remains much lower than that of male prisoners'.

Medical Care

One pressing issue for women prisoners is the lack of or poor medical care they receive. While all prisoners face poor medical care, prison administrations
often ignore or neglect the particular health care needs of women prisoners.
That the majority of lawsuits filed by or on behalf of women in prison are for
inadequate medical services testifies to the importance placed on health care
and treatment.1 Even prison wardens agree that several of the particular needs
of pregnant women "have yet to be dealt with in any of the facilities,"
including adequate resources to deal with false labors, premature births and
miscarriages; lack of maternity clothing; the requirement that pregnant inmates
wear belly chains when transported to the hospital; and the lack of a separate
area for mother and baby.2 Pregnant women are also not provided with the
proper diets or vitamin supplements, given the opportunity to exercise or
taught breathing and birthing techniques. The director of Legal Services for
Prisoners with Children, Ellen Barry, accused the prison system of a "shocking
disregard of basic humanity that I saw reflected in the type of treatment to
which pregnant women were subjected." One horrifying example is that of a
twenty-year-old woman who was almost five months pregnant when incarcerated.
Soon after, she began experiencing vaginal bleeding, cramping and severe pain.
She requested medical assistance numerous times over a three-week period, but
there was no obstetrician on contract with the prison. She was finally seen by
the chief medical officer, an orthopedist, who diagnosed her without examining
her physically or running any laboratory tests, and given Flagyl, a drug that
can induce labor. The next day, the woman went into labor. Her son lived
approximately two hours.3

Dr. Patricia Garcia, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Northwestern
Universitys Prentice Womens Hospital, has stated that shackling a laboring
mother "compromises the ability to manipulate her legs into the proper position
for necessary treatment. The mother and babys health could be compromised if
there were complications during delivery such as haemorrhage or decrease in
fetal heart tones."4 Despite these dangers, women continue to be shackled in
the name of security. In an interview with Amnesty International, one woman
described giving birth while an inmate in Chicago. Her legs were shackled
together during labor and, when she was ready to birth, "the doctor called for
the officer, but the officer had gone down the hall. No one else could unlock
the shackles, and my baby was coming but I couldnt open my legs."5

In addition to medical ignorance/neglect by staff, women who have given birth
are not only immediately separated from their newborns, but, in the name of
security, are sometimes subjected to vaginal exams despite the risk of

Pregnancy is not the only specifically female medical concern ignored by prison
officials. Prevention, screening, diagnosis, care, pain alleviation and
rehabilitation for breast cancer are virtually non-existent in prisons. In
1998, a study at an unnamed Southern prison found that seventy percent of the
women who should have had mammograms under standard medical protocol had not
been tested. Although many of the women were at high risk because of family
histories, they were not provided with a clinical breast exam, information or
basic education on self-examination upon admittance.7

Not only are the particular health care needs of women ignored or dismissed,
but health care in general is often inadequate or life-threatening.8 In
February 2000, Wisconsin prisoner Michelle Greer suffered an asthma attack and
asked to go to the Health Services Unit (HSU). When the guard and captain on
duty contacted the nurse in charge, he did not look at Greer's medical file,
simply instructing her to use her inhaler (which was not working). Half an
hour later, Greer's second request to go to HSU was also ignored. After
another half hour, Greer was told to walk to HSU but collapsed en route. When
the nurse in charge arrived, it was without a medical emergency box or oxygen.
A second nurse arrived with the needed emergency box, but again with no oxygen.
Forty-five minutes after her collapse (and less than two hours after her
initial plea for medical help), Greer died.9

However, women have been active about trying to change their sometimes
life-threatening medical neglect. The most successful and well-known
prisoner-initiated project organized around health care is the AIDS Counseling
and Education Project (ACE) at Bedford Hills. AIDS is the leading cause of
death among U.S. prisoners, being five to ten times more prevalent in prison
than in the outside society.10 In 1999, the New York State Department of
Health found that the rate of HIV infection among women entering the New York
State Correctional Facilities was nearly twice that of their male
counterparts.11 In 1987, women at the maximum-security Bedford Hills
Correctional Facility in New York, motivated by watching their friends die of
AIDS and by the social ostracism and fear of people with AIDS, started ACE.12

