Survived & Punished
The Survived & Punished Project demands the immediate release of survivors of domestic and sexual violence and other forms of gender violence who are imprisoned for survival actions, including: self-defense, “failure to protect,” migration, removing children from abusive people, being coerced into acting as an "accomplice," and securing resources needed to live. For many survivors, the experiences of domestic violence, rape, and other forms of gender violence are bound up with systems of incarceration and police violence. According to the ACLU, nearly 60% of people in women’s prison nationwide, and as many as 94% of some women’s prison populations, have a history of physical or sexual abuse before being incarcerated. Once incarcerated or detained, many women (including trans women) and trans & gender non-conforming people experience sexual violence from guards and others. Being controlled by police, prosecutors, judges, immigration enforcement, homeland security, detention centers, and prisons is often integrated with the experience of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is especially true for Black, Native, and immigrant survivors.
Started 8 petitions
Liyah Birru, a Black immigrant from Ethiopia, was prosecuted and incarcerated for defending herself against her abusive husband who had subjected her to beatings, sexual assault, verbal abuse, threats, and racial slurs. After serving her sentence, she now faces the added punishment of deportation. Liyah’s story is all too familiar. Black women, particularly immigrants, are incarcerated and deported at over twice the rate of white women. Upwards of 90% of incarcerated women are survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault. Liyah doesn’t have to be deported and further punished for surviving abuse. Governor Newsom can stand with survivors, grant a pardon and stop Liyah’s deportation! Liyah’s Story Liyah met her husband in Ethiopia where he was stationed with the military. After two years in a long distance relationship, Liyah moved to rural Northern California as a green card holder to join her husband. Life became a nightmare for Liyah soon after she moved in with her husband. Liyah’s husband, a white man, began referring to her as a slave and using racial slurs towards her. The abuse soon escalated - he began destroying her possessions, clothes and became physically abusive. He’d often apologize and promise to change but would soon become violent again. Isolated in rural California, without a car, and with no friends or family for hundreds of miles, Liyah felt trapped. As the abuse rapidly escalated, she began to fear for her life. Her husband owned a handgun that he kept loaded and would often hold during arguments. Liyah began secretly unloading the handgun when he was not home. When he became violent, Liyah threatened to call the police. Her husband was unphased, promising that police would believe him, a white man, not her, a Black woman, and that he’d have her arrested and deported. Liyah wanted to leave and go to a domestic violence shelter but had no way to get there. Her husband refused to let her leave. The abuse continued to escalate until one day when he slammed her head into a wall, pulled her hair, and hit her in the ribs. Her husband was twice her size. Terrified, Liyah went into the bedroom, unloaded his handgun, and took it. She hoped the sight of her with the gun would cause him to become less aggressive but he continued. Scared that she had no way out, Liyah fired the unloaded gun hoping it would scare him. Unknown to her, one bullet had been left in the chamber of the gun and hit her husband. Liyah called 911. Her husband successfully underwent surgery to remove the bullet. When police arrived, they found Liyah bruised and bleeding. Still, they did not investigate the violence against her and charged her with assault and domestic violence. Facing aggressive prosecution by the district attorney's office, Liyah accepted a plea deal with the promise of a lighter sentence. California law requires judges to consider if someone is a survivor of intimate partner violence. Liyah’s husband testified that he had never been abusive despite the bruises and cuts on Liyah when police arrived and numerous notes apologizing for past abuse. The judge refused to believe Liyah, found that she was not a survivor, and gave her a six-year sentence which would also carry the double punishment of deportation after she completed her sentence. As California Attorney General, Kamala Harris opposed Liyah’s appeal arguing that the record was unclear as to whether she was really a survivor. Liyah’s appeal was dismissed. After serving her six-year sentence, Liyah was arrested by ICE as she left prison. She was taken to the Yuba County Jail which rents space to ICE to be held pending deportation. Liyah’s story is not the exception: Multiple studies indicate that between 71% and 95% of incarcerated women have experienced physical violence from an intimate partner. In 2017, there were 219,000 women in US prisons and jails, most of them poor and of color. In 2014, according to the Sentencing Project, black non-Hispanic females had an imprisonment rate over twice that of white non-Hispanic females. Black immigrants face deportation for criminal convictions at a rate 3x higher than other immigrants. Liyah has suffered enough abuse: first from her violent husband, then from the courts, then from prison, and now, immigration detention. Governor Gavin Newsom can help stop the further abuse of deportation by granting her a pardon.
