Hearing tomorrow on California prison SHUs

The Assembly Public Safety Committee will hold an informational hearing tomorrow on the state prison system’s “Secure Housing Units,” which were targeted by inmates’ recent hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison and other sites around California.

The hearing at the State Capitol, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., will be streamed live on the Assembly’s website.

After an introduction by chairman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francsico, the committee will hear from SHU inmates and their supporters: Earl Fears, a former Corcoran SHU inmate; Glenda Rojas, a family member of an inmate at Pelican Bay; and the Rev. William McGarvey from the Bay Area Religious Campaign Against Torture.

After that come the legal and research experts: prisoner-rights lawyer Charles Carbone; American Friends Service Committee Regional Director Laura Magnani; Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None; Dr. Terry Kupers of the Wright Institute; and University of California, Santa Cruz psychology professor Craig Haney.

Then the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will have its say for about half an hour, with testimony from Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan and Chief of Correctional Safety Anthony Chaus. There’ll be some time for public comment at the end.

UPDATE @ 1:51 P.M.: “This is an important opportunity for the California Legislature and the people of California to hold the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation accountable for upholding the basic needs and human rights of prisoners,” Carol Strickman, a lawyer at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, said in a news release. “The hunger strike opened the eyes of many people in California and around the world to the reprehensible conditions that exist within the SHU and now it’s time to start making some lasting changes.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.