Veronica (Compton) Wallace is from a long line of artists; there are painters , musicians, dancers, actors, writers in her family. Veronica began her art studies at the knee of her late father, the late internationally collected Mexican/American Muralist and political cartoonist, Armando Campero, who studied under Diego Rivera. She is also author of Eating The Ashes. She recently authored a childhood biography as Jane Doe on childhood trauma. Currently she’s introducing Jane Doe on Jax Corner Podcast.
Veronica’s art began being published in the mid 1980’s primarily under pseudonyms and in leftist presses/feminist publications. Remember Our Sisters Inside (R.O.S.I.), a California non-profit organization began making prints of her work in posters, cards, and flyers.
By the 1990’s Veronica had grown her own patron base and with her work on tours at several universities. Her work was beginning to be collected almost exclusively in print form. She donated original pieces to help non-profit organizations raise funds i.e., American Cancer Society, Mary Bridge Hospital Burn Ward for children, WA State Correctional Officers Association, and a series of portraits of children who had passed away while their mothers were in prison (these pieces were gifted to their families). Murals by Veronica were regularly donated to the Black Cultural Workshop in WCCW to help celebrate the lives of African Americans whose life work made positive changes to our American culture.
Veronica has chosen to not sell her work until now. What MA is making available are historical pieces and her current works.
Charges of Constitutionally prohibited Cruel and Unusual Punishment, unlawful sentencing to Solitary and inhumane conditions, filed by five inmates in an ongoing lawsuit against the Department of Corrections of the State of Washington had so far resulted in :Superintendent of Washington Corrections Center for Women being “allowed to retire”. Her replacement is on the way out also. Transfer of prison supervisor to Walla Walla. Firings include his Counsellor assistant, Head of Security, and Records Clerk.
The leader of the five inmates, Veronica Compton, for years had actively fought for prisoners rights. In 1984 she lead a work stoppage in the prison industry to protest unsafe working conditions. A main part of her activism had been as a jailhouse lawyer helping prisoners stand up against serious abuses of the System’s power.
Harassment waged against Ms. Compton by the Institution after filing of the lawsuit which caused her to fear for her safety. On July 26, 1988 she and her cellmate escaped from Washington Corrections Center For Women (WCCW). Her escape and capture, ten days later, revived the notoriety associated with her arrest in 1980 when she was an attractive 23 year old, prescription drug and cocaine addicted actress playwright, who had fallen under the influence of Ken Bianchi, the Hillside Strangler. She was inaccurately labeled the “Copycat Hillside Strangler” by the media. She in fact, did no serious damage to her victim and never murdered anyone.
Ms. Compton’s outstanding intelligence enables her to present articulate and moving accounts of the inhumane conditions inflicted on the prisoners during her 2 1/2 years in Solitary Confinement (1984-1987). Her drawings and paintings depicting those conditions have been displayed at Universities and Galleries in several states. As a prolific writer, her articles were sought after by prison related publications and alternative newspapers across the nation. Approximately 100 letters written by her fellow prisoners, as well as by non-prisoners, requesting she receive a time cut and be released. Veronica Compton was respected and loved by almost everyone who knew her. Although she could not receive phone calls, she was allowed to make collect calls and was available for interview.
When Veronica was sent to Intensive Management, the common name for the stripped cell in which she was placed was the “Break-Box“. It was a concrete box, about eight by ten feet. The sole window was painted over leaving a covered seven by eleven inch slot in the door as the only contact with the world. Lights and water were controlled by the guards who turned them off or on at will. In a stripped cell, the only furniture was a thin mattress laying directly on the concrete floor where it would wick up the ubiquitous damp of the Kitsap through the concrete. On the wall was a porcelain receptacle with two bowls. The lower was to serve as a toilet, the other, a few inches higher on the same fixture served as a washbasin and water supply when and if the water was turned on. AT that time the plumbing chronically malfunctioned. Toilet facilities rarely emptied the bowls properly and when one was used, its contents often backed up in an adjacent cell, sometimes forcefully enough to spatter the ceiling, not to mention the adjacent water supply. The only other convenience in the cell was a heating/ventilation duct in the floor. This worked so poorly that the prisoners resorted to blocking it with toilet paper to protect themselves from the constant flow of very cold air. When all the prisoners in a concrete box in a Puget Sound winter willfully block the “heating” it can only mean there is no heat coming in. Veronica still recalls feeling the bitter cold all the time.
Part of the program of the Break-Box was that the prisoner was allowed only the most minimal clothing. A slip, a short robe and pajamas. No underwear, no shoes, no stockings. Nothing for real protection against being immobilized day and night in the frigid cell. Even the mattress had no sheets only two blankets. Veronica resorted to stealing two used garbage bags and sewing them together into a makeshift thermal break.
