Women in Prisons are often Women in Shadow

Archive for January, 2015

Race, Domestic Abuse and a Warning Shot: Marissa Alexander Released From Prison, But Still Not Free

Race, Domestic Abuse and a Warning Shot: Marissa Alexander Released From Prison, But Still Not Free

Published on


Race, Domestic Abuse and a Warning Shot: Marissa Alexander Released From Prison, But Still Not Free

Case illuminates ‘many ills in our justice system,’ activist says

Marissa Alexander gives a statement to the media after her sentencing in Jacksonville, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. Alexander, who claimed self-defense after prosecutors say she fired a gun at her estranged husband and his two sons, will be released from prison as part of a plea agreement for time served. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Mack)

Marissa Alexander, a domestic violence survivor and mother of three, was released from prison in Jacksonville, Florida on Wednesday after serving three years for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. She will serve another two years under house arrest.

“Today, after the sentence given by Judge [James] Daniel, my family and I can move on with our lives,” Alexander said in a statement following the hearing.

Initially facing 20 years in prison under Florida’s “10-20-life” rule, Alexander’s case focused national attention on the treatment of domestic abuse survivors by the justice system, particularly women of color, as well as Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

On Wednesday, her supporters and civil rights advocates—many of whom created the Free Marissa Campaign during her incarceration—said Alexander’s release from prison, while welcome, is not justice.

“One of the biggest issues and injustices Marissa’s prosecution and incarceration illuminates is the criminalization of women who defend themselves,” Ayanna Harris, co-organizer of the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander, told Common Dreams. “Marissa Alexander was bound at an intersection that illuminated many ills in our justice system, including mandatory minimum sentencing, the criminalizing of those who defend themselves, [and] inconsistent application of Stand Your Ground laws, just to name a few.”

Under House Arrest

“Marissa will be forced to be on strict home detention while being under surveillance for two years,” said Sumayya Coleman, co-leader of the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign. “This is by no means freedom in the sense we feel she deserves.”

While Alexander’s release from prison is a step in the right direction, Coleman said, what is needed next is “a systemic transformation that prevents black women and all survivors of domestic violence from experiencing the hostile and brutal treatment from policing, prosecution, and prison systems that Marissa has endured.”

Under house arrest, Alexander will have to wear an ankle bracelet that monitors her location through GPS tracking. She will be responsible for the $105 weekly cost of using the ankle bracelet, a total of $10,920 over the two years, and will be forbidden from leaving her house except for attending work, church, her children’s

“One of the biggest issues and injustices Marissa’s prosecution and incarceration illuminates is the criminalization of women who defend themselves.”
—Ayanna Harris, Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Now

school, or legal or medical appointments.

Though supporters have collected funds to offset some of the collective costs of Alexander’s house arrest, journalist Maya Schenwar recently explained how these electronic restrictions serve to “prisonize” her home.

“Instead, the ‘guards’ are satellites, their gaze always present, and they don’t even blink,” Schenwar said.

Two other factors in Alexander’s case that cannot be disassociated from her punishment, observers say, are her race and gender. As Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of women’s rights group UltraViolet, and Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, wrote for MSNBC:

Marissa’s early release isn’t true justice. Nor is her close call with a near-life sentence some mishap that could happen only in Florida’s courts.

For four years – three spent in prison and one under house arrest – Marissa had been fighting a losing battle for her freedom. She had three strikes against her the second she pulled that trigger: she is black, she is a woman, and she is a domestic violence survivor.

“It is egregious that many states have adopted Stand Your Ground legislation that is not protecting victims of domestic abuse,” Harris told Common Dreams. “We must examine why states were comfortable with adopting legislation that would protect those who killed others in the name of self-defense, but not those who in protecting their own lives valued the life of those inflicting harm.”

Institutional Challenges

No one was hurt the night that Alexander fired a gun to fend off an attack from her estranged husband, 36-year-old Rico Gray. The bullet ricocheted off the wall behind him and hit the ceiling. She called it a “warning shot.”

