Dec 20 Written By Marc Vahanian
As we reflect on 2020, we are humbled by the generosity of donors and volunteers who have made our work possible. We are gratified and happy to report we have been generating very real and measurable results. Through our collaboration with wonderful partners (ARC, Winter Women, Root and Rebound, PREP, POPS and sister organizations) we have provided training for job interviews, life-skills, leadership development and kinship.
We listen to the stories, goals and actions that each man and woman we work with is taking to build a better life. They know they were not angels. Claims of innocence are absent. They have done their time. Lots of prison time. In some cases as much as 30 years. Their stories are at once heartbreaking, and an inspiration. Each of these folks has already weathered the difficult early steps of re-entry. They persevere.
Since our last newsletter…
- 24 participants graduated from the ARC 10th Cohort Training.
- 11 participants have been placed in various union apprenticeships.
- 12 women graduated the Winter Women Cohort training for roles in construction.
In our “Stories of Re-Entry” series, we will hear Livia Pinheiro’s harrowing experience. It is real, raw and is only one example of the extreme challenges people overcome on their journey to reconciliation and freedom. We invite you to read her story below.
- Bob Schad who partnered to provide interview training for ARC and Winter Women
- Anna King for her work with PREP and expertise in increasing their capacity to respond to inmate requests for their correspondence course
- Adrian Vasquez for his continued support
- Issac Lopez for his generosity & work with Winter Women
- We wish great success to Roberto Luca in his new role at Mass Liberation
- And last but not least, Carlos Cervantes for his tremendous dedication and willingness to help keep Pathway To Kinship informed and connected to sister organizations
We wish you a safe holiday season and look forward to creating more positive change in 2021.
Your donations are greatly appreciated.Donate
Tax Deductible Donations can be made to our Non-Profit, Federal tax-exempt status as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (Tax ID: 27-6601178).
A Bumpy Road Back
By Livia Pinheiro
At twenty-eight I caught my term. My daughter, a month shy of turning two, went to my parents — and my son, just turning seven, went to his father. The events that got me in there are vivid in my mind and they will continue to haunt me.
First I sat in disbelief in the county jail from Nov 17, 2009 to March of 2011.
Cut to: Oct 25, 2017. After serving the remainder of the 8-year term in Chowchilla prison, I wake up this Wednesday excited. I would finally be getting released. I could be on my way home.
At 10AM I am shackled, handcuffed and placed inside a windowless van that looks and smells like animal transport instead of human transportation. There are no seats at all – a short metal box lines both sides of the van – not big enough for my butt. But I adjust.
Bound, cuffed and loaded into the next windowless, seatless, animal-control van, I am transported to Yuba County Jail where I sit and pace in a holding cell for over 24 hours. A phone call to at least let my family know where I am and what is happening is “not permitted until housed.”
After sitting in holding for more than a whole day and night they call me into a closet to “dress me out.” I am finally, FINALLY going to be housed. Inside the closet, an efficient, tired officer tells me, “Strip down. Everything, let’s go.” She hands me 3 pairs of used underwear, “For the week.” Two have blood stains; the third has an old shit stain. As I pause, the officer orders, “Take them.” Next she gives me 2 pairs of holey socks. I say, “Officer…” and show her the holes. The officer smirks, “Better than most.” Then, old, smelly, county-type scrubs – tops and bottoms – stained-in-numerous-places-by-God-knows-what and three sizes too big. “Put a set on and carry the other.” And the best: 2 old, dingy stretched-out sports bras that are just right for Aretha Franklin. When I point this out, the new guard says, “You get what we give you!” As she watches me breathe in the warning, as if it isn’t enough, she adds, “And it gets worse.”
The two ever-distinct parts of me start churning: First, In my heart, I have so much faith that I would be released soon and be with my family again that nothing I am enduring could even faze me.
My mind, equally powerful, is already numbing, thinking about finding the laundry girl and how I could work out some sort of trade for some good and maybe cleaner clothes. The daze of future solutions.
Still preparing for my lockdown, the next officer points toward two piles of body-length pads and growls, “Grab that mattress fast.” One pile has mattresses with about an inch of padding inside them. The other pile looks like empty plastic body-bags from the morgue. I reach for the padded one and at the same moment hear a scream, “NO!!! Those are for COUNTY girls.” I stand there confused. ”The other pile is for the immigrants. You are an immigrant. You ain’t county,” I think to myself, Born in Brazil, I am American but I am a county girl. But this country girl does not count. “Get the mattress, now.”
