Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Prison hunger strike numbers continue to drop

Solano Prison

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / EPA

The State Department of Corrections won't say how many inmates at each prison facility are participating in the hunger strike.

The number of California inmates participating in a mass hunger strike continues to drop, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Friday is the fifth day of the strike, which is in protest of the regular use of long-term isolation to diminish the power of prison gang members.

The number of hunger strikers now stands at 7,664, down from 12,000 on Thursday and nearly 29,000 participants on Monday, when the action started. Even at the reduced number, the strike remains the largest in the state's history. A four-week hunger strike in July 2011 involved 6,500 inmates at its peak.

The strike has ramifications for prison operations, and now that the state has officially recognized the hunger strike, they will begin monitoring inmates’ health.

Participants come from 24 state prisons and one out-of-state contract facility. Corrections department officials will not state how many inmates are on strike in each prison, citing inmate safety concerns. However, according a statement by the department, visiting at the prisons will not be affected by the strike. 


Mayor Garcetti appoints supporters to coveted Public Works Commission

Kevin James and Eric Garcetti

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Kevin James, left, is the second of Eric Garcetti's former rivals-turned-backers to get a post in the new mayor's administration.

A former mayoral candidate and a longtime aide to former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be appointed to the Board of Public Works, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Friday. 

One of the designees, attorney Kevin James, is the second of Garcetti's former rivals-turned-backers to get a job in the new mayor's administration.  Former Councilwoman Jan Perry was recently tapped to lead the newly created Economic Development Department. 

The Board of Public Works oversees construction of public projects, as well as the departments responsible for sanitation, graffiti removal and street maintenance. It is the only paid commission in the city; its members receive an annual salary of $138,000 and their appointments are subject to approval by the city council. 

The other appointees include: Matt Szabo, a former deputy mayor to Villaraigosa; Barbara Romero of the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority; former Assemblyman Mike Davis; and Monica Rodriguez, an executive with the California Association of Realtors. Szabo and Davis made unsuccessful runs for city council in the recent municipal election. 


Maven's Morning Coffee: UC system gets high profile president, LA looks for summer jobs, arts funding for LAUSD

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Kevin Dietsch /UPI/Landov

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will be the next president of the University of California system. She'll be the first female president in the university system's history.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, votes and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

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Today is Friday, July 12, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will be named the next president of the University of California system, reports the Los Angeles Times. She will be the first woman to run the university system.

The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education is giving the L.A. Unified School District a three-year, $750,000 grant for arts programs, according to the Daily News.

KPCC looks at the city's program to provide youths with summer jobs. "I think people are just waiting to be asked. We have companies around the city who have nobody connecting them with young people in other parts of town," says Mayor Eric Garcetti.


Summer jobs for youth can be a life preserver

Frank Stoltze/KPCC

Roberta Williams and David Castro sing the praises of L.A.'s summer jobs for youth program.

Roberta Williams is nothing if not determined. The high school dropout spent most of her childhood in foster homes. She recalled a previous life.

“I used to be in gangs – no lie about that,” Williams explained.

Then she found a South L.A. non-profit that provides help to young people like her.  She was 18 and eager to tell her friends. They weren’t interested. “They didn’t want that," she said. "So, hey, I kicked them to the curb.”

That wasn’t an easy decision. Gang ritual requires defectors receive a beating before breaking away.

“I got packed out,” Williams said. She laughed, before turning serious. “I got beat up real bad. I almost went to the hospital. But only the strong survive."

This summer, Williams, 23, is working as an outreach coordinator for the Coalition for Responsible Community Development – the non-profit that first helped her four years ago. The City of L.A.’s “Hire LA’s Youth” summer employment program helps pay for her position.


California's mass prison hunger strike enters fourth day

Prisoner Hunger Strike

Paul Sakuma/AP

Demonstrators hold up a sign during a rally in front of the State Building in San Francisco, Friday, July 1, 2011 to support prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison. Inmates in an isolation unit at Pelican Bay State Prison are on a hunger strike to protest conditions that they describe as inhumane. Advocates say several dozen inmates in the Security Housing Unit declined to eat their morning meal on Friday. The unit holds about a third of the 3,100 inmates at the Northern California prison. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

The number of California prison inmates on a hunger strike dramatically dropped Thursday, but 12,000 inmates still refused to eat for a fourth consecutive day to protest the common use of long-term isolation. For the frist three days of the strike, 29,000 inmates participated.

Getting to day four triggered an official state response, which includes aggressive monitoring of inmates’ health and possible disciplinary measures, including segregation and force-feeding.

Joyce Hayhoe, with the federal receiver’s office in charge of prison medical care, says that at four days without food, some inmates may already need attention, “to determine if there are any conditions or medications that place them at risk for complications during fasting."  

For every day that inmates fast, medical staff will have more to do to ensure their safety. Within a week nurses will check daily on all inmates on the hunger strike. One week later, inmates will have the option of visiting doctors to have their weight and other vitals measured.