Saturday, September 5, 2015

Bill to Limit Juvenile Solitary Confinement Fails Even as California Adult Prisons Agree to Reduce Isolation

by Sam Levin
Sat, Sep 5, 2015 at 8:00 AM

DeAngelo Cortijo, a youth advocate and SB 124 supporter who was previously locked in solitary confinement. - BERT JOHNSON / FILE PHOTO
  • bert johnson / file photo
  • DeAngelo Cortijo, a youth advocate and SB 124 supporter who was previously locked in solitary confinement.
California received national attention this week with news that the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has agreed to drastically reduce the use of solitary confinement in its prisons. The decision was part of a settlement with inmates who filed a class-action lawsuit in 2012 challenging the state's long-standing practice of isolating prisoners in cells for years on end — often confining them to windowless rooms simply due to their alleged gang affiliations. As a result of the landmark settlement, roughly 1,800 inmates will move out of solitary confinement and into the general population.

While human rights advocates celebrated the settlement as an important step in the fight against isolating prisoners in the US, few have paid attention to another action at the state level that constitutes a significant setback in the campaign to curb solitary confinement. Days before the class-action suit decision became public, California lawmakers quietly dealt a major blow to a critical legislative reform effort that has been in the works for years. The Assembly appropriations committee last week decided to officially put on hold Senate Bill 124, a proposal to substantially limit the use of solitary confinement in juvenile correctional facilities. That means the bill will not be moving forward this legislative cycle, which ends September 11.

And now activists are lamenting that while adult inmates in California are finally seeing major reforms, kids in jails and prisons will continue to have to wait.

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California EPA Moves to Label Monsanto's Roundup 'Carcinogenic'

by Sam Levin
Sat, Sep 5, 2015 at 7:01 AM

click image FILE PHOTO
  • file photo
The California Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it plans to label glyphosate — the most widely used herbicide and main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup — as a chemical "known to cause cancer." The World Health Organization's research arm also recently found that the chemical is probably carcinogenic to humans, and research has also linked glyphosate to the steep decline of monarch butterflies. And as we reported this week, scientists have increasingly raised new alarms about potential negative health impacts tied to Roundup, including a recent study suggesting that long-term exposure to tiny amounts of the chemical (thousands of times lower than what is allowed in drinking water in the US) could lead to liver and kidney problems. 

Today's announcement from the EPA's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is officially a "notice of intent" to list this pesticide as carcinogenic, giving the public an opportunity to comment on the proposal through October 5. The action falls under Proposition 65, a measure voters approved in 1986 that requires the state to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harms. The state regularly updates the list, which now includes hundreds of chemicals. Under Prop 65, businesses must provide a "clear and reasonable" warning before exposing people to a chemical on the list. The warning could be labels on a consumer product, workplace postings, distributed notices at apartment buildings, or a notice published in a newspaper. 

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