Prisoners across California drew widespread attention last summer when they embarked upon a two-month long hunger strike to protest what they considered excessively cruel use of solitary cells. During a legislative hearing in October, prison officials defended the tactic as a crucial strategy for controlling gang activity.
However, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has also been working on a "step-down" program that would allow inmates to be released from their solitary placement. A follow-up hearing on that proposed reform, jointly hosted by the Legislature's public safety committees, is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol. Among those slated to testify are George Giurbino and Suzan Hubbard, the former and current directors of the CDCR's division of adult institutions.
The hearing has also attracted the attention of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, a community organization from the Bay Area that considers solitary confinement to be "cruel, inhumane and tortuous." The group will hold a rally at noon on the west steps of the Capitol before heading to meetings with legislators.
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ELDERLY ABUSE: Following media investigations last year that revealed inadequate oversight of workers at many assisted-living facilities, the state Senate and Assembly will hold two joint hearings today to review safety regulations. The first, from 9 a.m. to noon in Room 4203 of the Capitol, examines the role of the state Department of Social Services in licensing and inspecting assisted-living homes for seniors. A second hearing, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Room 4203, focuses on employees who work in the homes.
BRIDGE BLUNDERS: After last month's revelations about a possible cover-up of construction problems on the new stretch of the Bay Bridge, the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee will hold another hearing on reforming Caltrans at 1:30 p.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who chairs the committee, has previously blamed Caltrans' "insular culture" for the construction issues.
DROUGHT DILEMMA: As legislators seek solutions for dealing with California's drought, a host of water bond bills are making their way through the Capitol. One from state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, is scheduled to be heard before the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee at 9:30 a.m. in Room 112. The committee will also discuss broader priorities for water policy and using existing resources more efficiently.
PUBLIC PAY: The Sacramento Bee's state worker salary database has been updated with 2013 pay, and has been upgraded to give faster results. Check it out here.
CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, who turns 54 today.
CORRECTION: Yesterday's AM Alert incorrectly identified Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, as part of the Legislative Women's Caucus leadership. Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, is chair of the group. We apologize for the error.
PHOTO: Lt. Rick Graves stands in the exercise yard at Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City on Feb. 9, 2012. The New York Times/Jim Wilson.