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Articles by Nancy Heitzeg and Kay Whitlock

Prison Reform, Proposition 47 and the California Shell Game

by Nancy A. Heitzeg and Kay Whitlock, Truthout

In the deep fog of the yard at Central California Facility for Women (CCFW), the bright shiny headlines declaring California Proposition 47 (which reclassifies certain property and drug felonies as minor, non-prison time offenses) the beginning of the end of mass incarceration seem so very far away. As women go throughout their daily grind of toxic drudgery at pennies per hour - cooking acrylic over outdated Bunsen Burners in unventilated rooms to make dentures for other state prisoners and MediCal patients, sewing jail jumpsuits and flags for the state of California in 10-hour stints - reform seems impossible.

The lieutenant who guides our university class visit seems to sense this, too. Despite his preliminary promises to us of remaining "politically correct," his contempt for these women is soon revealed - in stories of the closing of "unused" family visiting rooms to make way for a drug-sniffing dog kennel, in his celebration of an American sniper who surveyed all from a gun turret over-looking the solitary unit, in the unchecked assumption that every cry for assistance was thin cover for a scam. A loud speaker alert of an "unresponsive inmate down on the ...