By Dan Aiello
Kern County almond farmer, Fred Starrh, is an unlikely darling of the anti-fracking movement in California.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an environmentally risky oil production method of pumping under pressure large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to bubble to the surface heavy tar-like oil left in depleted oil wells and to reach deep deposits of oil and natural gas.
Fracking is the method oil companies seek to employ to proliferate drilling in California where the discovered Monterey Shale Deposit is estimated to contain as many as 15.4 billion barrels of crude 11,000 feet deep.
By Lizzie Buchen
After a year of defying court orders to alleviate the state’s prison crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown seems to have finally pushed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to its limit. In an April 11 ruling, having already "exercised exceptional restraint," the exasperated federal judges declared the state "will not be allowed to continue to violate the requirements of the Constitution of the United States," giving Brown until May 2 to develop a plan that will reduce the prison population by nearly 10,000 people by the end of the year.
By Anthony Asadullah Samad
There has been another raging discussion taking place over the past couple months, that of the school-to-prison pipeline. How many different ways can we say that the absence of investment in America's intellectual capital causes - even promotes - devastating social consequences? And how many different ways can we assess the racial consequences of misapplied forms of social control? No, there are no more "whites only" or "colored only" signs, which causes society to suggest that we are a more racially homogenous society. Yes, we do come together on some levels today. But the most common way in which we come together is on anti-intellectual levels.
By Mark Naison
Little by little, we have created an apartheid nation, a place where a profound spatial and moral divisions separate the lives of the privileged and the unfortunate. The boundaries are not strictly racial - though those on the lower side of the divide are overwhelmingly people of color - nor are they marked by gates and walls and fences. Rather, they are enforced by a complex set of codes followed by law enforcement authorities who have acquired immense power to assure public safety since the imposition of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, powers that have effectively prevented the poor from doing anything to prevent their marginalization, and which have given wealthy elites virtually immunity from threats to their well being coming either from political action, mass protest or street crime.
By Jamie Court
There aren't too many great days for patient safety in state capitols, where the medical establishment tends to rule the roost through the power of its political giving and tentacles. But Monday was a great day for patient safety in Sacramento, when powerful testimony reminded legislators of the human cost of inaction.
By Lizzie Buchen
Last week, while defiantly declaring the end of California's prison crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown insisted further reductions in prison overcrowding "cannot be achieved without the early release of inmates serving time for serious or violent felonies," a move that would "jeopardize public safety." In other words, now that Realignment is sending low-level offenders to local custody instead of state prison, those who remain in prison need to stay there to protect the public.
This unfounded assumption is used to justify a large and growing mass of the state's unnecessary incarceration. Most serious and violent offenders do need to serve some time behind bars to protect the public, but we keep them there for far too long. And the terms are only getting longer. If California wants a sustainable solution to its prison crisis, it needs to rethink its increasingly harsh sentencing policies across the gamut of offenses - not just the low-level targets of Realignment and Prop 36.
By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH
Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut the news and internet has been abuzz with some variant of "Freedom vs. Gun Control," as if no reasonable rational alternative exists beyond this absolute dichotomy. In the mix is always the Second Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The Second Amendment has been interpreted both as a right to individual self-defense and, by some, as a check on government, i.e. a right to use force to overthrow a "tyrannical" government.
By Dan Aiello
State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is following through on his promise to reform California's prisons with the introduction of a homeless rights bill intended to decriminalize homelessness in the Golden State, protecting "some of society's most vulnerable members."
Make no mistake, Assembly Bill 5 is as much prison reform, as it is civil rights, legislation.
Among other things, the proposed law would require legal representation for anyone cited under local loitering, camping or panhandling ordinances.
By Mike Males
Just-released 2011 arrest statistics from the state Criminal Justice Statistics Center show that pioneering legislation downgrading simple marijuana possession from a criminal offense into an infraction - an effort to deter passage of Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana outright - has detonated a revolution in California drug-law enforcement.
California's new arrest figures read like something out of a drug policy reformer's dream - but with unexpected twists (see graphics). Arrests for marijuana possession plummeted by 86%, from 54,900 in 2010 to 7,800 in 2011, abruptly reversing a two-decade trend of increasing marijuana misdemeanor arrests and returning numbers to levels not seen since before the Summer of Love.
By Dan Aiello
In the wake of California's election last month where voters passed two propositions aimed at reducing the number of inmates in California's overcrowded prison system, the State Assembly's Safety Committee Chair says he will introduce major prison reform this session targeting a correctional system failure rate that persists as the highest recidivism rate in the nation.
"With voters approving both propositions 30 and 36, I believe we are in a position to achieve significant prison reform to reduce our failure rate and begin decreasing our prison population," San Francisco Democrat Assembly member Tom Ammiano told the California Progress Report recently.