Grant Commutation for Incarcerated Survivor Janetta Leiva!
Janetta Leiva is a 48-year-old Native American woman (Yokut and Yaqui Nations) and a survivor of intimate partner violence diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She has been incarcerated for over 25 years. She was criminalized for actions taken while she was suffering from untreated paranoid schizophrenia and postpartum depression, both compounded by her experience of physical and emotional abuse. She was sentenced to 25 years to life. Janetta is currently housed in the Enhanced Outpatient Unit (EOP) at the California Institution for Women (CIW). The EOP is the largest mental health unit at CIW and has been the site of an ongoing suicide crisis at the prison. For over twenty years, no one incarcerated in the EOP has been granted parole. The parole board appears to be conflating psychiatric disability with dangerousness, often disregarding the work people have done to achieve the most mental health stability possible in a chaotic and traumatizing prison environment. This discrimination incarcerates people with psychiatric disabilities indefinitely, leaving people caged without care until death. Janetta is one of the people trapped in prison because of this discrimination. She was denied parole in 2015 and fears, because of her psychiatric disability, she will be left to die in prison. While she is formally eligible for parole, Janetta is in the impossible position of needing to convince the parole board that she does not have a psychiatric disability in order to achieve parole. She is currently applying for a commutation of her sentence from Governor Brown, with the goal of being released to a community-based program capable of providing her with support and mental healthcare services. We urge the Governor’s office to commute Janetta’s sentence to time-served and release her to the community-based support that will allow her to live with dignity and care.
Grant Commutation for Incarcerated Survivor Gabriela Solano!
SUMMARY Gabriela Solano is an incarcerated survivor of domestic violence who has served 20 years in prison for her involvement in a crime committed by her abusive boyfriend and his acquaintances. Enduring the longstanding effects of an 8-year relationship characterized by volatility, violence, and emotional abuse, Gabriela was placed in a dangerous and impossible situation for which she remains unduly penalized. Even though she took no actions and held no intent to end anyone’s life, Gabriela has suffered from the connected experiences of domestic abuse and harshly punitive measures like the felony murder rule which allowed her to be sentenced to Life Without Parole with an additional 25 years to Life. Governor Brown’s commutation is a crucial step to giving Gabriela the second chance she deserves. Join us in asking Governor Jerry Brown to commute Gabriela’s sentence from Life Without Parole plus 25-to-life to a parole-eligible sentence. BACKGROUND A few days after her 26th birthday and after an attempt to leave her ex-boyfriend and start anew, Gabriela found herself in a hopeless and desperate situation wherein she was coerced to drive him to an area where he and his acquaintances committed a car theft. Begging to leave the scene and avoid further trauma, Gabriela’s boyfriend threatened and forced her to drive them to another destination, fearing that, if left alone, Gabriela may report the crime. While waiting at a traffic light, a passenger in Gabriela’s car instigated an altercation with pedestrians that—to Gabriela’s stunned horror—ended in a death. Immediately, her ex-boyfriend demanded that she conceal the incident, threatening harm and criminal punishment if she reported the episode to authorities. As a measure of survival, Gabriela agreed. Gabriela, her ex-boyfriend, and their acquaintances were ultimately charged. At the time of her arraignment, Gabriela—who did not recognize the implications of sentence enhancements or California’s felony murder rule—chose not to accept a plea bargain because she had taken no actions to end anyone’s life. Throughout her trial, she struggled with compromised legal counsel, and her appeals to change counsel were denied by a judge who also deprived her jury of the benefit of a domestic violence expert who could have offered insight on the crucial nuances and far-reaching impact of Gabriela’s experience