Demand Justice for Erika Rocha: Attention to Abuses and Escalating Suicide Epidemic in CA Women’s Prison

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APRIL 25 2016 Press Release from California Coalition for Women Prisoners:

Advocates demand justice for Erika Rocha, who was 35 years old and just one day away from her Youth Parole Hearing last week when she committed suicide. Erika was incarcerated at the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona. The suicide rate at CIW is more than eight times the national rate for people in women’s prisons and more than five times the rate for all California prisons. In the week since Erika’s death, another suicide was reported and at least 22 more people transferred to suicide watch. The suicide watch unit is overcrowded and CIW is placing people on “overflow” in the SHU (“Security Housing Unit”).

California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) has released a statement highlighting the abuses that Erika suffered at the hands of the criminal legal system, as well as a list of demands to prevent similar tragedies from occurring and a petition to the California Legislature. CCWP is also supporting Erika’s family in raising funds for funeral services.

Erika was 14 years old when she was charged as an adult. Interrogated by police and prosecutors and threatened with a double life sentence for attempted murder, Erika pled to 19 to Life. Erika was 16 years old when she was sent to state prison. Prison staff placed her in solitary to “protect her” until she was 17, but she told CCWP that guards admitted to keeping her in solitary to protect the prison because she was too young to legally be there. At the time of her death, Erika was serving her 19th year in prison following two years in juvenile hall. She suffered from deplorable treatment for mental health issues attributable to her incarceration as a youth, including at least four indefinite terms of 2-3 years  in solitary confinement.

“We are continuing to gather information, but we know that the day before her death, Erika was released from a suicide watch unit and placed in a mental health unit where CIW is still required to take precautions to prevent deaths,” said Colby Lenz, CCWP member. “Multiple institutions, including CIW and CDCR, are responsible for this tragedy. We demand a full investigation into the ongoing crisis and high suicide rate at CIW. We ask the California Legislature to order the Office of the Inspector General to take action immediately.”

CCWP Program Coordinator, Windy Click, who met Erika in prison when she was 19, said, “Erika was always seeking help, she was lost inside an adult facility not knowing what the future held. When she asked for help they didn’t bother to help her.”

“Erika’s death is a painful example of how the criminal justice system is broken and therefore breaks people. They did this to her. She obviously didn’t see any future for herself,” said another friend of Erika’s who was also incarcerated in state prison at 16.

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Please see the list of demands and request for help below 1

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July 23rd Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement- Locations & Details

Thursday, July 23 ACTIONS by location (alphabetical order)

Arcata/Bayside, CA – Boston, MA – Chicago, IL – Culver City / Los Angeles, CA – Naples, FL – New York, NY – Oakland, CA – Philadelphia, PA – Pittsburgh, PA – San Diego, CA – San Jose, CA– Santa Cruz, CA – Santa Monica, CA – Thunderclap (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr)

If you don’t see your locale listed here, click HERE to read the entire post.  If you still don’t see your locale, we haven’t received the details yet or YOU just might need to organize a simple action where you are!!

Statewide Coordinated Actions To End Solitary Confinement (SCATESC) has a PHSS Facebook Event page.  SCATESC’s growing list of Co-sponsors and Endorsers is below.

July 23 Locations & Details (so far)

ARCATA / BAYSIDE, CA:
BreakingDownTheBox_July23 FlyerOn Thursday evening, July 23rd, come to the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship to watch the excellent new film ‘Breaking Down the Box’ (40 min). We’ll have refreshments and discussion afterwards with KHS
U radio host Sista Soul and other special guests! The film event is hosted by the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Social Action Committee and PARC, Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community (Eureka).

Earlier in the day (location & time will be posted soon), join us in Arcata. We’ll hand out literature for people to get educated and involved now to STOP THE TORTURE that is solitary confinement.  We will also be promoting the Agreement to End Hostilities.

HERE‘s the Arcata flier!
Arcata Action Details
Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm PST
Location: The Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 24 Fellowship Way, Bayside, CA  95524
For more info, call  707-267-4249
Contact Name: Verbena
Contact Email: phssreachingout@gmail.com
Facebook event
: https://www.facebook.com/events/1607915476127367/

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS:
The Coalition for Effective Public Safety – CEPS is engaging in public actions the 23rd of each month to bring attention to the 80,000+ people held in solitary confinement across the U.S. on any given day and to end solitary confinement. This date emphasizes the 23 or more hours every day that people are kept in solitary confinement. Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS) has helped launch statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement in California following the Pelican Bay hunger strike initiated in 2013 by people incarcerated there in response to the deplorable conditions they were being held in. Monthly actions began in California in March 2015, and we started here in Massachusetts in June 2015.

Massachusetts is one of only three states where prisoners who commit disciplinary infractions can be placed in solitary confinement for up to ten years, even though the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for a ban on any solitary confinement that lasts longer than fifteen days.

