Dec 4, 2009

U.N.I.O.N. Press Conference/Rally to expose wrongful deaths in California prisons.

Linda Ward

Native Californian

Linda Ward, an employee of the Department of Defense for 20 years will speak about the suspicious
death of her sister just days before her release in January, 2009 from Chowchilla Institute for Women
and her horrendous treatment when she tried to get information about what had happened.

Dec 4 Shirley Ward

Linda Ward will describe her nightmare experience with the California Department of Corrections after
her sister Shirley Ward (left) died suspiciously at CIW in January, 2009 just days before her release. One year later the family still has no answers.
Linda Ward

Besides wanting to know what happened to her sister Shirley, Linda Ward wants to see the following policies and practices corrected.

1. Accountability for deliberate indifference and failure to protect prisoners.

2. Transparency at every level of the California Department of Corrections and full media access restored, especially when a prisoner dies.


Almost a year has passed since my sister Shirley has allegedly passed away. Right now I have an unopened box from the Neptune Society supposedly filled with her ashes. I bought a beautiful Urn which I can’t even bring myself to pour the ashes into because I don’t know if that’s really my sister. I have no letter, no medical report, no autopsy report any proof at all and yet, I am suppose to accept this death with no questions asked. I want to know what happened to my sister and I would like to have copies of these reports.

When I called Chowchilla Institute for Women, I was treated with derision by a number of different employees within the organization. I was passed around thoughout the prison and everyone acted as if they knew nothing about the situation or ever heard of my sister. Some of those people were down right rude and acted like they wanted to know why I was concerned. They were very unprofessional, even the medical staff who promised to call me back with information but never did. I finally got through to a guy in medical by the name of Mike Naranjo who could not really give me any information.

I left messages for a Matthew Cate who never returned any of my telephone calls. I even sent letters to Senators and did get a response from Senator Fienstien's office. Shirley was supposed to be released on the 20th of January 2009 a month before her alleged death. She was fine the last time I spoke on the phone with her in November 2008. Said she had dental work done and was trying to wear uncomfortable dentures but other than that she was in good health and her spirits were up because she was looking forward to being released. My world was shattered when I was notified on December 26, 2008 by a Sheriff/Coroner Heigers of Madera telling me that my sister was dead and that he had performed an autopsy on December 16, 2008. Why weren't we notified before the autopsy?

The lady at the Neptune Society, Gail Giovannoni, was rushing us to cremate her soon. Why? My family and I were given conflicting stories regarding Shirley's death, some say she died in the cell. After many unsuccessful attempts, I finally spoke with the Warden, Mary Latpimore, who informed me that she heard that my sister had refused medical help and died at the Madera Hospital. Before speaking to her I spoke with a number of other people starting with a Ed Wilks, the receiver or something, in Vallejo who first told me that he never received any information regarding my sister's death while at the same time telling me that he always received this vital information before anyone else. Why not in this case?

I also spoke with a very rude and unprofessional person by the name of Dee Rodriquez a few times, she kept asking me why I wanted to speak to the Warden, as if it disturbed her. I also spoke with a Mike Allen who appeared not to be aware of my sister's death either. What kind of business are these people running? People are dying all around them and they know nothing.This system is probably more dangerous than most of these lock up behind bars. The only person that seemed a little human was my sister's counselor Anton Ciegl. I want some kind of closure so that I can go to bed and sleep without waking up in the middle of the night wondering how my sister died. I want somebody to be held accountable for whatever happened whether it was an accident, negligence, or whatever.

I need to fill this emptiness I’m feeling with something other than this bitterness that’s brewing inside of me. I have gone through all the right channels seeking answers—with no success. No one should have to suffer through this. It’s heartbreaking enough losing your love one and this treatment only adds to the pain. What we appear to have here is a broken system with policies that definitely needs to be upgraded. One should not have to contact the entire prison staff for answers to the death of their family members or friends. Business is business (not just to cage people) and there should be a central area within the prison system to provide all the resources available to families and love ones in these devastating times.

What I want right now is a peace of mind in knowing that something was done to resolve this case and that someone, within the system, has the backbone to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’ This is a travesty. My heart aches for all the people out there who have to suffer through this madness called –Justice.