inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #51 of 58: Maria Rosales (rosmar) Mon 14 Apr 08 07:08
Thanks, <silja>.  I was kidding about this topic jinxing me--I'm not
really that superstitious.  It was just a strange coincidence that,
right after I said that all the people in my family who had gone to
jail had been men, my sister was arrested.

The bail is highest for the meth--50,000.  All the other charges
together add up to 6,000.  This is in California.  (I don't mind
sharing this information, because it is all public info, anyway.)

I've talked her husband into at least giving the public defender a
chance.  If the PD comes up with a deal that doesn't seem acceptable,
then maybe a private lawyer.  (He can't afford a lawyer at all--he has
$400 to his name at the moment.)  

My partner has a couple of lawyer friends in San Francisco, who have
given us good advice and will refer my sister to another lawyer if a
private lawyer becomes necessary.  

I'm sorry about your own partner's situation, and the absurdity of the
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #52 of 58: Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Mon 14 Apr 08 18:20
That's good to hear. Being superstitious myself (well, to an extent),
I had to make sure!

If you have the name of the PD, I may be able to find out how good
that person's rep is. Is your sis already thinking whether she wants to
plea or take it to trial? As you know, most of these kinds of cases
are handled with plea bargains, to the point that it's really rare for
me to even talk to any n/v drug offenders (or their attorneys, to be
more specific) who want to risk a trial. If this is her first-time
offense, an offer should be on the table pretty quickly if the lawyer's
even just a half-wit.

Prop. 36 could also apply b/c of the meth addiction, but I don't know
the specifics of her case.

I'll stop here w/ the advice and such. It sounds like you've got a
good head on your shoulders about all of this. And there's nothin'
better than having a few good lawyers on your side. I sleep better at
night knowing, push come to shove, that I'll have some kick-ass
attorneys to call. (Then again, they could always decide not accept my
collect call!)

So, the piece I've been working on for the last few weeks, on and off,
is about a 34-yr-old woman and mother of two who was murdered in a
solitary confinement cell in a Nashville CCA prison. I was on deadline
last week, was ready to go with it, but I couldn't file the damn thing.
By Sunday morning, O as seized by this compulsive sense to rewrite the
damn thing, to turn the story into what it really NEEDED to be all
along. So, from 1,500 to 4,500, and a whole different kind of fire
burning under the story. 

Estelle's story has never been told in any great depth. When I first
came across a brief news report about the autopsy finding confirming
that she was murdered, I had the sense that I *had* to write about her.
That there was an imperative to do so. I kept her file active, and
moved her file over to my book project, in an RIP section that served
as a constant reminder of the women who *didn't* make it it out,
through no fault of their own. 

But the lawyers on her case never got back to me. The next I heard,
the guards indicted for homicide had gotten all of the charges dropped.
And the Richardson family couldn't talk, b/c of the conditions of the
CCA settlement. 

I still didn't put her file away. I just didn't know where to go with
it. And now I have that chance. From a 1,500 wd assignment as a web
exclusive, this morphed into an extensive investigative feature, which
I'm really going to try to push into a longer print version. I've been
researching, interviewing and writing nearly non-stop for the last two
days (ok, with small 15-min. breaks, a couple of cat naps, watching
ridiculous reality television in the background, drinking tea, or
scarfing down whatever old remnants of food I could find in my frig),
and I'm still not done. I'm on my 20th hour, I think, and I'm bloody
exhausted. But I'm still in that priceless writing zone that I'm not
going to drop out of until it drops me. 

I haven't felt this fired up since I wrote the last chapter in the
book, when I was finally able to sit with Gina's pictures around me and
pour out her story. Even after I finished, in a blur of exhaustion and
grief, I couldn't get her face, the image of her thin arm cradling her
young daughter, the sight of a body consumed by the spread of cervical
cancer that could have been treated, successfully, just a few months
before it destroyed her. The LA County Jail system and the state prison
system failed her at every stage.  

In that photo, she was still locked to the hospital bed from which she
couldn't even get up. When that photo was taken, Gina was just a few
days away from her death. Because her mother refused to give up, she
died in surrounded by her family's love instead of a dismal community
hospital, and her death became a rallying cry for other families and
advocates who insist, rightfully, that a prison sentence cannot become
a de facto death sentence when the prison health care system decides to
dismiss the lump in a woman's breast as a harmless cyst. Or when the
Board of Prison Terms and/or the governor decide that giving a dying
woman her wish to be with her loved ones, to not die behind barbed
wire, is to capitulate to "criminals."

But now, at least, Gina's spirit is free. And so is Estelle's. I'm
trying to bring part of that spirit back, so to speak, to draw
attention to what it would mean for the Senate to confirm a
multimillionare, wholly unqualified CCA attorney for a lifetime
judicial position, knowing that it was he who swept her murder under
the rug with a wink, a nod ...  and a nice settlement check into the
hands of the atty. who was supposed to have been looking out for
Estelle's two children. 

I'll come back again to talk a bit about those two chapters later
tomorrow, and then this great two-week discussion will apparently come
to a close. I'll still be stopping by Inkwell, though. After all, it's
what brought me back to the Well. 
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #53 of 58: Maria Rosales (rosmar) Wed 16 Apr 08 07:29
Wow.  That is a powerful and upsetting story.

Good news about my sister--she is out of jail, and has only three
months of classes and drug tests.  If she stays clean, they will take
it off her record.  
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #54 of 58: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 16 Apr 08 09:06

That's very good news about your sister, rosmar. Wishing her strength and
courage as she faces the difficult but important task of staying clean.

> then this great two-week discussion will apparently come to a close

Silja, it's true that we've just launched a new author conversation here in
Inkwell, but that doesn't mean this one can't go on. The topic will remain
open and available for futher posts indefinitely, so if you can, we'd love
to have you stick around.

If you have other demands pulling away, I want to thank you for joining us 
these past two weeks. I also want to thank Jack King for leading the 
conversation. This has been a difficult, sometimes chilling, and
definitely eye-opening discussion and I applaud both of you for the
remarkable work you do. Thank you sharing so much information with us.
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #55 of 58: Jack King (gjk) Wed 16 Apr 08 10:00

I need to add one thing -- buy the book!
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #56 of 58: Silja Joanna Aller Talvi (sisu) Wed 16 Apr 08 16:41
Thanks for the plug, Jack! I'll see you in Tucson next week for my
readings there, yes? 

Cynthia, thanks for having me here. This discussion has been very
rewarding and intellectually stimulating for me. I will, indeed,
continue to stop by.

And Maria, I'm so relieved to hear that. Truly. What a relief.

God Pod and Shipping Out Women's Bodies explanations still to come! 
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #57 of 58: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Tue 20 May 08 22:44
Reprint from the Boston Globe, courtesy of :

For Women Addicts, Jail Can Replace Treatment

Kelsey Abbruzzese, Brittany Peats and Jordan Zappala report for The
Boston Globe: "Men who are civilly committed in Massachusetts are sent
to a treatment facility on the grounds of MCI Bridgewater that is large
enough to house 250 men and has not resulted in space issues. However,
a chronic shortage of beds for women in the same circumstances means
that some civilly committed women are sent to MCI Framingham, the
state's only women's prison."
inkwell.vue.324 : Silja Talvi, "Women Behind Bars"
permalink #58 of 58: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Wed 23 Jul 08 22:05
    <scribbled by betsys Wed 23 Jul 08 22:05>

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