of abuse. For example, when Gabriela pleaded with her ex-boyfriend to attest to her lack of direct involvement in the crime, he used the court as a way to extend his pattern of injury and control, telling her that she deserved a sentence of Life Without Parole as punishment for attempting to leave their relationship. Because of the wide reach of accomplice liability under the felony murder rule—which requires no proof of intent or direct involvement in first-degree murder—Gabriela was sentenced to Life Without Parole with an additional 25 years to Life. Despite this devastating course of events, Gabriela has spent the last 20 years seeking positive change for herself and for others. Gabriela has worked hard to heal from the longstanding effects of her own trauma. She has taken over 1,000 hours of rehabilitative classes, and volunteered to support fellow incarcerated survivors through the Walk of Love project. She has utilized her training in office services to serve as a clerk for over 12 years, and is currently on track to receive her Associate’s Degree. Gabriela has a passion for language, and hopes for a career in civic translation and English as a Second Language instruction. She is a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, and we believe her greatest potential is ahead of her. Join us in asking Governor Brown to commute Gabriela’s sentence from Life Without Parole to a parole eligible sentence. Survivors of gender violence should receive support and affirmation rather than harsh punishments for acts committed by their abusers.
Please Grant Commutation for Incarcerated Survivor Rae Harris!
Rae Harris is a transgender survivor who has been incarcerated in California for over 20 years. In an example of the extreme and disproportionate sentencing of trans people of color, Rae was sentenced to two life without parole sentences and two 25-to-life sentences in 1998 for “conspiring to commit” two murders that he did not commit. Rae is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and he was in a psychologically abusive relationship at the time of his arrest, a key context for his conviction. At 23 years old, Rae did not take the stand to testify at his own trial because he had no faith that he would be believed. Based on how he was treated pre-trial, he was convinced that no police officer, prosecutor, juror or judge would care that he was not at the scene of either death, or that he was trying to protect his mother from harm. Rae also suffered from an inadequate legal defense. His paid attorney practiced civil, not criminal law and had never tried a murder case. As an example, he hired his 17-year-old son to investigate Rae’s case. After he lost Rae’s case, he did not even attempt to collect the rest of the funds from the family (over $20,000), indicating that on some level he knew he failed to defend Rae’s life. After 20 years in prison, Rae is now 44 years old. He is well-respected as a leader by his imprisoned community and staff alike. Among his many accomplishments, he founded Peace Day and Peace Games in 2007. He came up with the idea after incidents of racialized violence in the prison and successfully brought communities together to build networks of solidarity and care. Rae is a Certified Mediator and he works daily to decrease violence, reduce the harms of imprisonment, and support his peers. Currently Rae serves his community as the first trans Chairperson of the Inmate Advisory Council (the prison’s elected, representative body of incarcerated people), a Domestic Violence Program Facilitator, and a mentor to incoming youth, all of which he truly enjoys. In Rae’s own words: “To be sentenced to death by incarceration wiped my hope with the sound of the gavel. Fortunately my spirit to survive surpassed the lost hope that was trying to be embedded in my heart by a hammer and robe. Now that there is hope amongst the community of people serving life without parole (LWOP), I feel like it took that gavel for me to rebel against its hopeless intention to ultimately prepare me for freedom. I humbly ask for your support with my freedom and continue hoping for a living chance for all people serving death by incarceration.” Please join us in asking Governor Jerry Brown to commute Rae Harris’ sentence from life without parole to a parole-eligible sentence.
Grant Commutation for Incarcerated Survivor Brandy Scott!
