Supreme Court to rule on mother/child love

By Chuck Armsbury, Senior Editor

Yraida Guanipa picked up a package for a friend one day in 1996 and was subsequently indicted for drug conspiracy. She chose to go to trial, was convicted, received a 12-year sentence. The Miami Federal judge refused to let her serve her time in a local lockup, and soon she was transferred to a Federal prison in Tallahassee far from her two young sons, Yrwil Jesus (now 11) and Jeswil Jose (now 10). Yraida never dreamed that her punishment for the 'crime' of picking up a package for a friend would mean separation from her two loving and loved sons for years.

Yraida would also have never imagined the barriers thrown up to keep her from the boys, and on the day she made the decision to fight for the love of her sons she said to herself, "There is no wall that a mother-child love can not scale." She began a campaign for mothers in prison. She wrote everyone, anyone, and her first response came from a very lonely, sad father on Texas' death row who supported her campaign and understood her pain.

Since 1996 she has diligently pursued administrative remedies to no avail. All her formal requests through 'channels' were ignored or denied. On November 29, 1999 she decided to go on a 'hunger strike'. Guards placed her in a SHU cell for observation with no water. On her 10th day without food or water her health failed, and she was rushed to a hospital for three days, and then back to SHU for 32 more days. When she was released to Coleman Camp (FL), she learned with deep satisfaction that the Terrell Unit in Texas (death row) had been on a solidarity hunger strike with her.

Not only has this exceptional person completed many, many rehabilitation programs during her confinement, it now seems she has surpassed her own remarkable achievements. November Coalition spoke with Yraida in mid-September and learned:

  • The US Supreme Court has granted her petition for writ of certiorari (Guanipa v. Gregory Parks, Warden, et al., No. 00-5657). She had a hearing before the highest court on September 25th, 2000 on the single issue: Is the bond between a (prisoner) mother and her child a frivolous matter (as lower courts have already ruled)? Readers may realize that granting certiorari to any petitioner is rare, prisoner or not - Yraida did this on her own, pro se, with English her second language - a rare rarity indeed.
  • The US Circuit Court has docketed seven different actions on appeal from Yraida.
  • The US District Court of her case's jurisdiction has granted her habeas motion under Sec. 2255 challenging her sentence on 78 different grounds.
  • The Warden at FCI Tallahassee has agreed to transfer her to a camp in Miami where she can more readily be able to see her two sons. However, as the Razor Wire goes to press, it seems this move is on hold because the Warden of the only Miami Federal facility available has not approved the transfer to her prison.

Yraida corresponds regularly with Senators and Congresspeople. Former Illinois Senator, Paul Simon, has talked by telephone with her. The venerable Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina wrote her a sweet, supportive letter recently, and so did Sen. Jesse Helms.

November Coalition, as well as FAMM and other organizations, are named in the Petition for Writ of Certiorari as interested parties. It was too late for the Coalition to respond in this matter by September, but no doubt we'll be covering the outcome when the Justices' decision is rendered and published.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]