This month we are hosting a documentary screening outside about solitary confinement. More details will be posted here soon.
Massachusetts Action Details

Time and Location: will be posted here soon
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coalition-for-Effective-Public-Safety-CEPS/353915588130873
Contact person: Rachel Corey
For info or to help plan future actions: director@cjpc.org

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS:
The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) estimates that 2,500 – 3,000 people are held in solitary confinement in Illinois on any given day. The Federal Bureau of Prisons plans to open Thomson Supermax Prison in Thomson, IL by the end of the year, bringing 1,500 new solitary cells to the state.

The United Nations considers solitary confinement beyond 15 days torture and has called for its absolute prohibition. Many people in Illinois and throughout the US have spent decades in solitary. We say NO MORE.

All those opposed to solitary confinement are invited to rally on July 23rd outside the Thompson Center, home of IDOC before marching to the Federal Building. We demand an end to the torturous practice in Illinois, by both the state and federal government. We demand that the Illinois legislature hold a hearing to investigate solitary confinement, or what they call “Segregation” or “Administrative Detention”. We demand Thomson close its doors, as Tamms did 2.5 years ago.

This action is in solidarity with anti-solitary activists in California who have been organizing actions, events, teach-ins, and more on the 23rd of every month as part of a statewide campaign to end solitary confinement. They’ve chosen the 23rd of the month because people held in solitary spend at least 23 hours/day in isolation.
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Learn more!  Read about Uptown People’s Law Center’s lawsuit against IDOC for their overuse of solitary confinement. Here’s
more info on Thomson Supermax. 
Chicago Action Details
Time: 5:00pm – 6:30pm CDT
Location: RALLY @
Thompson Center, 100 W Randolph St, Chicago, Illinois 60601, MARCH to Federal Building
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/511219215692757/

CULVER CITY / LOS ANGELES, CA:
July23_ LA
Two years have passed since people confined in California’s Pelican Bay State Prison initiated (on July 8) a 60-day hunger strike to protest the conditions associated with the prison’s “security housing unit,” or SHU.  Four years have passed since the initial hunger strike began on July 1.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) continues to claim that “there is no ‘solitary confinement’ in California’s prisons and the SHU is not ‘solitary confinement,'” but people inside the Pelican Bay State Prison’s security housing unit say they remain locked in for at least 23 hours per day.

At this event, we will present If the SHU Fits-Voices from Solitary Confinement, and follow with a session to:
* Share Stories
* Discuss Strategies to make meaningful change and
* Take Action!

“If the SHU Fits” is produced by Dramastage Qumran, LA Laborfest, & Public Works Improvisational Theatre, and supported by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), and the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS).

The event is a part of the Statewide Coordinated Actions to End Solitary Confinement, a call by prisoners in solitary to their supporters outside to STOP THE TORTURE with events on the 23rd of each month, signifying the number of hours prisoners are kept in solitary.
HERE‘s the Culver City/LA flier!
Culver City Action Details
Time: 7:30pm – 9:30pm PST
Location: Peace Center, West 3916 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA90230
Contact person: Andy Griggs

For info, call 310-704-3217 or email lalaborfest@gmail.com
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1453616404940842/

NAPLES, FLORIDA:
Demonstration in front of the Collier County Jail on the 23rd to End Solitary Confinement.  Details will be posted here soon!

NEW YORK, NY:
Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement invites you to a RALLY at UNION SQUARE on July 23rd.  (Meet by steps on  south side, by E. 14th and Broadway)

Every day in New York prisons and jails, there are more than 5,000 people in solitary confinement and other forms of extreme isolation. There, they spend 23 hours a day locked in a cell about the size of an elevator. In isolated confinement, people are left with nothing to do, no programs, no one to talk to, and no human touch. In these torturous conditions, people experience intense suffering and, often, severe psychological and physical damage. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture determined that keeping a person in solitary more than 15 days is torture; New York regularly holds people in solitary for months and years, and sometimes decades.

Join us on the 23rd of every month in the fight to end solitary confinement. We are joining allies around the country who are holding monthly actions based on the recommendation of people incarcerated in Pelican Bay prison who led the momentous hunger strikes in California.

People in solitary need you.
Together we can HALT solitary confinement and end torture in New York State.
New York City Action Details
Time: 6:00pm EST
Location: Union Square- meet by steps on south side, by E. 14th and Broadway
Contact email: caicny@gmail.com
Website: http://nycaic.org/

OAKLAND, CA:
Thursday evening, July 23rd, the San Francisco MIME TROUPE will perform at Oakland’s Lake Merritt in back of the bandstand.

Please come volunteer to help set up the model SHU (mock solitary confinement cell) beginning at 3:30 PM.

We will distribute information and people can get a feel for the small space that 10’s of thousands of people are confined to 23+ hours a day, often for years.

Please call Penny (cell:  415-412-1969) to let us know if you can be with us for this important date. As the trial in the Pelican Bay class action lawsuit approaches in December, the public needs to know current news and see the model SHU again.

END LONG TERM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT !!
Oakland Action Details
Time: 3:30pm– Set up mock SHU
           5:00pm– Distribute literature and show mock SHU
Location: Lake Merritt, in back of Edoff Memorial Band Stand, Oakland, CA 94610
Contact email: phssreachingout@gmail.com

Contact person: Penny
For more info, call 415-412-1969

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