As the #MeToo movement continues to gain momentum, we at the TGI Justice Project and Survived & Punished are asking for your support in lifting up and supporting the needs of Black transgender survivors. While we know that prison is a site of sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual violence for all people, for Black trans women this violence increases exponentially. There are very few resources available to protect incarcerated Black trans women from violence and discrimination, so we are asking for your help requesting that Governor Brown commute Brandy Scott’s sentence and release her back to her community. Brandy Scott is a Black transgender woman serving a 22 year sentence at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, California. Brandy was criminalized for defending herself against her abusive partner. Having already served her base term, she continues to be incarcerated because of an enhancement. In March 2018, Brandy submitted an application for commutation of her sentence. If Governor Brown approves her commutation, Brandy could be released and home with her community by the end of 2018. Will you sign this petition and support currently incarcerated Black trans women? Throughout her young life, Brandy struggled with her gender identity and sexuality and had no support from her family. She grew up in an emotionally and physically abusive home that provided her with years of harm instead of the nurturing that a young person needs to thrive. She thought she had found support in her partner who would accept her as a proud Black trans woman, but her partner became abusive, which ultimately led to her incarceration for self-defense. Brandy is one of two transgender women serving time in a women’s facility in California. In prison, she has experienced relentless harassment from guards and other prisoners who view her as a “freak” and is frequently the brunt of cruel jokes. While in prison, Brandy has studied psychology, the impacts of trauma, and the similarities between her story and other Black trans women. She has participated in programs and tried to take advantage of the few resources available to her. Despite facing anti-trans bias in prison that has prevented her from accessing many programs, Brandy has taken advantage of the limited resources available to her. For example, Brandy founded a committee in CCWF to inform prisoners on their right to vote. She has also worked hard to support the well-being of incarcerated trans people and is an ally in TGIJP’s advocacy supporting currently and formerly incarcerated trans people. Brandy is a beloved long-term member of the TGI Justice Project, Survived & Punished, and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. When released, Brandy is dedicated to fighting for trans, queer, and sex worker rights. She also dreams of implementing an after-school curriculum for gang members, which she wrote while incarcerated. Brandy is a sweet, loving, and thoughtful person who will be an asset to our communities. Please join us in asking Governor Brown to grant commutation to incarcerated survivor, Brandy Scott! Thank you for your support. Please also see our petitions to commute Rae, Stacey, Christina & Tammy. To support more survivors, follow us @survivepunish.
Grant Commutation for Incarcerated Survivor Stacey Dyer!
SUMMARY Stacey Dyer is an incarcerated survivor of child sexual abuse and severe domestic violence who has been in prison for 16 years. By the time she was convicted and sentenced to Life Without Parole when she was 22 years old, she suffered from the devastating long-term effects of profound and repeated sexual, physical, and psychological abuse, important context for her conviction. Please join us in asking Governor Jerry Brown to commute Stacey Dyer’s sentence from Life Without Parole to a parole-eligible sentence. BACKGROUND Stacey Dyer is an incarcerated survivor of child sexual abuse, rape, and domestic violence who has been in prison for 16 years. By the time she was convicted and sentenced to Life Without Parole when she was 22 years old, Stacey had suffered from the devastating long-term effects of profound sexual, physical, and psychological abuse. Because Stacey had experienced compounded trauma, her sense of safety was shattered. When she was 20 years old, Stacey was attacked by a group of men and raped. A year later, she thought she had finally found safety in a relationship with a person who was the lead member of a gang and who promised to protect her. However, this context of compromised safety ultimately led to her crime. Stacey continues to experience profound remorse and grief as a result, in addition to contending with her own experiences of violence. In prison, Stacey has taken initiative to create positive change in her community and, as a result, she was elected into multiple leadership positions by her peers. Stacey serves as a certified peer mentor and a trained facilitator for many support groups such as grief counseling and suicide prevention. Stacey is also deeply involved in her own healing and transformation, participating in dozens of programs on topics such as insight, restorative justice, conflict resolution, and domestic violence. Like many other stories of criminalized survivors, Stacey’s life reflects the consequences of our community’s failure to adequately support child and adult survivors of sexual and physical abuse. This lack of support creates and sustains ongoing cycles of violence. We urge Governor Brown to help end the conditions of violence that shaped Stacey’s life by giving her the opportunity to seek parole and continue to heal, make amends, and give back to her community. Join us in asking Governor Brown to commute Stacey Dyer’s sentence from Life Without Parole to a parole-eligible sentence. Thank you for your support. Please also sign our petitions to commute Christina, Brandy, Rae & Tammy. To support more survivors, follow us @survivepunish.