The case came shortly after George Zimmerman’s acquittal for murder in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. State Attorney Angela Corey’s aggressive prosecution of Alexander for a lesser charge sparked protests against both the individual case and the larger issues it represented.

During Alexander’s sentencing in May 2012, Florida State Rep. Corrine Brown took part in a courtroom protest, saying State Attorney Angela Corey had overcharged Alexander in a case of institutional racism.

“Where is the compassion? Where is the justice?” Brown said after the sentencing. “It does not stand today in Jacksonville and is unacceptable.”

“Three years is not mercy and 20 years is not justice,” Brown added. “If there ever was a stand-your-ground case, it was this one.”

In June 2014, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a Warning Shot bill into law, extending the protections of Stand Your Ground to those who threatened to use force without falling under the state’s 10-20-life law.

That Scott authorized that legislation, “a bill that was drafted with Marissa in mind, without adding any retroactive language to protect Marissa was another injustice,” Harris said. “To think that if Marissa were to fire the warning shot today, the State of Florida would be prohibited from prosecuting her speaks more about the limitations of the law than Marissa’s actions on August 1, 2010.”

“Where is the compassion? Where is the justice?”
—Florida Rep. Corrine Brown

Moreover, Alexander is now a convicted felon, which takes away her ability to vote in Florida. As Katie McDonough at Salon points out:

And while Jacksonville happens to be one of three cities in Florida that does not require people convicted of felonies to check a box alerting employers of their record on an initial job application, hiring and workplace discrimination against people convicted of crimes continues to harm the ability of women like Alexander to support themselves and their families.

However, Alexander’s case is far from unique. The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, for example, found in a March 2013 study (pdf) that 67 percent of women who were imprisoned in the state for “killing someone close to them were abused by the victim of their crime.” In a separate study, 90 percent of women in one New York prison reported experiencing physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.

According to Chaudhary and Robinson, two-thirds of all women in prison in the United States are incarcerated for non-violent offenses, and 75 percent are survivors of domestic violence whose abusers were given lesser punishments. The authors continue:

While white women are more often treated as victims in domestic abuse cases and referred to services for help, women of color end up incarcerated as criminals and now make up the majority of the women in prison.

“No, this isn’t justice,” Chaudhary and Robinson write. “And neither is it for the other thousands of black and brown women who decided their lives matter enough to seek an escape from domestic violence, only to be told they’re wrong.”

Share This Article


Serving Life for Surviving Abuse

Serving Life for Surviving Abuse

Misconceptions about domestic violence can turn the justice system against survivors, often with devastating results.

PeJo/Shutterstock/The Atlantic

On August 3, 1995, 23-year-old Kelly Savage was making last-minute plans to leave her abusive husband, Mark Savage. A few weeks before, Kelly had contacted a battered-women’s organization for advice on how to leave her husband. “Act as normal as possible,” they told her, a common tactic given to women seeking to evade their abusive spouse’s suspicion. For the next few weeks, Kelly quietly amassed what she needed to leave—birth certificates for her two young children (Justin, who was three, and Krystal, who was almost two), medications, and clothes—all of which she hid so that Mark would not find them. She purchased bus tickets to Los Angeles dated the next day, August 4…

read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/01/serving-life-for-surviving-abuse/384826/

Free Marie Mason

The Free

Support social justice

and environmental activist Marie Mason!


About Marie

Marie Mason of Cincinnati, Ohio is a long time environmental and social justice activist and loving mother of two. On March 10th, 2008 she was arrested by FBI, Homeland Security and local police on charges related to two Earth Liberation Front actions that occurred in Michigan, in 1999, and 2000.

Marie’s case is one of the latest developments in what many have dubbed the “Green Scare,” a recent wave of government repression aimed at disrupting and discrediting grassroots environmental activism and criminalizing dissent.

