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California Dept. of Corrections

Paper CHINO HORDE Prisoners are piled three to a bunk in the gymnasium at the California Institution for Men in Chino, Calif.

Prison Break

Will a historic Supreme Court ruling finally force California’s prison system to clean up its act? BY LEILANI CLARK


he word “gulag” conjures images of dank, slimy Russian prisons overrun with rats, teeming with inmates confined to tiny cages and standing in puddles of their own urine—not a scene normally associated with the United States. But according

to a Supreme Court ruling issued on May 23, overcrowding in California prisons has led to gulag-like conditions, constitutional violations and treatment of inmates verging on cruel and unusual punishment. In a 5–4 majority ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court stated that

the governor must reduce the Golden State’s prison population by approximately 33,000 inmates over the next two years after revelations of rampant Eighth Amendment violations in the prison system arose. Three photographs were appended to the court’s majority decision in Brown v. Plata, showing prisoners crowded into gymnasiums stacked one on top of the other in ) 10

St. Helena Star publisher Doug Ernst has accused the St. Helena City Council of violating the Brown Act, charging that a March 30 closed session agenda failed to disclose to the public that the council would be discussing city manager Mary Neilan’s firing and severance package. According to a “cure and correct” letter filed by Ernst at the end of May, the council has engaged in other closed-session agendas, secret voting and unclear meeting locations, practices which could expose the city to potential litigation. “More importantly, it exposes the council’s overall contempt for open government, which this newspaper is required to report,” writes Ernst. Mayor Del Britton has defended the council’s actions, but has come short of addressing all of Ernst’s concerns, leading to further questions about how much secrecy is allowed, if any, in decisions made by city council.

Bird Calls More than 500 people have been killed by devastating tornadoes across the Midwest in 2011. After Joplin, Miss., was pummeled by a “supercell” tornado last week, 232 people remain missing and 125 are dead. While climate-change author Bill McKibben proclaims that “we’re making the earth a more dynamic and violent place,” the Climate Protection Campaign will look at how all of this affects the bird population. Conservation science expert Ellie Cohen shares strategies on how to manage natural resources in the face of accelerating changes to climate, ocean and land use on Friday, June 3, at the Dwight Center for Conservation Science. 3450 Franz Valley Road, Santa Rosa. 7pm. Free. 707.591.9310.—Leilani Clark

The Bohemian started as The Paper in 1978

9 NO RTH BAY BO H E M I AN | JUNE 1-7, 20 1 1 | BOH E MI A N.COM


Citizen Ernst