ACE founders hoped to educate and counsel their fellow inmates about HIV/AIDS
as well as help to care for women with AIDS in the prison infirmary. While the
prison superintendent, Elaine Lord, gave the group permission for the project,
ACE continually faced staff harassment and administrative interference. For
instance, because both Kathy Boudin and Judith Clark, alleged members of the
Weather Underground, were active ACE members, the group was constantly
monitored and sometimes prevented from officially meeting. The fear that the
one-to-one peer counseling sessions would lead to inmate organizing and the
staff's own ignorance and fear of HIV/AIDS led to staff harassment and
interference. Educators from the Montefiore Hospital holding training sessions
were banned from the facility for suggesting that the Department of
Correctional Services lift its ban on dental dams and condoms.13 A year after
its formation, ACE members were prohibited from meeting at its regular time, to
use its meeting room, give educational presentations or to refer to themselves
as "counselors."14

Despite these setbacks, the members of ACE not only managed to implement and
continue their program, but also received a grant for a quarter million dollars
from the AIDS Institute and wrote and published a book detailing the groups
history and its positive impact on women with AIDS as a guide for other prison
AIDS programs. One interesting aspect is that despite ACE's success, male
prisoners attempting to set up similar programs at their facilities continue to
meet with administrative resistance and retaliation.

Other women political prisoners have also focused on the AIDS crisis behind
bars. Marilyn Buck, for example, started an AIDS education and prevention
program in California.15 However, with the exception of ACE at Bedford Hills,
researchers and scholars have either largely ignored these programs or
overlooked the difficulties and administrative harassment faced by those
organizing around HIV/AIDS issues in prison.

Women have also worked individually and without the auspices of administrative
approval to change their health care. Until her recent death, Charisse Shumate
worked with her fellow inmates with sickle-cell anemia to understand the
disease and the necessary treatments.16 She also advocated the right to
compassionate release for any prisoner with less than a year to live and was
the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit Shumate v. Wilson.17
Unfortunately, Shumate herself died at CCWF, away from family and friends,
because the Board of Prison Terms recommended clemency rather than
compassionate release. Governor Gray Davis refused to approve the Board's
recommendation.18 Four years before her death, Shumate wrote : "I took on
[the battle] knowing the risk could mean my life in more ways than oneAnd yes,
I would do it all over again. If I can save one life from the medical
nightmare of CCWF Medical Department then its well worth it."19 Her work did
not cease with her death. Women who had worked with her continue the task of
teaching others how "to understand their labwork and how to chart their
results, keep a medical diary, hold these people accountable to what they say
and do to them."20 Sherrie Chapman, one of the twenty-six inmates who
testified in Shumate v. Wilson, became the primary plaintiff in a class-action
suit over medical conditions as well as filing a civil suit charging the CDC
with cruel and unusual punishment after waiting over a decade for cancer

Just as scholars and researchers have ignored women's organizing around
HIV/AIDS, they have also ignored the struggles of individual women for adequate
health services and support. The works of ACE, Marilyn Buck, Charisse Shumate
and other women may not be as dramatic as a work strike or a boycott, but they
nonetheless address crucial issues facing women in prison and contradict the
notion that women do not and cannot network and organize to change their



Medical Care

1 Belknap, Joanne. "Programming and Health Care Accessibility for
Incarcerated Women." States of Confinement: Policing, Detention and Prisons.
Joy James, ed. New York: St. Martins Press, 2000. 112.

2 Boudouris, James. PhD. Parents in Prison: Addressing the Needs of Families.
Lanham, MD: American Correctional Association, 1996. 11.

3 "Inside the Womens Prisons of California." Revolutionary Worker #911.
15 June 1997. http://www.rwor.org/a/v19/910-19/911/prison.htm. Cites Ellen
Barry's paper "Women Prisoners and Health Care: Locked Up and Locked Out."

4 Amnesty International. "Not Part of My Sentence : Violations of the
Human Rights of Women in Custody." March 1999. 11.

5 Ibid. 10.

6 Pollock-Byrne, Joycelyn. Women, Prison and Crime. Pacific Grove, CA:
Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., 1990. 147-152.

7 Cooper, Cynthia. "A Cancer Grows." The Nation. 6 May 2002.

8 In 1976, in Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court ruled that deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment. Despite
this ruing, prison health care continues to neglect and even jeopardize the
health of both its male and female inmates.

9 Pens, Dan. "Bag'm, Tag'm and Bury'm: Wisconsin Prisoners Dying for Health
Care." Prison Legal News, volume 12, #2. February 2001. 1-2.

10 The Women of the ACE Program of the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.
Breaking the Walls of Silence: AIDS and Women in a New York State
Maximum-Security Prison
. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 1998. 23.

11 Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association of New York.
"Women Prisoners and HIV." Cites Laura Manuschaks HIV in Prisons and Jails,
1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics. July 2001, revised 25 October 2001.

