Restorative justice that is truly restoring…
I had just heard from my good friend and former colleague Gigi today and I have to admit, our conversation brought me to tears. It was just over two years ago that she was able to win in the appellate courts overturning Gov. Schwarenegger’s reversal of her parole decision. This ended her 29 year stay in prison on a 10-life sentence for killing her abuser. (In California, you can serve a portion of your lowest sentence and then you are reviewed by the parole board, which consists of law enforcement officials, victims and the community. If you are granted parole, which is highly unlikely as they look at three different factors (your life before prison, the nature of your crime and your life in prison) and for most, they are denied based upon a factor that isn’t going to change: the nature of their crime and no consideration is given to their restoration and remorse since they’ve been inside. Unfortunately, people change but crimes don’t and this loophole keeps many women in prison well overdue. If and only if you are granted parole, the governor must sign off on this decision. Because of the political risk, 90% of cases are reversed by the governor.)
Gigi is now working her first fulltime job with benefits at All of Us or None, an agency committed to helping women when they come out of prison. Not only is she excelling in this job, but she told me that on my birthday next week she will be flying to Sacramento. She was chosen to testify against the current way that California determines parole choices for lifers.
As soon as she told me this, I felt such a strange feeling of pride. This was not the inner pride you feel when you accomplish something, it was greater. This type of pride has been explained to me by my friends who have children feel when their children accomplish something great; however, I’ve never truly grasped it until right now. I felt so excited and happy for Gigi and was really moved by her persistence to keep on making the lives’ of others better. When she started working with me two years ago, I saw that she had something special. However, all she really had to do was to start believing in that.
This couldn’t be a better birthday present to me. Gigi, keep on inspiring me and others for the rest of your life. You have made your mark and I pray that on March 15th next week, you will be the voice that Sacramento will hear. California, you can’t afford to over incarcerate, reverse parole decisions based upon political gain and not schedule the next board hearing until 15 years later, it has got to change.