Grant Commutation for Incarcerated Survivor Christina Martinez!
SUMMARY Christina Martinez is an incarcerated survivor of domestic violence who has been in prison for nine years as a result of her abuser’s lethal violence. Christina was only 19 years old when, under the abusive duress of her boyfriend, she drove him and his friends to a house where, without her knowing, they committed a robbery that resulted in a death. Christina’s boyfriend then threatened to kill her if she told anyone. By the time she was convicted and sentenced to Life Without Parole in her early 20s, Christina suffered from the long-term effects of severe psychological and sexual abuse. Join us in asking Governor Jerry Brown to commute Christina Martinez’s sentence from Life Without Parole to a parole-eligible sentence. BACKGROUND Christina Martinez is an incarcerated survivor of abuse from childhood through adulthood. At age two, she was sexually abused by the neighbors. Christina also experienced domestic violence in her household throughout her childhood. By the time she was 18 years old, Christina’s boyfriend was psychologically, physically, verbally, and sexually abusing her. In July 2004, Christina was 19 years old when her boyfriend forced her to drive him and two of his friends to the store. During the drive he changed his plan and threatened her to follow his directions. Christina thus drove him and his friends to a house she did not know. Under coercion and fear, Christina went to the house with her boyfriend/abuser and his friends. After she witnessed that they forced themselves into the home, Christina rushed back to the car terrified, not knowing that a robbery was taking place and that it resulted in someone’s death. Still unsure of what happened, her boyfriend/abuser returned to the car with his friends and shouted at her to drive, telling her “I’ll kill you if you ever speak of this day.” By 2005, Christina was 20 years old and pregnant with her first child, worked full time at a bank, and continued to experience daily abuse from her boyfriend. Continuing to control her and her daily activities, Christina’s boyfriend/abuser demanded she bring him activated bank cards and he started withdrawing money. Ultimately the bank initiated an investigation and, in fear for the lives of her children and her own, Christina took full responsibility for the bank card fraud. By 2008, she pled guilty to all the fraud charges and she was sentenced to home detention due to her pregnancy with her third child. Christina’s taking responsibility for this incident - even though under duress - was another example of her attempts to survive under constant threat to her life and that of her children and family. In 2009, 23-year-old Christina was arrested in Sacramento for her believed involvement in the 2004 robbery-murder incident, which was eventually consolidated with the bank card fraud incident. Both Christina and her boyfriend/abuser were charged with murder: the felony murder rule was used to hold them both equally culpable, even though Christina did not murder anyone. Awaiting trial at Sacramento County Jail, her boyfriend/abuser - who had throughout their relationship demanded “obedience” under threat of harm - sent messages threatening violence, including killing their children, if she testified against him. These messages reflected the extent of her boyfriend/abuser’s terror, cruelty, and control even throughout Christina’s legal proceedings. Ultimately, at the age of 26, Christina was sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole. Since then, she has devoted her time in prison to seeking healing while advocating with and supporting other incarcerated survivors. Christina describes the positive journey she has been on since entering prison, as she continues to participate in many programs, including restorative justice programs like Bridges to Life, Walk to Remember, and Pattern for Change. She is also a peer educator for groups like Beyond Violence, a Healing Trauma facilitator for newly incarcerated people, and a lead instructor for Living Outside Violence Everyday. Most importantly to Christina, she is proud to be a mother to her three children who are now 9, 11, and 12 years old. As an incarcerated mother, Christina does her ultimate best to parent her children and teach them about life experiences. Join us in asking Governor Brown to commute Christina Martinez’s sentence from Life Without Parole to a parole-eligible sentence. Survivors of domestic violence should be strongly supported and affirmed rather than punished for violent acts committed by their abusers. Thank you for your support. Please also see our petitions to commute Stacey, Rae, Brandy & Tammy. To support more survivors, follow us @survivepunish.
