Politics, government and public life for Southern California

California prison officials deny media access to hunger strikers

Ben Margot/AP

A watchtower rises above the maximum security complex at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City.

Roughly 1,000 inmates in California’s prisons were still on a hunger strike Sunday to protest long-term isolation of inmates believed to have ties to prison gangs.

The mass protest, which is in its third week, has drawn international attention, but prison officials won't allow reporters in to cover the strike.

California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation denied KPCC’s request to tour any of the four Security Housing Units in the state, where inmates spend up to 22 hours a day in their cells.

“There are a lot of staffing resources being used to manage this mass hunger strike and maintain the safety and security of our institutions,” said spokeswoman Terry Thornton. “When this is concluded we can resume having reporters visits our institutions.” 

Corrections enforced the same policy during hunger strikes in 2011.


A bipartisan effort to bring the immigration debate home

Activists recently rallied outside the Capitol to keep the pressure on House GOP members over immigration reform.

Congress has two more weeks of work before adjourning for the summer. Immigration advocates plan to use the down time to take the debate to the district of individual Republican members. The push begins in California Saturday with a rare bipartisan conversation.

Chicago Democrat Luis Gutiérrez has been on the road the past week, talking immigration reform in Republican Congressional districts in various states.

So far, no GOP members have joined him onstage. But for his stop in Bakersfield, Gutiérrez will  be joined by freshman Republican David Valadao, who acknowledges his colleague's standing: "I mean, he's one of the Group of Seven, so he's been a leader on immigration."

It's actually known as the "Gang of Seven" — a bipartisan group of lawmakers that has been working for months, but still hasn't unveiled its promised comprehensive immigration bill.


Maven's Morning Coffee: recruiting South LA voters, an audit of AIDS Healthcare, Mayor Bob Foster talks about leaving office

A voter fills out her ballot during early voting before the 2012 presidential election at the Gila County Recorder's Office in Globe, Ariz., on Oct. 26.

Joshua Lott/Reuters/Landov

Groups in South Los Angeles are using a new strategy between elections to increase turnout at the polls.

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.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Friday, July 19, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


In South Los Angeles, some groups are using "integrated voter engagement" to increase turnout in elections, reports KPCC. "Their common goal is to increase voting among those who are feeling state budget cuts the most— young and low-income voters, people of color and immigrants," according to the station.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation hopes to block an audit by Los Angeles County, according to the Daily News and KPCC. The group calls the financial review "retaliatory" and "illegitimate."


Strategy to boost voting in South LA is both high-tech and personal

Ben Toney and Carmen Miller

Sharon McNary/KPCC

SCOPE organizer Benjamin Toney visits with South LA resident Carmen Miller about becoming more active in civic life.

KPCC has embarked on a series called Project Citizen, which looks at the rights, responsibilities, traditions and privileges that come with being a citizen. Among them is the right to vote. But fewer than one-in-five Angelenos in South L.A. voted in the May city election. A nonprofit group is using a strategy that combines personal contact with high-tech tools to transform non-voters in South L.A. into active participants in civic life.

In the most recent municipal election, residents of District 9 in South Los Angeles were flooded with campaign workers in the hotly contested city council and mayoral election. Despite the election-season attention, only 17 percent of the district's registered voters cast ballots.

Iretha Warmsley, who has lived in South L.A. for 20 years, said she used to be among the many residents who could vote, but didn't: "I didn't respect voting, all these years, and I'm 47. I just didn't care."


Little recourse for attorney barred from visiting California prisoners during hunger strike

SHU Bunk

Rina Palta, KPCC

A bunk in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA. (August, 2011)

Four California prisoners required medical treatment and a fifth was referred to a physician on the 11th day of a hunger strike to protest the long-term isolation of inmates, health care officials said Thursday.

About 30,000 inmates initially joined the protest, but the number has fallen to fewer than 1,500. That could be the result of a tougher approach being taken by the state since the last hunger strike two years ago.

Officials won’t divulge the location of strike leaders who have been relocated. They have confiscated food from the cells of some inmates who say they are striking and refuse to eat prison meals but still have purchase foods from the canteen. 

And in a written order this week, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation banned attorney Marilyn McMahon from visiting clients participating in the hunger strike. The department also took legal documents out of the cells of strike leaders who are a party to a lawsuit McMahon brought in federal court.