California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) received a Mary’s Pence Grant this fall to help support their Drop LWOP campaign. The statewide campaign focuses on stopping life without parole sentencing (LWOP) and securing sentence commutations for all people serving life without parole in California. Working with over 100 partner organizations, CCWP leads advocacy efforts to end extreme sentencing and improve prison conditions for all people who are currently incarcerated in California.
CCWP believes that life without parole sentencing is inhumane and unjust. For the over 5000 people currently serving LWOP sentences in California prisons, opportunities for rehabilitation and redemption like self-help programs are prohibited. They are only eligible for jobs that pay the lowest hourly wage, currently paying only eight cents per hour. With restitution to pay, the financial burden often falls on their families because of the inability to obtain higher wage opportunities. People serving LWOP are also ineligible for elder parole and compassion release. LWOP sentencing is disproportionately assigned to people of color, making it a pressing social justice issue. For women serving LWOP, the majority are victim/survivors of abuse, including sexual violence, childhood abuse, human trafficking, and domestic violence.
In August 2018 CCWP organized a day of action in Sacramento where close to 100 people came out to support the Drop LWOP campaign. Formerly incarcerated community members, family member advocates, and community activists rallied on the steps of the state capitol. In addition to the rally, a delegation went to visit state legislators to speak to them about extreme sentencing and penal code reform. A signed letter was delivered to the governor’s office, along with over 30 statements, poems, and works of art from people serving LWOP.
CCWP’s Drop LWOP campaign continues to grow and build momentum. The outgoing governor, Jerry Brown, continues to issue commutations for people serving LWOP in higher numbers than seen before. CCWP continues to expand their support for and working relationships with people serving LWOP. Each day they move closer to their goals of (1) commuting the sentences of all 5,000+ people serving LWOP sentences in California, (2) dropping LWOP sentencing from the California penal code, (3) changing policy to require parole review for people sentenced to LWOP by their 30 year mark of incarceration, and (4) ending all forms of discrimination against people serving LWOP. Mary’s Pence is proud to support CCWP in their movement to advocate to end extreme sentencing and discriminatory treatment of people serving LWOP.