Sara Olson is a Minnesotan in a California prison. She was a fugitive for 24 years, living in various places including the Country of Zimbabwe, Baltimore, MD and Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN Ms. Olson’s family – her husband and three daughters still reside in St. Paul and they travel as often as possible to visit her.
I try to reach out through writing and talking with people within the prison. That is what, it seems to me, any activist must do: educate and organize as creatively as possible under any circumstances one might face.
Since the looming demise of male searches became public knowledge here, male guards have been doing them more than ever. Guards who rarely search much now command, “Hey, get over here! Let me pat you down.” Why? Because they can. A virtual concentration-camp system has materialized in California and elsewhere, out in the middle of nowhere, erecting these prisons out of sight and out of mind.
Today in California, there are 22,000 women, inmates and parolees, whose convictions are for, on the whole, non-violent and drug-related crimes. Women normally plea-bargain their cases. Even for violent crimes, we are usually sentenced as aiders and abettors. Because we are fallen women, our sentences tend to be longer than those for men convicted of the same crimes. When it comes to murder, women primarily kill abusers who have been torturing them for many years. Public financing for women’s prisons is money misspent.
Right after 4:30 p.m. count on Halloween, there was the sound of a scuffle in D Hall. An alarm brought guards running from all parts of the yard. An ambulance pulled up to the back door of the hall in which we live. The attendant pulled open the back door, got back into the ambulance and backed the rear of the vehicle up to the door. Next thing we knew, a phalanx of guards came hot-footing down our hall toward the ambulance, three of them surrounding a tall, slim woman with her wrists cuffed behind her back, hair flying everywhere and a wild, terrified look in her eyes. She’d threatened to cut her wrists.
In March, 2008 I was released from Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, California after over six years in prison. I won a writ, a portion of one anyway, in October, 2007 in Los Angeles that agreed with my attorneys that the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) had violated my double jeopardy right by adding a year to a sentence that a real court had already addressed. I got half-time, so six months were deducted from my sentence and the BPH commanded staff at CCWF to release me March 17, as the
Olson tells of a 4th of July at CCWF. When you come into the CDC, it’s a whole different world. It’s like t third world country. You’re completely cut off from civilization. I was freaked out when I got here. I was sure some of the prisoners were men. "Are they men?" I asked. I had no idea. You’re isolated.
The systems of federal and state and corporate imprisonment, the Prison/Industrial Complex, are growth industries in the United States. While there has been much attention worldwide to the human rights travesty of massive American incarceration, criticism has brought no reduction, only growth in the numbers. Incarceration is aimed at a certain group of people Blacks, Latinos, and the poor.
Olson describes what a prisoner goes through serving a life sentence.
Sara Olson tells the story of the Annual “Get On The Bus” event, uniting women prisoners with our children and loved ones.