New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Archive for the ‘Victoria Law’

Undiminished

September 07, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Victoria Law

Can There Be Justice When Women Fight Back?

by Victoria Law

What do a nineteen-year-old lesbian from New Jersey, a 23-year-old trans woman in Minneapolis and a 31-year-old mother in Florida have in common? All three were attacked, all three fought back and all three were arrested. All three are currently in prison while their attackers remain free. Oh, yes, and all three are black women.

Marissa Alexander is a 31-year-old mother of three. She is also a survivor of violence at the hands of her ex, Rico Gray. In 2009, Alexander obtained a restraining order against Gray. Learning that she was pregnant, she amended it to remove the ban on contact between her and Gray while maintaining the rest of the restraining order. (more…)

Birthing Behind Bars

June 11, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Family, Guest Author, Politics, Victoria Law

Fighting for Reproductive Justice for Women in Prison

by Tina Reynolds and Victoria Law

“I never thought of advocating outside of prison. I just wanted to have some semblance of a normal life once I was released,” stated Tina Reynolds, a mother and formerly incarcerated woman. Then she gave birth to her son while in prison for a parole violation:

“When I went into labor, my water broke. The van came to pick me up, I was shackled. Once I was in the van, I was handcuffed. I was taken to the hospital. The handcuffs were taken off, but the shackles weren’t. I walked to the wheelchair that they brought over to me and I sat in the wheelchair with shackles on me. They re-handcuffed me once I was in the wheelchair and took me up to the floor where women had their children.

“When I got there, I was handcuffed with one hand. At the last minute, before I gave birth, I was unshackled so that my feet were free. Then after I gave birth to him, the shackles went back on and the handcuffs stayed on while I held my son on my chest.” (more…)

Multigenerational Justice

May 04, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Politics, Victoria Law

Toward the Quiet Creation of an All-Ages Revolution

by Victoria Law

It is Sunday afternoon. My daughter and I are at home. I am on my (borrowed) laptop in the kitchen, revising chapter forwards for Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind, an anthology on how to support parents and children in social justice movements that I am co-editing with the amazing “grandma of mama zines” China Martens. Garlic bubbles away into broth on the stove, filling the kitchen with warmth (and a very savory fragrance).

In the other room, my 11-year-old daughter is on her dad’s computer and on the phone at the same time. She is on a conference call/computer chat with the folks planning childcare to talk about the Big Kids’ track for this year’s Allied Media Conference. I am, thankfully, not part of the efforts to coordinate either the Kids’ Track or the Big Kids’ Track, but I do wonder how the conversation is going. I can hear my daughter’s fingers strike the keyboard as she enters her ideas into their group chatbox, but I hear her voice much less often.

While puzzling over how to succinctly sum up the gist of each chapter, fittingly on how movements and communities and individuals have supported the children and caregivers in their midst, my thoughts drift back to the event I attended last night: Angela Davis’s talk about prison abolition and a conversation between her and Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was allowed to call in to the event for an all-too-short fifteen minutes. (more…)

Inside This Place

March 09, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Family, Politics, Victoria Law

Oral History Collection Gives Voice to Incarcerated Women

by Victoria Law

The new book Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons (McSweeney’s, 2011), edited by Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman, delves into injustices inside women’s prisons through firsthand accounts from the women themselves. These are painful stories. Many are tales of violence and abuse, most often from family and loved ones. Some are stories of parents who, at best, were not emotionally present for their children; at worst, they not only abused their daughters but allowed others to abuse them in exchange for drugs. There are stories of addiction. These stories are intense and, even though I am well-acquainted with prison horror stories, I needed to put the book down, several times. And then there are the stories from within the prison, which often repeats and exacerbates the horrors the women encountered before their arrests.

These stories illustrate the myriad ways that prisons attempt to erase their personhood: One woman entered prison while pregnant; because her due date fell on a holiday weekend, medical staff forced her into a Caesarean section. She was handcuffed throughout the surgery; she held her newborn for the first time while in cuffs. Another woman was given a hysterectomy without her knowledge or consent. Others discuss the lack of medical care, ranging from the lack of a diabetic diet to staff withholding necessary medications. Women’s humanity is assaulted in other ways as well: In 2010, Colorado prison staff instituted a demeaning search procedure known as the “labia lift” (p. 158): “We had to spread our labia and staff would make us cough while they were looking.” (more…)

Occupy Prisons

February 14, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Politics, Victoria Law

‘We Must Not Turn Our Backs on Each Other…’

by Victoria Law

“Manhandled, arrested, cuffed, searched, and locked away in the Tombs” is how AlterNet described the story of protester Barbara Schneider Reilly, who spent 30 hours in jail after being arrested at an Occupy Wall Street-related protest in October 2011.

Reilly reported: “During the long, cold night in the Tombs, at some point we asked a female officer if we could have some blankets. ‘We have no blankets.’ Some mattresses since we were 12 or so people? ‘We have no more mattresses.’ Some change in exchange for dollar bills so we could call parents and loved ones? (The one public telephone in the cell would only take coins.) ‘It’s against regulations.’ Some soap? ‘Maybe we’ll come up with some soap.’ After no, no, no to every reasonable request, we wound up with a small jar of soap. Distressing is hardly the word for a culture of willful neglect and the exercise of what power those officers held over us for those 30 hours.”

While Reilly’s experience was horrific, it is only a sliver of the atrocities that over 114,000 women in prisons and jails must endure on a daily basis. When the article first appeared, I printed it out and circulated it to several currently incarcerated women and asked how Schneider’s weekend compared to their own realities. (more…)

Solitary Figures

December 02, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Current Events, Politics, Victoria Law

Continuing the Struggle Against Extreme Isolation and Sensory Deprivation

by Victoria Law

Last month, prisoners across California ended a nearly three-week hunger strike. The strikers, who numbered 12,000 at the strike’s peak, had five core demands:

1) Eliminate group punishments for individual rules violations; 2) Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; 3) Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long term solitary confinement; 4) Provide adequate food; and 5) Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.

The strike, the second three-week hunger strike to rock California’s prison system this year alone, was called by men in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. (more…)

Strike Zone

October 14, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Family, Politics, Victoria Law

Hungering for Justice in the Crime-and-Punishment System

by Victoria Law

“This is what democracy looks like!” These days, when you hear those words at a protest, whether officially permitted or not, you know that the police are seconds away from pulling out their plastic handcuffs and pepper spray and getting ready to pack their paddy wagons.

On October 5th, near the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, I heard that chant as the police closed in on a group of protesters attempting to breach the barricades blocking Wall Street. Knowing that arrests and violence were soon to follow, my daughter and I turned and left. We circled around to Zuccotti Park where we stayed for an hour and a half until police arrived on horseback and motor scooters and began closing the protesters in with metal barricades.

If this is what democracy looks like, at least there are numerous cameras to record the ways that the police and the city treat the 8,000 to 12,000 people exercising their democratic right to protest. (more…)