Willow Katz, M.S., retired nutritionist/health educator, is a member of SWASC, California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC), Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSS), and End Solitary Santa Cruz County CA.
Willow has been an anti-racist grassroots peace and justice activist since the 1960’s. In 1969 she visited Puerto Rico and became a supporter of the movement for Puerto Rican independence and socialism.
In 1974, as a survivor of childhood rape, Willow began grassroots work to end rape and to support rape survivors. She worked on the defense committees of Inez Garcia (whose case set the legal precedent for the right to self-defense against rape) and other women who defended themselves and their children from rape and sexual abuse.
Working to free Political Prisoners and for prisoners’ rights, she saw the rise of solitary confinement, used first against Political Prisoners, and then on a massive level in supermax prisons, as part of a government plan to squash the liberation movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s. After the California Prisoner Hunger Strikes of 2011, she began to concentrate her work for prisoners’ rights on the CA Prisoner Human Rights Movement, focused on ending long-term solitary confinement.
Willow received the ACLU Northern CA Santa Cruz County Chapter 2016 Hammer of Justice award for her work as a prisoners’ rights activist, to end solitary confinement and sleep deprivation torture, and to end the incarceration & criminalization of people of color, the poor, and immigrants.
In 2016 Willow produced a readers’ theater of voices of CA survivors of solitary and their family members, in which CFASC member Marie Levin read her own statements. Watch it on YouTube:
Solitary Confinement | Readers Theater | Temple Beth El 2016; Voices from Solitary: CA Prisoner Human Rights Movement 2011-2016; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVcEUuByoQE
As a member of the Reel Work May Day Labor Film Festival (RWLFF) committee, Willow has organized three years of Together to End Solitary events. The 2016 festival screened Breaking Down the Box, by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Ramon Hamilton’s The wHOLE, with a panel of CFASC members Marie Levin, Randy Levin, and Cynthia Fuentes. RWLFF 2017 screened Solitary:Inside Red Onion State Prison. Watch on YouTube: Dolores Canales at Reel Labor Film Fest | Santa Cruz 2017; https://youtu.be/Hxzjo3ovAsU
On April 22nd, 2018 Willow moderated the University of California Santa Cruz opening of the Reel Work May Day Labor Film Festival (RWLFF)’s 17th season, with the event theme “Together to End Solitary.” The film screening, discussion, and reception, Cruel and Unusual-the Story of the Angola 3, was attended by over 200 people. Dr. Craig Haney and Marie Levin of CFASC spoke. Dr. Haney said: “I’m not sure I’ve seen a film that made me simultaneously as despairing, as angry, and as inspired as that film.” Willow noted that the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation (CDCr) held Hugo Lyon Antonio “Yogi Bear” Pinell in solitary confinement for 45 years and 10 months, to our knowledge longer than any other person in the U.S.
On August 21, 2018, the four CA Prisoner Hunger Strike and Ashker Class Representatives were present in the San Francisco Federal Courthouse to ‘Meet and Confer’ with CDCr in order to address the continuing solitary conditions that violate the Ashker v. CA Governor lawsuit settlement agreement.
Since March 2015, End Solitary Santa Cruz County has held a monthly action/outreach as part of the nationwide movement Together to End Solitary. Willow stated: “Almost every month we meet people who have been in solitary confinement or who have family members currently or formerly in solitary. This widespread torture is heartbreaking and appalling, and must be stopped.”
As Marie Levin declared: “We will be with the prisoners in the courts, in the legislature, and out in the community. We will use every venue available to us, UNTIL THE TORTURE IS ENDED.”