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The UCLA Women's Law Journal is an academic legal journal that uses the power of language to educate people and make women's voices heard. We seek to do so by focusing not only on the common struggles of women, but also on diversity as a strength in feminist legal scholarship. Through diversity, we seek to represent the reality of all women's lives and experiences, without separating voices into exclusionary categories.

UCLA Women's Law Journal

Articles

Women Beyond Bars: A Post-Prison Interview with Jennifer Claypool and Wendy Staggs

Jennifer Claypool and Wendy Staggs are inspiring artists, college students, and mothers.  They are also returning citizens.  Coming home from prison just months apart in 2017, we met and began working together while they were incarcerated at the oldest women’s prison in the state: the California Institution for Women (CIW), [1] a prison reported to have a suicide rate five times the state average and eight times the national average.[2]

Women are the fastest growing population behind bars in the United States.  Between 1970 and 2015, the number of women behind bars grew from under 8000 to almost 110,000—a fourteen-fold increase primarily for drug related crimes.[3] In 2015, I joined the faculty of the UCLA and worked with incarcerated and university students, faculty, staff, and a dozen community partner organizations, to launch the UCLA Prison Education Program.  By the following spring, I taught the university’s first pilot course at CIW.

This interview focuses on the experiences of two women I met while teaching at CIW during the first year of the Prison Education Program.  Jennifer, Wendy, and I worked together with a group of visionary, incarcerated women to develop the CIW Think Tank—a committee of women at the prison committed to guiding UCLA in the development of educational opportunities.[4]

At least 95 percent of those incarcerated in state prisons in the United States will return to society.[5] Evidence overwhelmingly suggests education is a leading factor keeping those who come home from prison from ever returning to the inside of a cell.[6]

[1].        The current facility was built in 1952 with 1,398 beds.  Today, it incarcerates over 1,800 women.  Division of Internal Oversight and Research & Office of Research, Weekly Report of Population as of Midnight October 10, 2018, Cal. Dep’t of Corrections & Rehabilitation, https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports_Research/Offender_Information_Services_Branch/WeeklyWed/TPOP1A/TPOP1Ad181010.pdf [https://perma.cc/BT6X-84EE]; Don Chaddock, Unlocking History: Original Tehachapi Women’s Prison was Novel in Approach, Inside CDCR (Feb. 13, 2015), https://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2015/02/unlocking-history-ciw-tehachapi.

[2].        Hillel Aron, Why Are So Many Inmates Attempting Suicide at the California Institution for Women?, L.A. Weekly (July 20, 2016, 8:08 AM), http://www.laweekly.com/news/why-are-so-many-inmates-attempting-suicide-at-the-california-institution-for-women-7156615.

[3].        Elizabeth Swavola, et al., Vera Inst. of Justice & Safety & Justice Challenge, Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform 6 (2016), https://storage.googleapis.com/vera-web-assets/downloads/Publications/overlooked-women-and-jails-report/legacy_downloads/overlooked-women-and-jails-report-updated.pdf; TRT World, Route 66: Who Is benefitting from California’s Cannabis ‘Green Rush’?, YouTube (Mar. 6, 2018), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBPCrSV9jp4&sns=em.

[4].        See Appendix B, infra, for information on a project by the CIW Think Tank.

[5].        Timothy Hughes & Doris James Wilson, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Reentry Trends in the U.S. (2018), https://www.bjs.gov/content/reentry/reentry.cfm [https://perma.cc/D3T8-F39K].

[6].        Debbie Mukamal et. al., Stanford Criminal Justice Ctr. & Chief Justice Earl Warren Inst. on Law & Soc. Policy, Degrees of Freedom: Expanding College Opportunities for Currently and Formerly Incarcerated Californians 1 (2015), https://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/DegreesofFreedom2015_FullReport.pdf.

"All the Truth I Could Tell": A Discussion of Title VII's Potential Impact on Systemic Entertainment Industry Victimization

There has been a distinct rise in sexual assault allegations within the entertainment industry in recent years.  The culture of the industry, the nature of entertainment contracts, and the abuse of the nondisclosure agreement are to blame for this rampant abuse of vulnerable entertainers.  This Article focuses on the contractual prisons in which sexually abused entertainers find themselves when they attempt to part ways with their employers.  Using prevailing equitable remedies in conjunction with the feminist contract theory of context and subjectivity can help alleviate some of the pressure on abused entertainers attempting to “breach” their contracts.  While Title VII has been used in the employment law context, it has yet to be applied in the context of entertainment contracts.  Using this novel approach, Title VII can put entertainment-based employers on the defensive by allowing intentional sexual torts to count as the first contract breach.  One thing is for certain: something must be done to combat this culture of sexual assault within the entertainment industry.[1]

[1].        “The recent revelations have proven that society must examine the persistent sexual harassment issue that has plagued women in some of the country’s most important industries.  The first step to tackling the problem, though, must be addressing the contractual traps that are used to silence women and obscure the pattern of abuse.  This Article uses feminist legal theory to shift the conversation, challenging how we’re characterizing ‘wrongdoing’ and ‘breaches.’  It is an important contribution to a vital national conversation.”  Statement by Stacey Lantagne, Professor of Law, University of Mississippi School of Law, Oxford, Mississippi (Jan. 24, 2018).

Gender Norms, Economic Inequality, and Social Egg Freezing: Why Company Egg Freezing Benefits Will Do More Harm Than Good

Some of the largest companies in the world—including Facebook and Apple—began offering cryopreservation (aka, egg freezing) as a covered employee benefit as early as 2014.  This Article discusses the ramifications of such coverage on other diversity policies and employee benefits, as well as with respect to class and racial inequality, and gender-normative societal roles.

Egg freezing is an elective procedure to preserve a woman’s eggs by extracting, freezing and storing them until she is ready to get pregnant at a later point in time.  Similar to how the Pill allowed women to defer pregnancy and invest in their careers in the 1970s, some see egg freezing as the ultimate breakthrough to level the playing field for women so that they can have both a career and motherhood.  However, when an employer subsidizes that choice, and does so over other employee benefits such as paid parental leave, childcare or flexible work arrangements, the employer reinforces the dominant—yet as this Article shows, flawed—view that motherhood is incompatible with work.

Indeed, our society was founded on notions of individual rights and autonomy, and egg freezing benefits claim to provide a woman with the choice to put her eggs on ice as she focuses on her career, financial stability, and finding a partner.  This Article demonstrates that while potentially beneficial in the short term to recruit women and diversify the workplace, egg freezing coverage is more likely to aggravate class and racial inequality and disrupt the movements for supportive employee benefits and a restructuring of the societal norms of gender roles.  With movements such as Time’s Up and #MeToo rallying women and men around the world, it is time to bring to light and question notions of traditional gender roles that companies may in effect be reinforcing.