Grant Commutation for Incarcerated Survivor Tammy Garvin!
Tammy Garvin is an incarcerated survivor of domestic violence and sex trafficking who has been in prison for 27 years as a result of her abuser’s lethal violence. Tammy was only 14 years old when she was trafficked, and by the time she was convicted and sentenced to Life Without Parole in her early 30s, she suffered from the long-term effects of psychological and sexual abuse. Join us in asking Governor Jerry Brown to commute Tammy Garvin’s sentence from Life Without Parole to a parole-eligible sentence. BACKGROUND Tammy Garvin is an incarcerated survivor of multiple forms of abuse throughout her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. After suffering childhood sexual abuse, Tammy was sex-trafficked at age 14. Exacerbating the dangerous and high-risk conditions of sex trafficking, Tammy also suffered ongoing physical and sexual abuse as an adult. At the time of her arrest in 1991, Tammy had survived compounded physical and sexual trauma. She was 32 years old when her latest abuser pressured her into saying which of her clients he might be able to rob. Tammy drove him to the scene and waited in the car. When it seemed like it was taking him too long to return, Tammy entered the building and realized her abuser had killed the client. Terrified and traumatized, Tammy ran from the scene with him. As a result, Tammy and her abuser were both charged with murder: the felony murder rule was used to hold them equally culpable, even though Tammy did not murder the client. Tammy’s abuser threatened to kill her and her father if they testified against him. Under threat, Tammy revoked her testimony and her father refused to testify. Extending his abuse into courtroom proceedings, Tammy’s abuser actively undermined her ability to tell her story and her right to a fair trial. Even though Tammy’s abuser had admitted to her father that he had committed the murder, the police botched the handling of the evidence and he was ultimately acquitted. During her trial in 1995, the criminal legal system ignored the patterns of violence inflicted on Tammy by her multiple traffickers/abusers, including her victimization since childhood. Although an expert on trafficking testified at her trial, Tammy did not have an expert on intimate partner violence because intimate relationships in the context of sex trafficking did not qualify as domestic violence in the eyes of the law. The court further undermined Tammy’s right to a fair trial by failing to recognize her as simultaneously victimized by domestic violence and sex trafficking. While in prison, Tammy has focused on healing from the abusive cycles she was deeply embedded in at the time of her arrest. Tammy has developed meaningful insight into the traumatic impact of the abuse she suffered. She has also developed a deeper understanding of how she found herself entering a crime scene, unable to stop her abuser from killing the client, and unable to understand or escape his ongoing abuse throughout her prosecution. Throughout her 27 years of incarceration, Tammy has been involved in serving her community. She is a peer educator on infectious diseases and a trained facilitator leading groups on Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking, Healing Trauma, Beyond Violence, Victim Impact, and Restorative Justice, among others. Tammy has become a leader amongst women serving life without parole, participating in various support groups and encouraging her peers to seek opportunities for healing. Join us in asking Governor Brown to commute Tammy Garvin’s sentence from Life Without Parole to a parole-eligible sentence. Survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking should be strongly supported and affirmed rather than punished for violent acts committed by their abusers. Thank you for your support! Please see our petitions to commute Stacey, Brandy, Rae & Christina. To support more survivors, follow us @survivepunish.