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California has been under a Federal Court order to reduce its prison population for years. And while it is far too slowly making progress on this front, even that progress is less progressive than it might be.

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You see, the Federal Court order demands that California's prison population be reduced to 137.5% of capacity (the population is now at 150% of capacity), but it doesn't impose any crowding limitations on individual prisons! In theory, California could empty out San Quentin, stuffing everyone who is currently imprisoned there into other facilities, and be none the worse for doing so in the eyes of the Federal Monitor.

And that's almost exactly what they are doing! In the obscure town of Chowchilla, located in California's Central Valley, one prison for women has been turned into a prison for men. Those female and transgender prisoners formerly in this facility have been, literally, stuffed (up to eight to a cell) into other facilities around the state, primarily at an existing women's facility, Central California Women's Facility (CCWF) also near Chowcilla.

CHOWCHILLA -- After a brief reprieve from the bloated conditions that plagued the state's prison system for years, the Central California Women's Facility outside Chowchilla has become the most crowded prison in the state.

As of Dec. 26, the facility housed 3,608 inmates, according to corrections officials. Designed for 2,004 beds, officials said, the state prison is at more than 180 percent of intended capacity.

And so, almost a year after Occupy 4 Prisoners marched on San Quentin in support of prisoners' rights, they, along with many other groups organized a Chowchilla march and rally that took place yesterday, drawing over 400 activists from Oakland and all over California.
Roughly 400 people organized by multiple advocacy groups met outside of Chowchilla Saturday to protest over crowding at the Central California Women’s Facility... "I'm not surprised that so many people are coming out because the system is so messed up and the issues have been building and building and building," said Adrienne Roberts, campaign coordinator with California Coalition for Women Prisoners.
What are the central demands of the protesters?
Organizers of Saturday's rally are demanding... that the state respond to crowding at CCWF by releasing prisoners through alternative custody programs and early parole for elderly people and grant compassionate release for terminally ill people and medical parole for permanently incapacitated prisoners. The CDCR itself has noted that at least 4,000 prisoners held in women's facilities could be released immediately.
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Overcrowding is one source of inadequate medical care for prisoners, making it easy for illnesses to be ignored and treatments delayed. It also likely encourages those guarding prisoners to think of them as cattle, not worthy of human rights. It effectively murders some number of people each year.

It costs something like $50,000 per year to keep an inmate in prison in California. Releasing 4000 prisoners could save the state $200,000,000 annually. It's a no-brainer in a state which spends more on criminal injustice than schools, but that's sort of the problem. Having cut education the state is left with no brains.

What was the protest like? Kossack and Occupy Oakland's intrepid tweeter Alyssa gives you the flavor of how the day went, from leaving Oakland around 10:30 AM to the end of the late afternoon protest. These are her pictures too.

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally there is still room if u need a ride join us! 1st van is leaving Bart

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Just before leaving on buses from McArther BART station in Oakland

The Spectre of Scott @OakScott
If you're gonna spend 2.5 hours driving to a prison in the middle of nowhere, do it with cool people like @alyssa011968 and @belowthesnow

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally lots of people here! and there is a band http://campl.us/...

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally more and more people are coming.

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally "aint no power like the power of the people don't stop!"

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally justce4AlanBlueford Coalition stands in solidarity with women in Chowchilla - end overcrowding


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Two JAB members on the march to the rally

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally this march is serious but upbeat. we coming together & we will end mass incarceration

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally we start speak out! everyone is extra friendly. we chant "no justice, no peace"

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally si se puede

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally Chris did 13 yrs (not 10) then when u protect urself they give u years more time- says young people go in & don't get out

Alyssa @alyssa011968
reading letter from young lifer - says we r not given medical care

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally I'm undocumented & unafraid - she is here 2day to describe undocumented prison industrial complex


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Many speakers. Tragic tales. Inspiration.

Alyssa @alyssa011968
very moving & courageous young women- next we have quote from 81 yr old women there - dr told her "u don't need treatment. u r old"

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally all power to the people- a young organizer from LA has 2 cousins in here-letters take long time 7 month


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All power to the people.

Alyssa @alyssa011968
women not getting care need instead die slowly. they r treated like animals, not human beings

Alyssa @alyssa011968
CA was once #1 in education. now its 47th & #1 in prisons

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally Chowchilla means man killer! he thanks us for being here. this is worst county in ca. from south & north thanks 4 coming here

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally women behind wall slaves. 13th amendment doesn't apply 2 them. Obama didn't mention them in speech pic.twitter.com/AelniRzL

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally women said given blankets & stuff to sleep with u wouldn't give a dog

Alyssa @alyssa011968
very inspirational to see all of us coming out like this. we need to keep building this movement! "Free them all, free them all

George Lavender @GeorgeLavender
"Brick by brick, wall by wall, free our people free 'em all." Jabari Shaw leads #FreedomRally in chant

Alyssa @alyssa011968
powerful day and this is just the beginning- 1% is right there is a class war and we r coming for them- their days of privilege r #ered

Alyssa @alyssa011968
it is our duty 2 fight, it is our duty 2 win! we must love eacho ther & protect each other.we have nothing 2 lose but our chains

Alyssa @alyssa011968
totally worth the 2 + hour drive here. march back cars band still playing. "close the prison, shut them down. we need justice in this town

Occupy4Prisoners @Occupy4Prisoner
Near the back, march is really big!


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Heading back from the rally.

Alyssa @alyssa011968
#FreedomRally not many cops but they were serious. it was imp to do what asked cuz cops tale it on on women in there

The Spectre of Scott @OakScott
These women are about to de-genderize the men's bathroom at the Chowchilla gas station #FreedomRally

Someday our country may become civilized - like most of the rest of the industrialized world. Until then, I suspect, the protests will continue. As well they should.

An entire photo album from the event.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 11:08 AM PST.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, California politics, SFKossacks, Healthcare Reform - We've Only Just Begun, LatinoKos, Black Kos community, Barriers and Bridges, and Invisible People.

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