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BATTERED WOMEN RELEASED FROM STATE PRISON CELEBRATE THEIR FREEDOM
In a time of rapid prison expansion, prison overcrowding, and a crumbling state budget, battered women who have been released from prison are gathering to celebrate their freedom and to fight for the release of those they left behind. Fifteen formerly incarcerated domestic violence survivors and hundreds of their supporters plan to attend the community celebration.
San Francisco, CA: In a time of rapid prison expansion, prison overcrowding, and a crumbling state budget, battered women who have been released from prison are gathering to celebrate their freedom and to fight for the release of those they left behind. Fifteen formerly incarcerated domestic violence survivors and hundreds of their supporters plan to attend the community celebration.
Most of the formerly incarcerated women attending Free Battered Women’s Our Voices Within: Internally Free event were released from prison after serving life sentences for crimes related to their experiences of being battered, such as killing their abusive partner when defending themselves or their children from ongoing violence and abuse.
“Many of us were judged as guilty by people who didn’t have full information about the ways that we had been abused,” said Flozelle Woodmore, who was released from prison on parole in August 2007 after serving 20 years of a 15-to-life sentence. “I finally was able to tell my story to the parole board, but it still took me many years to get out of prison. There are so many women I left behind who need to be heard, believed, and released.”
Many of the domestic violence survivors being celebrated at the Our Voices Within: Internally Free event were convicted well over a decade ago, when community responses to domestic violence were quite different.
“Most of these domestic violence survivors have spent decades in prison. First, our communities failed to protect them and their children from their abusers’ violence, and then failed to consider how the abuse they experienced related to the crime,” said Free Battered Women Coordinator Emily Harris. “Domestic violence survivors in prison deserve justice. They pose no risk to public safety and the State of California can not afford to continue to keep these women behind bars.”
This event seeks to raise the profile of hundreds of incarcerated domestic violence survivors and push for their release from California State prison. The organizers of the event are currently working on several campaigns for freedom. Examples include:
Connie Keel is a battered woman who has served nearly 30 years at the California Institution for Women on a 25-to-life sentence for a murder her abusive husband committed. The parole board has found Ms. Keel suitable for parole, and the Governor has until this Friday, March 27th to decide whether to release her. In this era of budget crises and severe prison overcrowding, releasing Ms. Keel will save the state at least $45,000 per year – and serves the interests of justice. To learn more about Connie visit http://www.freeconnie.com
Deborah Peagler is a battered woman who has been incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility, and has already served 26 years on a 25-to-life sentence. In February 2009, Deborah was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. According to medical reports, she has only days or months left to live. Deborah will die in prison unless the Board of Parole Hearings, Governor, or the Courts act quickly. To learn more about Deborah’s fight for freedom visit http://www.freedebbie.org
Carol Sue McInnis is another domestic violence survivor who was found suitable for parole on February 5. She has spent nearly 20 years at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) on a 15-years-to-life sentence. Ms. McInnis is a 70-year-old woman who uses a wheelchair and is on oxygen full-time. She is currently at the infirmary at Valley State Prison for Women and has been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Diabetes. Ms. McInnis’ parole decision will be turned over to the Governor on June 5, 2009.
Donna Shaner is a 61-year-old domestic violence survivor whom the parole board found suitable for parole on March 11. She has been incarcerated for over 20 years on a seven-years-to-life sentence, and has an impeccable disciplinary record while in prison. Ms. Shaner's parole decision will be turned over to the Governor on July 9th, 2009.