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Articles by Victoria Law

‘Prisons Are No Place for a Pandemic:’ Advocates Fight to Free Their Loved Ones

Women of color are fearful about the Covid-19 outbreak within the system

by Victoria Law, ZORA by Medium (zora.medium.com)

Theresa is currently isolating alone in her Harlem apartment. Because Theresa has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), thus making her more vulnerable to Covid-19, her adult daughters bring her groceries and other necessities from the outside world.

Theresa’s 65-year-old husband Morris is serving his 15th year of a 40-year prison sentence at Green Haven Correctional Facility, one of New York’s 52 state prisons. He too has underlying health issues — asthma, diabetes, and kidney problems. There are 18 people at Green Haven who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Unlike Theresa, Morris cannot self-isolate or practice social distancing. (Theresa asked that the couple only be identified by their first names to protect their privacy and prevent staff retaliation.)

Every day, Morris must leave his cell and walk to the prison’s medical unit where a nurse dispenses his medications. Sometimes medical staff wear masks and gloves; sometimes they do not. For two weeks, Morris chose to forego his medications rather than risk the coronavirus exposure until Theresa convinced him to take that risk.

But that’s not the only ...

Most States Saw Criminal Justice Reforms in 2019, But Incarceration Rates Remain High

by Victoria Law, reprinted from Truthout

On December 20, 2019, criminal justice advocates celebrated the news that President Trump signed the Fair Chance Act into law. Tucked into a massive defense spending bill, the law is a federal version of “ban the box,” prohibiting the government and its contractors from ...

The Other Family Separation: Prisoners Fight to Keep Their Children

by Victoria Law

Ayana Aubourg was seven years old when her father was sentenced to 10 years in prison. For the next decade he parented through letters, weekly phone calls and once-a-year visits. He missed most of her childhood – picking her up from school, helping her with her ...

Behind Bars, Co-Pays Are a Barrier to Basic Health Care

by Victoria Law, Truthout

When Taylor Lytle began fainting every morning when she stood up, she had to make a decision: Should she seek medical care or should she save her hard-earned wages to buy soap, shampoo, deodorant and feminine hygiene products?

People across the United States struggle with similar ...

Imagine Pleading Guilty Because You Can’t Afford to Call Your Lawyer

by Victoria Law, Truthout

Imagine paying $20.12 for a 15-minute phone call. That’s how much a call from the Jennings Adult Correctional Facility in Missouri costs.

In 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set rate caps on interstate calls from jails, prisons and detention facilities. Now, interstate debit or prepaid ...

Imagine Pleading Guilty Because You Can’t Afford to Call Your Lawyer

By Victoria Law, Truthout

Imagine paying $20.12 for a 15-minute phone call. That’s how much a call from the Jennings Adult Correctional Facility in Missouri costs.

In 2013, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set price caps on interstate calls from jails, prisons and detention facilities. Now, interstate calls can ...

Double Punishment: After Prison, Moms Face Legal Battles to Reunite With Kids

by Victoria LawTruthout | Report

This story is the first in a new Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series will dive deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States' incarceration of more than ...

Trans People in Prison Fight Barriers to Changing Their Legal Names and Gender Markers

by Victoria Law, Truthout

During her 30 years in California's prison system, Cookie Bivens has seen numerous trans women attempt to change their name and gender marker while incarcerated. Not a single woman ever succeeded.

In California, people seeking to legally change their name or gender marker must file an application with the county court and pay a filing fee of nearly $500. (A person earning less than $2,127 per month can file for a fee waiver.) Once the paperwork is filed, the court sets a hearing date within six to 12 weeks. If the court receives no objections to the proposed name and gender marker change, the petition is granted.

Incarcerated trans people face an extra hurdle: obtaining approval from the prison's superintendent and other administrators. Without that approval, they cannot begin the court process. Watching other trans women have their requests denied again and again, Bivens decided to not even try, and to focus instead on getting parole.

Bivens has been out of prison for six months and is only now beginning the process of legally changing her name and gender marker. At the same time, she wants to be sure that other trans people have the opportunity ...

"The System Abuses Us by Locking Us Up Forever": Aging Survivors Behind Bars

By Victoria Law, Truthout

On October 6, 2016, 15-year-old Bresha Meadows will appear in an Ohio family court for the death of her abusive father. Meadows had spent a lifetime watching her father hit, kick, shove and control her mother. If her mother tried to leave, her father often threatened ...

Aging, Sick and Incarcerated: The Need for Compassionate Release

By Victoria Law, Truthout.org

Mary Ziman already had debilitating fibromyalgia and, unable to work, was on permanent disability. Then she was arrested and sentenced to 27 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine, charges she says stemmed from fabrications by a woman with mental illness ...