Conditions for Women in California

March, 2004
Location of Prisoner: 

Dear PARC,

My name is ___, and I am currently incarcerated at the ___ located in California. I am but one of the many women here who are concerned about and frankly tired of the poor living accomondations and the utter disregard for our health and safety by those running this facility. I am writing to you on this date (3-21/04) in hopes of attaining guidance, direction, and /or assistance in resolving the dilemma at hand in an appropriate and timely manner. As of this date many of the female inmates have approached various Sergents, Lieutenants, the Captain, and Correctional Counselors(I,II, and  III) to little or no avail.

I will attempt to be as brief as possible in giving  you examples of a few of our problems. Keep in mind, this has escalated over time, our daily lives are full of such circumstances, and I believe whole heartedly that these problems will continue to be ignored, swept under a rug, and progress if not addressed with force.

Sanitation and Living Conditions
I realize overcrowding is a common factor of institutions, however cramming excessive amounts of people into 4 man rooms is unacceptable. I have no understanding of why people continue to be endorsed to a facility that is beyond capacity and falling apart, literally. There is a constant issue of availability of basic necessities such as sanitary napkins, tampons, and toilet tissue. Canteen now sells feminine hygiene products due to shortage. That in itself is an outrage. ___ is an institution of very old buildings which require a great deal of maintainance cleaning. We are provided with very little cleaning supplies if any, and at times, have been forced to clean bathrooms with our own state issued bar soap and water. 
Understandable for maybe a third world country, but not here in the United States.

It is an ongoing battle and hassle to receive medical attention. Response to a sick call slip can take up to a month and often requires several slips before an inmate is acknowledged. On the chance that a medical attention is an immediate need, the severity of the inmates health is determined by custody staff (correctional officer) before medical will even take notice of a situation. Custody staff are not trained medical personal and I strongly disagree that health of an inmate should be determined by someone with no medical credentials. On one account an older woman with blood pressure problems and diabetes was denied medical attention because her housing staff didn't think she looked sick. She passed out due to a very low blood sugar level, then and only then did she receive medical attention. Another inmate has been bleeding rectally for more than two weeks  and told to pu in a co-pay and wait to be helped. She too passed out due her condition. It is insane that such extreme situations must take place before medical complications will be noticed and determined as valid health issues! Not to mention the numerous cases of infections that are not treated and forgotten.Even chronic care patients are being charged for follow-ups. 

The bacterial infections are acquired from the drinking water and food prepared in the water. _____ is a facility which at one time was a Naval Hospital and barracks. These buildings are at least 50 years old, possibly alot older, and in poor shape to say the least. The condition of the pipes could very well be one of the causes for the the polluted water. ___ provides their inmate population with bottled water because their water is unsuitable. Here at ___ we are offered bottled water in canteen. Same as the tampons, and sanitary napkins, this does no good to inmates who receive no outside financial help. Those running the facility cannot even provide an accurate date in which the filters for our drinking fountains were changed. A large number of us here use a sock to cover our shower heads when we shower because the sock serves as a filter. It's shocking and appalling that a small gym sock is entirely the color of rust after a 5-10 minute shower.

Very old to say the least. Our dorms in Women's Unit house approximately 100 women per dorm. Each unit has 5 showers, sinks, and toilets to accommodate everyone in that unit. At any given time we can expect AT LEAST one of each to be broken, flooded, and leaking. In my dorm we have had 2 broken toilets, a plugged sink, and two broken showers. My first two days on this unit ,we were walking through  a river of water, urine, and feces. This is  still a problem , staff is aware, and in the meantime we tend to the flooding and maintainance of these filthy conditions ourselves.

I could continue but my goal was mainly to paint a picture and grab attention. Staff of all levels are aware of these conditions and are making no visible effort to resolve these issues in an acceptable timely manner. Appeals have been submitted, however the process is very slow and there is no guarantee that the appeals won't be denied. When inspected by ___ we are neither seen, nor heard. Similar to the way abusive foster parents lock away their ward while they portray a loving and healthy environment.

It is vital that you understand that the majority of the women here feel just as strongly as I do, however they are inclined to "keep their mouths shut"  due to intimidation and retaliation from institution staff. A lot of us here at  ___ are "short termer,"  meaning  two years or less, and would endure this mess rather than risk "lost" paperwork or losing our scheduled date. It is highly common for paperwork to be lost especially on people who use their voice. I refuse to remain scared on the sidelines. We are suffering injustice here at the ____. I'm using my voice  to ask for help and speak up for  myself and my peers who are still too timid to make a stand.I will not be intimidated or back down from what I believe in.

In closing, I respectfully request any form of assistance, guidance, and direction from your organization.