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TUESDAY June 28, 2022: Pulitzer winner ZUMA Press photographer Renee C. Byer tackles another important women's story. For the past year and a half she worked with Sacramento Bee staff reporter Jason Pohl on a story that took them inside two California prisons following Norma Cumpian a former prisoner who embraced motherhood and champions inmate reform. Now, 52, Cumpian's life is a case study in how America's understanding of domestic violence and treatment of prisoners has shifted and how a mother's love for her son came to motivate life inside prison and out. Welcome to 'THE TRANSFORMATION'
© zReportage.com Story of the Week #842: TUESDAY June 28, 2022: Pulitzer winner ZUMA Press photographer Renee C. Byer tackles another important women's story. For the past year and a half she worked with Sacramento Bee staff reporter Jason Pohl on a story that took them inside two California prisons following Norma Cumpian a former prisoner who embraced motherhood and champions inmate reform. Now, 52, Cumpian's life is a case study in how America's understanding of domestic violence and treatment of prisoners has shifted and how a mother's love for her son came to motivate life inside prison and out. Welcome to 'THE TRANSFORMATION'
As part of the Anti-Recidivision Coalition NORMA CUMPIAN, left, and CANDACE LEWIS, right, both formally incarcerated, tour Folsom State Prison for meetings to discuss programming for incarcerated people.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, waves to incarcerated men in cell blocks as she tours Folsom State Prison. She served 18 years for second-degree murder after killing her abusive boyfriend, and was released after a judge overruled then California Governor Schwarzenegger's decision to block her release. Her life is a case study in how America's understanding of domestic violence and treatment of prisoners has shifted and how a mother's love for her son came to motivate life inside prison and out.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, left, with the Anti-Recidivision Coalition, chats with incarcerated women from left, PAULINE FLORES, NICOLE JOB, LORI FRIES, and CARLA CRISWELL at Folsom Women's Facility. Formerly incarcerated for 18 years Cumpian is a champion for womens programs inside and outside of prison.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, looks up at windows that are rumored to have been built to let the spirits escape as she toured the former death row unit at Folsom State Prison. Between 1895 and 1937, a total of 93 prisoners were hanged at Folsom.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN greets incarcerated people as she watches a program that was in session inside Folsom Prison's Greystone Chapel. Above them is a peeling mural a prison version of the Last Supper painted by inmate Ralph Pecor in 1938.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN and her son ANTHONY CUMPIAN, 29, share a laugh at Oceanview Diner during a lunch in Berkeley. 'When I became pregnant with my son, I thought this is something that is the light at the end of the tunnel, something that was good,' said Norma, who was in an abusive relationship with Anthony's father at the time.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, right, and her son ANTHONY CUMPIAN, 29, burst into laughter after a passerby remarked 'nice couple' in Berkeley. While she was incarcerated, Cumpian worked to maintain a connection with her son, who grew up to become a combat veteran in Afghanistan and was awarded a Purple Heart.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, shares a hug with her son ANTHONY CUMPIAN, 29, in Berkeley. Cumpian who was incarcerated for 18 years worked hard to keep a good relationship with her son and now is a fierce advocate for incarcerated parents and their children. 'When I became pregnant with my son I thought this is something that is the light at the end of the tunnel, something that was good, that is all good in this world,' said Cumpian.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, left, with the Anti-Recidivision Coalition, tours Folsom State Prison for meetings to discuss adding programming for incarcerated people. Cumpian was incarcerated for 18 years for 2nd degree murder for killing her abusive husband and was released after a judge overruled Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had reversed the parole board that said she was ready for release. Her life is a case study in how America's understanding of domestic violence and treatment of prisoners has shifted and how a mother's love for her son came to motivate life inside prison and out.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, smiles while talking about her son Anthony Cumpian, during a Free World podcast she hosts with co-host Shone Robinson of the Anti Recidivism Coalition (ARC) in Sacramento. Free World is a podcast about women reconstructing their lives after incarceration. Cumpian who was incarcerated at the age of 23 worked hard to stay connected with her son throughout her 19 to life sentence. She served 18 years for killing her abusive boyfriend and now fights for change.