As bad as all this is, I still don’t think the realization of what was happening to me had begun to sink in.
I’ve lived in America for as long as I can remember – so that stung. Stung bad. All they see is an illegal border-hopper that doesn’t matter because I was born in a land that I don’t even remember. But apparently, being born somewhere else is a crime.
And so I grab my new junk, follow the guard to my unit – a cold metal bunk bed with a matching toilet and sink. I am given a single sheet and a single thin blanket. Not enough to protect me from the freezing air blowing from the vents, nor the cold radiating from the steel bunk itself. Tiny. No windows. Lights stay on 24/7. Night and day are one smooth headache. Officers walk through every hour – on the top of the hour – slamming the metal door so loud, sleep in any capacity is consistently interrupted. As soon as I fall asleep, I am awakened by a screaming guard delivering 4AM medications. Breakfast comes an hour later, announced by another screaming officer. I begin to wonder how anyone survives here without losing their mind.
Phone calls are very expensive and the money I came with had not yet been added to my account. An American county girl is trusting enough to allow me to use her phone account. With the kindness of this nameless woman, I call my family. I never see her again.
They don’t even issue stamps, envelopes, or paper like they do for county inmates. They purposely make any form of communication to the outside world difficult. Because when our people in the free world know how bad it is in there for us, they file lawsuits, protest and complain. Stop phone calls; stop problems.
The thing about Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is, unlike regular jails, you get no advanced notice for anything. You don’t know when court is or when you’re being released or when you’re in sunlight for 15 minutes or being transported or when you’re being deported. And the guards don’t tell you anything. So every time your name gets called for anything, you experience this traumatizing overwhelming sense of panic and fear. It’s a horrible way to live. And I think of home and my children I love.
After 2 months, I finally am standing before an immigration judge. And he tells me that there is no way I was staying in this country. This is at the beginning. This is before any documents have been filed. Before any motions had been heard. Before I had been given the right to a fair trial. The judge’s mind is made up. I am an immigrant and I am not staying. So much for due-process huh! See the thing is, in immigration if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will not be provided for you. Either your family hires you a lawyer, or you are left to defend yourself.
Over the course of the next 7 months, I go to court 4 separate times. I end up losing my case in immigration court. And after I lose my case, I go back to Yuba and wait for my name to be called, one final time. This time, it would be for deportation. There are no more court dates for me. That is it. I had fought and I had lost.
As I sit on my bunk I ask myself, “What do you do when you reach a point where you’ve done your best and your best wasn’t good enough?”
I could still see the path home.
God and I are just going to have to find a way to MAKE a way. Because I know in my soul that I would see my family again. And no judge is going to change that. So, I begin filing appeal after appeal. All of them come back denied. But I do not give up. I continue pressing on.
Friday, August 3, 2018 – 283 days later, “Ms. Pinheiro.” And the guard yells louder, “Ms. Livia Pinheiro! Time to ROLL IT UP!’ My name is called. I have no idea where I’m going or what is happening. I ask my friends to please call my family and let them know that I am being taken. And that I will reach out to them when I can. Hopefully I would not be attempting to call them from Brazil, but that is definitely a realistic possibility. As it turns out, I end up someplace far worse than a foreign country.
I am transferred to an ICE detention facility in Adelanto, California run by G.E.O. Corporation. I won’t tell you about the horror, the truly terrible things they do to us there. I don’t have the words to explain the ways in which they degrade us. How they abuse us physically, emotionally and mentally. That place is inhumane and the staff there should be charged with cruelty and abuse. I witness the staff beat a woman until she signs deportation against her will. And that is not the worst of it.
BELIEVE the stories you hear about how bad the living conditions are there in ICE detention facilities. It’s all that, and it is also so much worse. While enduring the daily torment and abuse in Adelanto, I pray to God to give me the strength to wake up and continue to fight just one more day. And he does. Each day God gives me the courage and the strength to fight just one more day. Thirteen months later, Sept. 2019 God sends me an attorney to take over my case when all hope is lost and somehow miraculously, does the impossible to stop my deportation process. I am still currently in the Board of Immigration Appeals but due to a class-action lawsuit I was released on monitored supervision by a Federal Judge after being detained for 33 months, then 8 years in prison, plus nearly 3 more years in ICE detention facilities.
After coming home, I graduate from Cohort10 – a pre-apprenticeship program through Southwest Los Angeles Community College and ARC. I have been sponsored into the Local 78 plumbers union.
I do this for my children. My son is my purpose and my daughter is my heart beat.
And I am free.