Please send cards and well wishes to the address below.  Detailed mail guidelines can be found here.

Marie Mason #04672-061
FMC Carswell
Federal Medical Center
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127


View original post

Who will obtain justice for Alberto Nisman? | The Times of Israel

Who will obtain justice for Alberto Nisman? | The Times of Israel.

Indonesia upholds death sentence for British woman

Global News

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s highest court has upheld the death sentence for a British woman convicted of smuggling $2.5 million worth of cocaine into the resort island of Bali, a court official said Friday.

The three-judge panel unanimously rejected Lindsay Sandiford’s appeal on Thursday, said Supreme Court spokesman Ridwan Mansur.

Sandiford, 57, was arrested last year when 3.8 kilograms (8.4 pounds) of cocaine was discovered stuffed inside the lining of her luggage at Bali’s airport. During the trial, she said she was forced to carry the drugs by a gang that threatened to hurt her children.

READ MORE: Indonesian court sentences 56-year-old British woman to death over drug smuggling to Bali

She was found guilty in January by a district court and sentenced to face a firing squad. She lost an appeal three months later when the Bali High Court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Prosecutors had initially sought 15…

View original post 146 more words

West ‘Ignoring’ Nigerian Attacks:   :  Information Clearing House – ICH

West ‘Ignoring’ Nigerian Attacks:   :  Information Clearing House – ICH.

Reporting Human Rights Violations: A How-to Guide for Prisoners: Human Rights Coalition

Reporting Human Rights Violations: A How-to Guide for Prisoners

Reporting Human Rights Violations: A How-to Guide for Prisoners

The following guide, published by the Human Rights Coalition, offers guidelines for prisoners on reporting human rights violations. The method described is simple, requiring documentation, intervention, and movement-building:

[W]e learn the truth by gathering evidence (documentation); we take action according to the urgency of the situation and our capacity to move people (intervention); and we bring others on board and inspire each other with a collective vision of popular struggle (movement-building).

Elaborating on these items, the guide goes on:

The stronger our evidentiary basis, the greater the knowledge of the movement, which generates greater commitment and more effective action.  This in turn builds the movement and the cycle of organizing repeats itself, only on a higher level.

Read on for more on defending the human rights of people behind bars:

What constitutes a violation of a prisoner’s human rights?

A partial listing of some of the most frequently reported violations include but are not limited to: physical abuse/assault; medical neglect; deprivation of food, water, yard, access to law library; destruction of property, especially legal property; racist speech and intimidation; denial of due process via placement on restricted release, refusal to call witnesses to misconduct proceedings, subversion of the grievance system; issuance of fabricated misconducts; inadequate and/or non-existent psychological/psychiatric care.

What details should I include in a report?

Always include, to the best of your recollection: names of all prisoners involved in an incident; name and rank/title of all staff involved; date(s); time; location/unit in the prison; institutional documentation relating to the incident such as grievances, misconducts, appeals of these, requests to staff, etc.; description of the incident; staff/guards explanation of their actions (if provided to you) and your understanding of their motivation. When claiming an alternative motivation from that of prison staff and officials for a course of action taken that you feel is a violation submit reasons and evidence to support your claim. State what you think the actual motive is and how that can be revealed through their speech and action as testified to by witnesses and in documentation.

General and Incident Reports

Some reports of human rights violations we receive either speak of general conditions and cite examples without specifics such as names and dates; others focus on specific incidents and do not address the general conditions of confinement in which the incident occurred. We prefer a report that does both, reporting individual incidents and series of incidents and how these incidents are or are not part of a larger pattern.

Evidence-based reporting

When reporting violations be as succinct as possible and reference or submit as much evidence as possible. The following types of evidence enhance the credibility of a report by illustrating the consistency of multiple reports, good-faith efforts taken by prisoners to utilize administrative and constitutional procedures, and reference to additional evidence that will support a claim if access to it can be obtained (i.e. medical records, security camera footage, disciplinary records, etc.)

