Why are celebrities aiding prison gang leaders?

Security housing units are not country clubs. But inmates have to work to get there. For the safety of other inmates, that’s where some of them should remain. Celebrities such as Peter Coyote, Jay Leno and Susan Sarandon and civil libertarians diminish their credibility by embracing the cause of gang leaders who masquerade as human rights advocates.

Civil libertarians and Hollywood celebrities recently signed a letter voicing support for prisoners engaged in a hunger strike over conditions in the security housing unit at Pelican Bay State Prison.

They ought to save their outrage.

Inmates fomenting the hunger strike claim human rights are being violated. But they include killers and leaders of the most brutal gangs in the prison system. They are from the Aryan Brotherhood, Black Guerrilla Family, Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia. One shot-caller was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in federal indictments returned last week in Los Angeles seeking to disrupt Mexican Mafia operations.

Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard told The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board that the hunger strike has nothing to do with conditions and everything to do with gang leaders wanting to get into the general population so they can more readily conduct their gang business. We see no reason to gainsay his statement.

California prisons are monitored closely by the federal courts, a court-appointed special master, and a receiver who oversees health care, plus aggressive prisoner rights attorneys from the Prison Law Office in Berkeley.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco and U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of Sacramento have issued orders that have forced California to spend billions to vastly improve health and mental health care in the prisons. The judges’ orders led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision prompting the state to reduce the number of inmates from 174,000 to 119,000.

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