AB 2530, passed in 2012, prevents the shackling of pregnant incarcerated people. Alums from our own Solís Policy Institute (SPI) played a big role in the passing of this bill which was vetoed by two governors before being passed on the third attempt. Solís Policy Institute mentor, Karen Shain, stated that she “remembered telling [herself] it was time to give up” but she and the team behind AB 2530 persevered. . This bill centered the experience of incarcerated people.
Mentor Karen Shain and SPI alum Lisa Marie Alatorre agreed to speak about their experience and the current state of the bill nearly a decade after the bill became law. Karen worked on the bill all three years, and Lisa worked on the bill during its second time around when it was once again vetoed by the governor. Despite the vetoes, the work of all three AB 2530 Solís Policy Institute teams was crucial for the eventual passing of the bill.
Team members collectively decide on which bill they would like to work on. As a mentor, Karen presented this bill to the SPI team. She had worked on an anti-shackling bill prior to her work on AB 2530. That bill had ended shackling during labor. Lisa’s team was unique because while they had the chance to choose a new bill to work on, they chose to continue the work on AB 2530. When asked why, she explained the team wanted “as much experience in legislature as [they] could get – including getting a bill as far as [they] could get it.” They knew the bill had already passed through assembly and senate during its previous run and felt confident about its potential. Lisa noted “political and organizational differences” between team members stating that they “spanned many parts of the sector – from a pro-prison perspective to an abolitionist perspective.” Luckily, the one organization that did not support the bill was willing to work on it due to an appreciation of the learning process. It is great to know that people from different sides of the bill became united in support of the training process.
Lisa describes AB 2530 as a “common sense” bill, and I would have to agree because what would be the issue with treating pregnant people in a humane way safe for them and their babies? There was not much dissonance among policymakers. The real resistance came from law enforcement which I am sure does not come as a surprise to many. Lisa explains this best in her own words, “Trying to convince a powerful, white, cisgender man that their beliefs of pregnant prisoners were rooted in untrue biases felt like banging our heads against brick walls.” She believes this resistance died down in the bill’s third year due to stories from pregnant incarcerated people and attestation from doctors.
The “human” and ugly parts of the policy process are what Lisa cites as the most surprising and challenging parts of her time working on AB 2530. While many may expect members of legislature to make decisions based on fact and research, Lisa says she noticed decisions can be made based on whether policymakers had a decent morning or maybe you will only be granted a meeting if the staffer deems you physically attractive. She adds on by comparing the social dynamics of the capitol to that of U.S. high schools. It is frightening that decisions affecting people’s lives may be made based on how someone’s day is going.
The vetoes and resistance could not beat the determination of the teams that worked on this bill. In the end, it was passed, and it appears that the bill has been properly adhered to over its decade of existence. Karen has not checked up on the bill recently, but she recalls that “most counties adhered to the bill almost immediately.” Although most counties were quick to make the necessary changes, Karen remembers difficulty gaining full compliance. She presumes there is a need for re-education every time a new sheriff comes on board.
It was exciting to hear that both Karen and Lisa continued policy work after their time with the Solís Policy Institute. Karen continued policy work for nearly another year and a half including the passing of another bill and preventing the build of a women’s jail in Los Angeles! Following that, Karen also did work for the City and County of San Francisco. Karen highlights that she finds it easier to work on state bills compared to local ones. Lisa happily refers to her SPI training as “pivotal to so many aspects of [her] advocacy work.” Like Karen, she continued policy work on various levels. Her work continues to this day as an advocate for criminal justice and housing policy. She finds that her SPI training has allowed her “to be more vocal and articulate about how policy harms (or) helps…” As a professor of policy, Lisa has even implemented this instruction into her curriculum to teach “a more critical approach to policy-making to minimize the harm…” SPI training lasts far beyond the one year an individual participates in the program.
As reproductive justice policy advocates, I asked Karen and Lisa about their thoughts on the overturning of Roe v. Wade. At 74 years old, Karen remembers the time before the initial 1973 Roe v. Wade decision when abortion was illegal. It is frustrating to her that “something [she] worked for so long ago…is now facing national defeat.” Karen leaves us with a reminder that “[r]eproductive justice impacts everyone in prison.” Abortion is still allowed in California’s jails and prisons. Hopefully, this will not change. On the other hand, Lisa recalls the “vileness of law enforcement lobbyists and representatives” and feels this prepared her for the decision. She makes a powerful reference to the “patriarchal, misogynistic makeup of the legislature and legislative process” and states that we deserve for “policy and elected officials to reflect the real beliefs and cultural shaping of our communities.” Karen and Lisa make obvious just how far our system is from perfect. One way or another, it is important to ensure that our voices are heard, so as Lisa said, our elected officials can reflect our communities. Lisa’s SPI training has led to her using her voice as an advocate to this day. The Solís Policy Institute and policy training programs like it are vital to the future of policy.
A Note from Eliana Arroyo:
I want to thank everyone who helped me during my internship at Women’s Foundation California. Thank you to Mazuri and the rest of the Development and Partnerships team for welcoming me with open arms and supporting me throughout the entire process. Thank you to the entire WFC staff for your amazing energy and positivity. I appreciate all of you and everything that you do. Women’s Foundation California is such a special environment, and I did not take my time here for granted. Finally, I want to send a huge thank you to Karen Shain, Lisa Marie Alatorre, and Marj Plumb for agreeing to speak with me and bringing my pieces to life.
I was greatly inspired by the work being done at WFC; so much so that I decided to try and find work at another nonprofit with a similar mission. I am extremely happy to announce that I will continue my nonprofit experience this fall with an internship at Civic Nation’s United State of Women initiative! This would not have been possible without my experience at Women’s Foundation California.