Witness statements: affidavits and declarations

When multiple people report a human rights violation, whether it is that one man or woman was denied a meal or that a prisoner was assaulted or threatened, that report has a stronger claim to truth. Witness statements can be provided in three ways and should include the details listed above, along with all other relevant information: 1. prisoner reports, written in the form of a letter; 2. affidavits, which are sworn and witnessed/notarized statements; 3. declarations, which are sworn yet un-notarized statements.

Affidavits and declarations are the preferred form of witness reports, although we take general prisoner reports with the utmost seriousness as well.

Grievances and Lawsuits

Copies or originals of grievances filed against conditions of confinement and staff misconduct, along with requests to staff, misconducts and appeals, can be submitted to prove your efforts to solve the problem by using the means provided. Citing the grievance and reporting the number is also recommended if the grievance cannot be sent for reasons of postage or not having multiple copies.

Documents from past and current efforts at civil litigation can be submitted as well, or the civil docket # can be provided and we can attempt to research and access the court docket ourselves.

These forms of evidence are crucial for illustrating that you are using constitutionally-protected measures to resolve problems related to conditions of confinement. They also provide chronologies, incident descriptions, and create a paper trail illustrating official awareness of the grievances.

Criminal complaints

We want copies of any and all criminal complaints that have been filed with County District Attorneys’ Offices, state police, and federal law enforcement, along with a note on whether or not you have received any response.

Evidence not in your possession

It is also important to make our offices aware of other evidence that does or should exist to prove a claim but that you do not have access to such as security camera and/or cell extraction footage, medical and disciplinary records, etc.

Efforts to contact governmental, media, and other outside agencies

Copies of letters and reports submitted to state representatives, the governor, members of the press, and other civil and human rights organizations, along with community groups allow us to gain a sense of other efforts you have taken and whether or not they have had any response.

# # #

Read the rest of the fact sheet here, or write to the Human Rights Coalition at:

4134 Lancaster Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19104
ATTN: Support Committee

Freed After 19 Years in Prison for Killing Her Pimp, Woman Tells Story: SARA KRUZAN


Check out “She Shot Her Pimp” on Vimeo http://vimeo.com/116250361 #Vimeo #humanrightswatch #hrw #georgehoward #juvenilejustice #murder

Freed After 19 Years in Prison for Killing Her Pimp, Woman Tells Story

By: Staff | 4 hours agoView as “Clean Read”


At age 17, Sara Kruzan was sentenced to life in prison for the 1994 fatal shooting of her pimp George Howard. Upon her release in late 2013, CBS News wrote:
“Kruzan’s case became a high-profile example used by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who sought to ease life sentences for juveniles.
“‘It is justice long overdue,’ Yee told the Los Angeles Times. He called Kruzan’s case the ‘perfect example of adults who failed her, of society failing her. You had a predator who stalked her, raped her, forced her into prostitution, and there was no one around.’”
Now, in a Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JIIE.org) video, Kruzan…

View original post 39 more words

After jail, Pussy Riot focuses on prisons Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 – the world’s largest per capita prison population after the US.

Activists from punk band Pussy Riot are released from a police station in Sochi after protesting abuses [EPA]

After jail, Pussy Riot focuses on prisons

Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 – the world’s largest per capita prison population after the US.

Last updated: 23 Dec 2014 08:46
Moscow, Russia – After spending almost two years in jail for performing their “punk prayer” against Russian President Vladimir Putin at Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in 2012, two young women from the feminist protest band Pussy Riot chose not to go on a world tour or settle somewhere in the West to escape further persecution.

It was a surprising move, considering the international outcry and support from Western leaders and pop icons such as Paul McCartney and Madonna that followed the band members’ arrest and conviction. Their trial and a hysterical media campaign in government-controlled media that branded them “blasphemers” were widely seen as orchestrated by the Kremlin and Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church. …