Hunger strike supporters in Sacramento. Photo credit:
Melanie Mason for the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

California’s prisons chief has agreed to meet for the first time with advocates for inmates who are in their fourth week of a hunger strike over conditions in solitary confinement.

“It’s progress,” said Ron Ahnen, president of the Oakland-based group California Prison Focus, which publishes a newsletter circulated to thousands of state inmates that hunger strike organizers used to broadcast their protest. 

Ahnen is among a small group of activists set to meet Friday with Jeffrey Beard, Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointed head of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Other expected attendees include a representative from the American Friends Service Committee.

Meanwhile, an interesting Bloomberg piece by Steven Greenhut compares Brown’s we-don’t-have-a-prison-crisis stance to George Wallace’s resistance to school desegregation.

Jerry Brown, the quirky progressive governor, is defying the orders of three liberal federal judges to release thousands of criminals from the state’s prison system in order to relieve chronic overcrowding. The rhetoric is growing more heated as the state defies a special judicial panel that last week rejected the governor’s attempt to delay the releases and used harsh language in doing so: “Despite our repeated efforts to assist defendants to comply with our Population Reduction Order, they have consistently engaged in conduct designed to frustrate those efforts.” 

In picking up the states’ rights banner, Brown finds himself being compared to Alabama’s segregationist governor, George Wallace, who in 1963 defied a federal order to desegregate the state’s schools. But some see Brown as a hero. 

In California, the federal government might order marshals to open the cell doors and Brown could stand in a cell, argued Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton. “Wallace was shamefully standing in the schoolhouse door trying to protect a university’s bigotry from integration by black students,” Skelton wrote. “Brown would be heroically protecting citizens from thugs.”

Props to Caitlin Henry for both links.

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