12 ACE, 41-44.

13 ACE, 54.

14 ACE, 66-67.

15 Resistance in Brooklyn. Enemies of the State: A frank discussion of past
political movements, victories and errors, and the current political climate
for revolutionary struggle within the u.s.a. with european-american political
prisoners Marilyn Buck, David Gilbert and Laura Whitehorn
. 1998. Marilyn Buck
is imprisoned for conspiracy to free Assata Shakur and armed bank robbery to
support the New Afrikan Independence Struggle. She is currently at FCI Dublin
in California.

16 The Fire Inside. (Newsletter of the California Coalition for Women
Prisoners) #4. May 1997.

17 Shumate v. Wilson was the class-action lawsuit filed by inmates at the
Central California Womens Facility and the California Institution for Women
against the state, alleging that those with cancer, heart disease and other
serious illnesses were being denied medical care and that the prisons medical
staff failed to protect the confidentiality of inmates with HIV and AIDS. In
August 1997, the California Department of Corrections agreed to a settlement in
which untrained prison employees would be barred from making judgments about
inmates medical care, the prisons would ensure medicines without undue lapses
or delays, and medical staff would offer preventive care, including pelvic and
breast exams, pap smears and mammograms. See "California Agrees to Settle
Inmates HIV Privacy Claims." AIDS Policy and Law; Prisons, Vol. 12, #17. 19
September 1997. On 31 July 2000, in light of evidence of tampering with
medical files in preparation for the assessors visits, the Department of
Health Services reports citing CCWFs failure to comply with regulations, and
the CDCs failure to retest prisoners who had received fraudulent lab results,
the plaintiffs attorneys submitted a motion to reopen discovery in the case.
The motion was denied by Judge Shubb and the case was dismissed in August 2000.
(See "Strategies for Change : Litigation."
http://www.prisonerswithchildren.org/litigation.ht m

18 Pierson, Cassie M. Memorial for Charisse Shumate. First Unitarian Church,
San Francisco, California. 23 September 2001.

19 Shumate, Charisse. "The Pros and Cons of Being a Lead Plaintiff." The
Fire Inside
. December 1997.

20 Letter from Central California Womens Facility. Dated 3 March 2002.

21 Thompson, A. Clay. "Cancer in the Cells." San Francisco Bay Guardian. 24
February 1999.



Separation from children is another major issue for women inmates. In 1998,
more than a quarter million children under the age of eighteen had a mother
behind bars.1 When a 1990 American Correctional Association survey asked women
prisoners to name "the most important person[s] in your life," fifty-two
percent identified their children.2 These numbers should warrant that all
women's prisons have family and parenting programs available. However, such is
not the case. Inmate mothers, many of whom were single heads of household
prior to incarceration, are left on their own to navigate the rocky path of
maintaining contact and custody of their children. Faith argues that this lack
is due to the idea that "no woman who has used drugs, worked as a prostitute or
otherwise shown 'deviant' or criminal tendencies can be a 'good' mother."3
Women prisoners are viewed as incapable of being good mothers and thus do not
automatically deserve the same respect and treatment accorded to mothers on the
outside. While this may be the case in some instances, such as drug-addicted
mothers, such a sweeping generalization ignores the fact that many inmate
mothers were single heads of household, the sole provider for their children
and may have been forced to rely on illegal means to support their family. The
view of the inmate mother as somehow unfit and unworthy has been used to
legitimate prison and social services policies regarding the children of
imprisoned parents. A 1978 directive of the Department of Social Services
specified that it can refuse imprisoned parents visits with their children
placed in foster care if it believes that visits will hurt the children.4 In
1997, the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (AFSA) was enacted, reducing
the time in which children may remain in foster care before parental rights are
terminated. Under this act, if an incarcerated parent does not have contact
with his or her child for six months, he or she can be charged with
"abandonment" and lose parental rights. If the child is in foster care for
fifteen of the last twenty-two months, the state can terminate parental rights.
Once these rights are terminated, parents have no legal relationship with their
children and are not permitted to have any contact with them.5

Maintaining family ties, however, is not an issue addressed by many of the male
prisoner activists. In this way, prison and its inmates reflect the outside
world and its expectations: women are expected to be the keepers of hearth and
home and, when a mother is incarcerated, the burden to maintain ties to her
children falls upon her. In 1998, over two-thirds of all women prisoners had
children under the age of eighteen, and, among them, only twenty-five percent
said that their children were living with the father. In contrast, ninety
percent of male prisoners with children under the age of eighteen said that
their children were living with their mothers.6 Ten percent of inmate mothers
in contrast to two percent of inmate fathers stated that their children were
living in a foster home, an agency or an institution.7 Thus, mothers in prison
are forced to navigate the legal maze of family law more often in order to
maintain contact with and retain legal custody of their children.