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, finds a quiet room to record a Free World podcast she hosts with co-host Shone Robinson of the Anti Recidivism Coalition (ARC) office in Sacramento. Free World is a podcast about women reconstructing their lives after incarceration. Cumpian who was incarcerated at the age of 23 worked hard to stay connected with her son throughout her 19 to life sentence. She served 18 years for killing her abusive boyfriend and now fights for change.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, asks workers to remain quiet before recording an interview with co-host Shone Robinson during a Free World podcast at the Anti Recidivism Coalition (ARC) office in Sacramento. Free World is a podcast about women reconstructing their lives after incarceration. Cumpian who was incarcerated at the age of 23 worked hard to stay connected with her son throughout her 19 to life sentence. She served 18 years for killing her abusive boyfriend and now fights for change.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
As NORMA CUMPIAN, right, troubleshoots a computer problem during the taping of a Free World podcast co-host Shone Robinson, left, celebrates her success before their interview with CANDACE LEWIS, center, at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition office in Sacramento. The podcast is about women reconstructing their lives after incarceration. All three women were once incarcerated.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
As part of the Anti-Recidivision Coalition NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, center, visits Folsom State Prison for meetings to discuss adding programming for incarcerated people. Formerly incarcerated for 18 years for 2nd degree murder for killing her abusive husband Cumpian's life is a case study in how America's understanding of domestic violence and treatment of prisoners has shifted and how a mother's love for her son came to motivate life inside prison and out.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN speaks at a meeting at Folsom State Prison. California Governor Newsom appointed her to the California Board of State and Community Corrections, making her the first formerly incarcerated person to sit on the panel.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
As part of the Anti-Recidivision Coalition NORMA CUMPIAN, center, and CANDACE LEWIS, right, both formally incarcerated, tour Folsom State Prison for meetings to discuss programming for incarcerated people.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, with the Anti-Recidivision Coalition, right, tours a group of veterans at Folsom State Prison for meetings to discuss adding programming. She openly spoke about being a 'former lifer' but beamed with pride about her son Anthony Cumpian who was a combat veteran in Afghanistan and was awarded a Purple Heart.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, center, with the Anti-Recidivision Coalition, pets a service dog inside Folsom Women's Facility while on tour to discuss programing and meet incarcerated women.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
As the sun goes down at Folsom State Prison NORMA CUMPIAN, 52, right, is still working after touring the prison in the hopes of adding programming for incarcerated people. 'If no one invested in me and if no one gave me the opportunity I would not be this person on the board touring Folsom Prison or a mother of a combat veteran. I wouldn't be any of those things if I did not have what I'm simply asking to give to the folks on the inside,' said Cumpian.
© Renee C. Byer/ZUMA Press Wire
Renée C. Byer :: zReportage Photo

Renée C. Byer is an American documentary photojournalist best known for her in-depth work focusing on the disadvantaged and those who otherwise would not be heard. Byer’s ability to produce photographs with profound emotional resonance and sensitivity earned her the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 2007 and made her a Pulitzer finalist in 2013. Renée has covered local, national, and international stories for The Sacramento Bee since 2003. Renée work has been published in books, magazines, newspapers, and on websites worldwide and was the basis for a 2009 TEDx Tokyo talk that received a standing ovation. Renée’s most recent book project “Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor,” invites you to help put an end to global poverty. Renée traveled to 10 countries on four continents to report on this story, with a forward by the Dalai Lama. The book has won numerous accolades worldwide, including the IPA’s First Place for a Documentary book. Byer’s reportage is proudly represented by ZUMA Press and been featured in award winning zReportage.com a record ten times, as well as DOUBLEtruck Magazine. When not on assignment, Renée can be found sharing her passion for photography at lectures and workshops worldwide. Renée C. Byer lives in Sacramento, California, USA.:842



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