By Lt. John Ojo, AA/PIO
California State Prison, Solano

In the book “Feminine Mysitique,” Betty Friedan wrote, “The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own.”

In honor of International Women’s Day, CSP-Solano staff took these words to heart and created an event, which turned into a tradition, honoring women in corrections.

Three years ago, Correctional Lt. D. Blackwell, Correctional Counselor II D. Rowlett, and Associate Warden D. Hudnall of CSP-Solano wanted to celebrate International Women’s Day in a place where so many women’s contributions are made, the workplace.

Initially, their primary focus was uniting the women within the institution walls and fostering a healthier work environment, specifically focusing on those issues unique to women. The first event was held in a small office with only three attendees. However, during that initial meeting powerful bonds were made. Realizing the positive impact of their initial event the trio decided to expand their Women’s Day festivities the following year, leading to a turnout of approximately 50 women.

This year, on March 29, around 100 women gathered for the event in the CSP-Solano Level III gymnasium. Female staff of all classifications united together to reflect on overcoming adversity, life skills and self-confidence.  The highlight of the day was an inspirational speech given by keynote speaker Deputy Director Connie Gipson.

Gipson encouraged attendees to connect, mentor, be resilient and support each other. Reflecting on her own personal experiences, her message to women was, “Have a seat at the table, push forward through adversity, believe in yourself, and remember to give back.”

During the event, lunch was served and cleaned up by male staff and each woman was provided a single rose in thanks for their service to the department.

Although, Corrections is a male dominated field, the department values and respects the rights of all staff. CSP-Solano celebrates the unique contributions of women in the department. They are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, as well as captains, officers, cooks and support staff. Events like the one held at CSP-Solano will hopefully inspire all staff to take action and demand equal treatment for all. Like the women of 1900s who utilized their voice to change the world, three women at CSP-Solano chose to approach correctional issues from a female perspective resulting in a celebration of sisterhood.