A 1993 survey of women prisoners in eight states and Washington, DC, found that
fifty-four percent of the inmate mothers interviewed were never visited by
their children.8 One major factor in this lack of visitation is distance:
More than sixty percent of inmate mothers were incarcerated more than one
hundred miles from their child's home. Less than nine percent were within
twenty miles of their child.9 However, the courts have reflected the opinion
that inmate mothers have forfeited their rights to see their children. In
1987, Pitts v. Meese determined that prisoners have no right to be in any
particular facility and may be transferred both within and out of state
according to the institution's needs.10 Such a decision gives prison
authorities the power to effectively sever a woman's ability to see her child.
Not only the distance, but the travel time and expenses make frequent visits
less likely. For instance, while Barrilee Bannister is imprisoned in
Pendleton, Oregon, her eight-year-old daughter lives with Bannister's relatives
in Gloversville, New York.11 "I'm lucky to see them every six or eight
months," writes Bannister.12 In almost every letter, she expresses her longing
for her daughter: "When I was arrested, she was four months shy of becoming
three years old. Ive missed the best years of her life. Shell be thirteen
and a half when I get out."13 However, Bannister still retains full custody
of her daughter, a rarity among inmate mothers.14 Distancing women from their
families is often used, effectively weakening, if not severing, a woman's ties
from her loved ones. Maintaining parental ties has not been won through
prisoner boycotts, work stoppages or hunger strikes, tools traditionally used
by male inmates to challenge their conditions.15 Rather, those women who want
family maintenance programs must work with their prison administrations, a far
less glamorous path for researchers and activist academics.

One example of such a program is the Childrens Center at the Bedford Hills
Correctional Facility in New York. The Center houses a nursery where inmates
and their babies are allowed to live together for the childs first year as
well as a program helping the new inmate parents "learn to be mothers."
Although it is staffed by inmates, the Center is administered by the Brooklyn
Diocese of Catholic Charities and funded by the state's Department of
Correctional Services.16 However, under the Center's auspices, inmates,
realizing the need for supportive programs for mothers, organized two parenting
courses for Bedford's inmates--one on infancy for new mothers and pregnant
prisoners and the other a ten-week course called "Parenting Through Films,"
with each week devoted to a new subject on growth and care for children.17
These were the prison's first courses both organized and taught exclusively by
inmates. Out of the Children's Center also came more far-reaching change.
Until 1983, children of prisoners placed in the New York State foster care
system did not have the legal right to visit their parents in prison. Inmates
at Bedford Hills who had been unable to have their children visit them because
of this formed the Foster Care Committee which, with the help of outside
advocates, led to new legislation not only giving prisoners with children in
foster care the same rights and responsibilities as parents who are not
incarcerated but also the right to monthly visits provided that the prison was
not too far away.18 In addition, inmates involved in the Children's Center
published a foster care handbook for women prisoners whose children had been
placed in the foster care system.19

The success of the Children's Center did not go unnoticed by the more
reform-oriented penal authorities: Modeled on the Children's Center, a similar
nursery at the Taconic Correctional Facility opened in 1990 with twenty-three
inmate mothers.20

That prisoners strive to maintain contact with their children and other family
members can also be a reason not to do anything that would label them as
"troublemakers" or "rabblerousers." "They [the prison staff and administration]
would attack people [advocating for reform] through their emotions," stated one
inmate at Bedford Hills. "Like the family would come in to visit somebody and
they wouldn't find the inmate's chart and tell the family they weren't there
and turn the family away at the gate."21 Another inmate claimed that prisoners
who publicly criticize the Bedford Hills personnel were often denied entry into
the facility's Family Reunion Program.22 Women inmates impregnated by prison
staff may also be denied participation in the nursery program solely because of
the father's status. Human Rights Watch found that two of the women they
interviewed who had been sexually assaulted and impregnated by prison staff
were denied entry.23 Thus, an inmate's desire to spend (more) time with her
child(ren) can also be used to dissuade her from organizing for change.

Women who give birth while incarcerated not only face the trauma of
immediate separation from their newborns but also administrative and social
service pressure to relinquish their new child. The case of Kebby Warner, a
pregnant woman imprisoned for a bad check, illustrates the institutional belief
that inmates cannot and should not retain custody, or even contact, with their

Warner, after having been misdiagnosed as having a stomach flu during her
first month in prison, was informed that she was pregnant. Luckily, Warner's
parents agreed to take care of the baby while she was incarcerated. After the
birth of Helen, Warner refused to passively accept the prison requirement that
separates mother and newborn after only one day: she refused to eat and thus
won two more days in the hospital with her child. When the guards finally
managed to separate them and bring her back to prison, she was told that if she
had wanted to have children, she should have stayed out of prison. This one
remark sums up the prevailing view of inmate mothers.

