Audit Finds That California Prisoners Were Illegally Sterilized

Jun 21, 2014

A California State Audit has found that dozens of women in state prisons were sterilized illegally. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone says prison medical officials are faulted for not following consent laws.  

Lawmakers called for the audit after coverage from the Center for Investigative Reporting last year. The Center found more than 100 incarcerated women had tubal ligations without proper approvals since 2006.

Brown Praises Counties' Creativity In Implementing Realignment

Apr 2, 2014
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown is praising counties and law enforcement agencies for their work implementing his landmark criminal justice system overhaul known as “realignment.”  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the law enforcement groups are lobbying the governor for a significant change to the program. Speaking to a law enforcement convention in Sacramento, the governor praised counties’ creativity under realignment in the two and a half years since it took effect.  Under the program, the state shifted responsibility for low-level offenders to counties. 

California Begins Sending Inmates to Private Prisons

Oct 28, 2013
The GEO Group, Inc.

California is beginning to transfer inmates out of its state prisons. As Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, the transfers are part of a court-mandated plan to reduce overcrowding in state prisons

California is sending 2,100 inmates to three private prisons within the state. James Black is with the GEO group, which operates the facilities. He says GEO’s prisons must meet the same standards the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must meet.

Do California's Security Housing Units Reduce Prison Violence?

Oct 17, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

California’s prison system uses Security Housing Units, or SHUs, as a way to isolate alleged gang members from the general inmate population. But gangs remain a problem in prisons and the outcry over using solitary confinement for long periods of time is growing. Now some lawmakers are asking whether the SHUs are working.

Steven Czifra spent four years locked up in a Security Housing Unit. Isolated from other inmates, alone in his cell for 22 ½ hours a day, he said there wasn’t much too do.

At Pelican Bay, A Look Inside California's Security Housing Units

Oct 16, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

Imagine spending 22 hours a day locked in a small, concrete room. That’s daily life for about four-thousand California prisons inmates. On a recent media tour, journalists got glimpse of that life on a visit to the Security Housing Units at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Nearly 1,200 men are housed in the complex of low, concrete buildings. To get to them you have to go pass through a series of heavy gates and doors.

Lawmakers Take Closer Look at State Prison SHUs

Oct 9, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

Members of the California legislature are focusing their attention on Security Housing Units within state prisons. Katie Orr has details on a hearing held today in Sacramento.

Legislature Overwhelmingly Approves Prison Plan

Sep 11, 2013
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics /

The California Legislature has overwhelmingly approved a deal between the Governor and leaders of the Senate and Assembly to reduce overcrowding in state prisons. California has been ordered by a federal three-judge-panel to either release or find additional space for more than nine thousand inmates by the end of December.

Under the deal, California will ask the panel for an extension on the December deadline. Any savings would be put toward programs to keep people out of jail.

Prisons Battle Heats Up at California Capitol

Sep 4, 2013
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics /

California Senate Democrats have approved their own plan to deal with the federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding.  They pushed their proposal through the Senate Budget Committee today over the objections of Republicans and Governor Jerry Brown.

Corrections Secretary Jeff Beard lobbied strongly for Brown’s plan, known as Senate Bill 105.  It would increase capacity by contracting out beds from county, private and out-of-state facilities.

Brown Releases Plan to Ease Prison Overcrowding

Aug 27, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

Thousands of California inmates may be transferred to other facilities in an effort to ease prison overcrowding. As Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, the plan comes after multiple federal court orders.

To be clear, Governor Jerry Brown doesn’t think California needs to do any more to ease prison overcrowding. He notes the inmate population has dropped by 45,000 since 2006.  But multiple federal judges were not convinced and repeatedly ordered the state to further reduce overcrowding. That could happen by releasing inmates or finding more space.

Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

As an inmate hunger strike in California stretches on, prison reform advocates want the rest of us to know what it’s like inside a SHU. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.

Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa spends 22 1/2 hours a day in Security Housing Unit, or SHU. It’s a room the size of a parking spot. Jamma has been living that reality for the past 29 years. He’s an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison and is participating in a hunger strike to protest the use of long term solitary confinement.
Flickr user Mark Fischer / Creative Commons License /

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to delay the release of thousands of inmates from California’s prisons. In a decision announced today the Justices denied a stay requested by Governor Jerry Brown. Brown is fighting a ruling from a federal three-judge-panel that orders California to reduce its prison population by about 10-thousand inmates by the end of the year. Three Justices voted to grant the stay.

Attorney Mike Bien represents inmates involved in the court case. He says the decision is significant because it appears the state was gambling everything on this stay.

State Attempts to Track Effect of Realignment

Jul 23, 2013

A state board agreed this week to partner with the Public Policy Institute of California to examine the effects of a change to the state’s criminal justice policy called realignment.

California’s two-year old law downgraded certain crimes to jail-only offenses, diverting tens of thousands of lower-level felons from serving time in state prisons. It also put counties in charge of supervising lower level felons once they’re released from prison and parole violators.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

The number of California prison inmates on a hunger strike has dramatically dropped.  But 12,000 inmates still refused to eat for a fourth consecutive day Thursday to protest the common use of long-term isolation.  As KPCC’s Julie Small reports, that’s triggering an aggressive state response.

Prison Medical Facility Opens in Stockton

Jun 25, 2013

California prison officials opened a new medical facility in Stockton today designed to improve treatment for 1,700 of the state’s sickest inmates.  The opening of the 200-acre facility will also ease crowding in prisons — something that could appease a federal court that has ordered California to reduce the inmate population to ensure they receive basic healthcare.  KPCC’s  Julie Small reports.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

All inmates at risk of developing a serious form of valley fever must be removed from two Central California state prisons within the next 90 days. That’s what a U.S. District Court judge ruled Monday, upholding a directive from the federal official in charge of prison health care. The ruling comes over the objections of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which balked at the complexity of the policy. Valley Public Radio’s Rebecca Plevin takes us behind the prison gates to explain how the state and inmates are coping with the problem. 


California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

The California Corrections and Rehabilitation Department offered a glimpse today of how realignment is working. The program diverts low-level offenders to county jails in an effort to reduce state prison overcrowding.

A study done by the department compares inmates released pre- and post- realignment. It found post-realignment offenders were re-arrested at a lower rate than pre-realignment offenders. Both groups were convicted of new crimes at nearly the same rate. The department’s Jeffrey Callison stresses this is just a snapshot.     

CA Dept of Corrections

In a motion filed in U.S. District Court yesterday, the state Attorney General raised questions about the federal order to exclude inmates especially vulnerable to valley fever from two Central Valley prisons.

“The receiver is calling for the transferring, he described it last week as ‘effective immediately,’ of over 3,000 inmates from those two prisons,” says Jeffrey Callison, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “That’s a huge, complex undertaking. Could it happen? Of course it could happen, but it would take a long time to implement.”

On Monday afternoon, the federal receiver in charge of health care in California’s prisons ordered the state prison to remove inmates from two Central Valley prisons who are especially at risk of contracting valley fever.  A day later, the state and experts are digesting that directive. Valley Public Radio's Rebecca Plevin reports, as part of the Reporting on Health Collaborative’s investigation into the disease.


Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown has until Thursday to release a plan for reducing prison overcrowding in California. Releasing more inmates may not be popular, but one law professor says it could be the way to go. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.

About 30,000 inmates are serving life sentences in California prisons. Of those inmates, about 9,000 are currently eligible for parole.  UCLA Law Professor Sharon Dolovich  says if the state is looking to reduce its prison population, that might be a good place to start.

Casey Christie / The Californian / Reporting on Health Collaborative

The federal receiver in charge of health care in California’s prisons is ordering the state to remove inmates from two Central Valley prisons who are especially at risk of contracting the fungal disease known as valley fever. The move affects about 40 percent of the inmate population at Avenal and Pleasant Valley State Prisons. 

Those affected include African Americans, Filipinos, inmates who are HIV positive, have compromised immune systems, or are pregnant or elderly.