Veronica’s decision to break her drug dependency during that time caused further conflict with the authorities who wanted her to continue using psychotropics. It was impossible to tell night from day, the only hint was the lights which were controlled by the whim of the guards. Anyone who has endured interminable hours freezing in the dark can attest that there is a strong tendency to lose tough with reality. The whole point of punishing anyone in this way for more than a short time is not to teach them a lesson, but to break them utterly. Veronica was kept in Solitary Confinement for two and one half years.
After six months she had lost a quarter of her body weight and contracted an incurable infection of the inner ear from being forced to sleep on the cold floor. At that time , being transferred to a regular cell in solitary, a cold, stinking, sunless, vacant blank filled with the screams and shouts of those losing their minds.
Veronica’s record showed no serious infraction since the time she was placed in solitary until the winter of 1988 following the filing of the lawsuit against the Department of Corrections. Suddenly, Veronica found herself infracted for the most minor things. When not enough infractions could be assembled that way, there were instances of infracting her for offences she had not committed. When she did the required duties to make up for the infractions, somehow these weren’t noted, so the infractions piled up and were made to appear more serious on her record.
By June, when the Attorney General’s office was taking depositions of their experiences from the women, Institutional reaction was reaching paranoid proportions. Guards were assigned to monitor her every movement inside the prison and issue minute-by-minute reports on her movements by walkie-talkie. She was constantly searched, though there was nothing to find but the legal papers connected with the lawsuit. Meanwhile, the tempo of infractions increased.
She became convinced that the Institution was trying, not just to intimidate her into giving watered down testimony, but to tell her what to expect once the spotlight of the trial had gone. And no matter how the trial might go, the Institution was already getting revenge by ruining her chances of parole on her incredibly long sentence.
A cellmate invited her to join in an already arranged escape attempt. 8:00 P.M., July 26th, they walked out of prison through two barbed wire fences which had been cut by her cellmate’s father. All three were captured ten days later in Tucson, Arizona. She had committed no crimes while free, in fact was applying for a business license so she could lead a lawful life.
By early September, Veronica was returned to Purdy, pending her trial for escape. Her fears were justified. Although it was clear that the escape had been planned and executed mainly by others, she was immediately remanded to Solitary on the grounds that she was: A. a threat to the security of the Prison, and B: a threat of further escape.
Although it’s clear she had no part in the escape other than going along. WCCW has taken away a year of her “good time” as a punishment for the escape although they know she will be sentenced by a court to additional time for Escape. She was also to be charged half the costs of repairing the fence. This was taken from the $30 per month prisoners earn, leaving her penniless as long as she is in the system, and yielding no significant income to the Institution. The real purpose is to render her stay more miserable. To a reasonable person this looks like Double Jeopardy.
Veronica’s original sentence was for life, which at that time was mandatory for an offense of that sort. The real sentence was left to the Parole Board. In practice, the Board may at any time reduce or increase a prisoner’s sentence , even up to the original life sentence. In Veronica’s case, the Board set the term at twenty years, an incredibly long time, really. However, now that she has had the temerity to try to escape Purdy’s version of justice, it is to be expected that the Board will reexamine her sentence. In the normal course of things, it could be expected to increase her Time. In effect Triple Jeopardy. In WCCW the women say, “she’s been here since they built the place” and cite dozens of women who have actually committed serious harm to their victims, as she didn’t, who have come and gone since she was locked up.
The Board could, though, look at the whole matter rather differently. It is under no obligation to increase her sentence; what it does is its own choice. It could consider the uniformly favorable impression which Veronica makes on all the free world people who have come to know her in recent years. It could take note of the amazing outpouring of respect and affection shown by the women in Purdy. It could ask: Is this a woman who has actually developed a conscience? And then had the courage to act on that conscience to defend the weak. It could ask whether this woman is likely ever again to be involved in a violent, or indeed any sort of crime. Finally, it could ask whether eight years, two and a half of them in Solitary, isn’t far more than enough punishment for a person to pay for the actual harm she did to her victim. Unfortunately it won’t ask any of those questions unless prompted. So the ordinary bureaucratic routine will be at most a perfunctory reading of the official record followed by an automatic agreement to increase the sentence. The reason, other than bureaucratic inertia, is simply that Veronica appeared too notorious. The “Copycat Strangler” of eight years ago is all the public knows of her. Her incredible rehabilitation and dedication to, of all things, real justice, remain unknown.
Most of my work I feel is part of my flesh and blood, as a consequence I have been too attached to sell any of my work even though I’ve been offered decent bids on pieces.
Today I realize I have hundreds of pieces which over fill my studio and living spaces. Therefore if you are truly drawn to one of my works I will consider a reasonable bid (not all will be available to sell).
Please inquire on a piece you truly want and will show in your environment.
Thank you for your interest.
My Art Portfolio if you’re interested in exhibiting/purchasing any of the pieces from my collections is below. Contact us for pricing at firstname.lastname@example.org