Although her parents had custody of her daughter, the pain and stress of
separation still weighed upon her mind, leading to anger and fights with other
inmates, disciplinary tickets and "the reputation of defiance," which resulted
in a denial of parole. With the death of her father, however, came another
loss: her mother, unwilling to care for a half-black baby alone, gave Helen to
the foster care system.

The law allows for the termination of parental rights after two years. In
Warner's case, this was certainly true. When her daughter was two years old, a
judge terminated Warner's parental rights on the grounds that she "neglected
and abused my child due to the length of my incarceration." When she started
to appeal this decision, her caseworker and the Family Independence Agency
threatened to place Helen with a new foster family who would adopt her
immediately, thus permanently sealing her file and preventing Warner from ever
being able to find her. Under this pressure, Warner finally signed an
affidavit relinquishing her rights as a parent.

However, this loss inspired Warner to action against the prison-industrial
complex's policy of breaking up families: she is currently forming a support
organization for incarcerated parents. The organization she envisions "will
stand at the courthouse and protest the kidnapping of a child that deserves to
know who her mother/father is."24 Thus, although the prison-industrial complex
negatively impacts families and severs family ties in an attempt to break the
individual inmate, women both collectively and individually resist such




1 Greenfeld and Snell, 8.

2 Owen.120. Cites American Correctional Association's "The Female Offender:
What Does the Future Hold?" Washington, DC: St. Mary's Press, 1990.

3 Faith. 204. Cites Serapio R. Zalba's Women Prisoners and Their Families.
Sacramento: Department of Social Welfare and Corrections, 1964.

4 Henriques, Zelma Weston. Imprisoned Mothers and Their Children: A
Descriptive And Analytical Study
. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
1982. 132.

5 Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association of New York. "The
Effects of Imprisonment on Families." 3.

6 Morash et al. 1.

7 Snell, Tracy L. "Women in Prison : Survey of State Prison Inmates, 1991."
U.S. Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 6.

8 Human Rights Watch. 18. Cites Barbara Bloom and David Steinhart's Why
Punish the Children? A Reappraisal of the Children of Incarcerated Mothers in
. San Francisco, CA: National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1993.
Table 2-9.

9 Ibid. Cites Bloom and Steinhart. Table 2-10.

10 Pollock-Byrne. 173. Cites Pitts v. Meese, 684F. Supp. 303 (D.D.C. 1987).

11 Letter from Barrilee Bannister. Postmarked 26 January 2001.

12 Letter from Barrilee Bannister. Dated 2 March 2001.

13 Letter from Barrilee Bannister. Dated 8 March 2002.

14 Letter from Barrilee Bannister. Dated 2 March 2001.

15 This is not to say that women prisoners do not employ tactics of
disruption. In 1971, women at Alderson Prison staged a four-day work stoppage
in solidarity with the uprising at Attica. The1975 demonstration at the North
Carolina Correctional Center for Women protested not only "oppressive working
atmospheres," but also "inaccessible and inadequate medical facilities and
treatment, and many other conditions." (Kurshan, Nancy. "Women and
Imprisonment in the United States: History and Current Reality." Monkeywrench
Press, 25)

16 Morash et al. 8.

17 Harris, Jean. Stranger in Two Worlds. NY: MacMillan Publishing Company,
1986. 286.

18 Boudin, Kathy. "The Children's Center Programs of Bedford Hills
Correctional Facility" in Maternal Ties: A Selection of Programs for Female
. Cynthia L. Blinn, ed. Lanham, MD: American Correctional
Association, 1997. 68.

19 The success of the programs at Bedford Hills is documented by books,
articles and manuals written by its inmate participants. Unlike the writings
and publications of most prisoner activists, these documents are more widely
accepted and acknowledged by general society.

20 Boudin, 84. The American Correctional Association has published several
books on mothers in prison, giving the misleading impression that there are
more than enough programs and facilities which encourage family contact.

21 Diaz-Cotto, 347. Cites anonymous interview, New York City. 15 April 1989.

22 Ibid, 366-7. Cites anonymous interview, New York City. 22 March 1989.

23 Human Rights Watch, 298.

24 Letter from Kebby Warner. Dated 29 April 2001.



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