Gun advocates challenge Newsom gun law
S1: I'm Andrew Bone with Jade Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition. California faces a legal setback in its effort to phase out private prisons.
S3: These private companies that are being pushed away from the federal prison system are simply shifting to immigration detention.
S1: As COVID cases continue their downward trend. We ask experts whether the pandemic is really over , and a former federal inmate from San Diego wins an award for prison writing. That's ahead on KPBS Midday Edition. Gun rights advocates have filed a lawsuit challenging a California law that would allow private citizens to sue manufacturers of illegal firearms. The law was explicitly modeled off of an anti-abortion law in Texas , a law aimed at outsourcing enforcement of the state's abortion ban on to private citizens. Joining me now to help unpack some very complex legal questions about this news is Dan Eaton , a constitutional law expert and partner at Seltzer , Kaplan , McMahon and Vitek. Dan , welcome back to the show. Sure.
S2: Sure. Good to be with you.
S2: This is an add on challenge to this law that was just signed by the governor just a couple of months ago. It's SB 1327 , which , as you said , authorizes. It's modeled on the Texas Abortion Private Enforcement Act. It allows for attorney's fees to be awarded against anyone who seeks to block the enforcement of a California regulation on firearms.
S1: So this law was explicitly modeled after the Texas anti-abortion law. Governor Gavin Newsom said at its signing , If they're going to use this framework to put women's lives at risk , we are going to use it to save people's lives here in the state of California.
S2: Now , obviously , in light of the Dobbs ruling of the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy is no longer recognized under the federal Constitution. But what the plaintiffs that is the the gun owners in this particular case are saying the explicit reason for this law , SB 1327 , is to chill the exercise of Second Amendment rights , to keep and bear arms by making it cost prohibitive to serve , because if they lose , they have to pay the government or whatever the defendants are attorney's fees if they lose any cause of action under this particular provision. And that effectively kills their First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances , in this case , the grievance that their constitutional right to keep and bear arms is being unduly restricted.
S1: The law specifically targets manufacturers of illegal firearms.
S2: So the reason this is an issue is because California has a lot of restrictions on manufacturers that a lot of states do not. And the fact is that what these plaintiffs are trying to do is to invalidate those restrictions and they face the potential of having to pay attorney's fees if they lose on any potential cause of action. And that's why they're seeking to join their challenge to of SB 1327 with their challenge to the Assault Weapons Control Act itself.
S1: You mentioned the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are claiming that this California law is unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.
S2: And that's the basis here. It's very interesting because the challenge to SB 1327 is somewhat distinct from the Second Amendment based a challenge to the gun regulations themselves. But that is the reason. Because we're dealing about distinct prides that the state , anyway is opposing bringing these two or two distinct claims together. And what the plaintiffs in this case , it's very interesting. What they're saying is , look , we won't even a murder complaint to add a challenge to SB 1327 if the government of the state of California , you agree that you're not going to seek to enforce SB 1327 against us in this lawsuit claiming that it may be retroactive , but understand that SB 1327 doesn't even go into effect until January 1st of next year. So there are a variety of issues that are going on as to whether this particular challenge even belongs in a challenge to an ongoing lawsuit challenging a gun regulation.
S1: So we've got a Texas law targeting abortion rights. We've got a California law targeting gun rights. Both of these laws seemed destined to end up in front of the Supreme Court.
S2: You have to believe that the Texas law is on somewhat better ground in light of the Dobbs ruling , which eliminated the federal constitutional right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy. But that said , it really depends in part on how these cases end up percolating up to the Supreme Court. I don't think there's any question that one or both of these laws is eventually going to be heard and decided the validity of these laws is going to be heard and decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The question is , what is the posture in which these laws come before the U.S. Supreme Court ? And really , will the Supreme Court , in light of its dire warning , treat the Texas law , which , of course , deals with abortion differently from a Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms that the U.S. Supreme Court has in recent years , indeed , in recent months , only reinforced and bolstered by its rulings.
S1: I've been speaking with legal expert Dan Eaton. And Dan , thank you so much for talking with us today.
S2: All right. Good to be with you , Ed.
S1: A California law that sought to ban private for profit prisons in the state has been blocked. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week found the law unconstitutional. It's a major setback for immigration activists who've been fighting the government's reliance on private detention centers to hold migrants. Joining me to unpack this story is KPBS investigative border reporter Gustavo Solis. And , Gustavo , welcome.
S3: Well , thank you , Andrew.
S3: I mean , they have a history of bad behavior , mistreatment , just poor conditions. And they really are just poorly regulated and lack basic transparency measures that you would get with other public facilities , you know , in terms of poor regulations. And this happens time and time again where anytime there's an incident in one of these prisons , they are quick to point out that they pass their most recent inspection from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Advocates point out that maybe that's a sign that the inspections aren't rigorous enough more as opposed to it being of a sign that there's nothing really wrong with the prison. And just in terms of transparency , the public and the press don't have access to basic records that we would have with public prisons. Right. In terms of filing requests for documents and different data. There's also issues to access in both visitors and the press in some of these facilities.
S1: This law banning or attempting to ban private prisons in California were signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019 , and it didn't take long to end up in court.
S3: The law , AB 32 , established the ban , and technically speaking , that law banned new private detention centers from opening and phased out existing detention centers by 2028. What a lot of the companies did was they just extended existing contracts and just made it so that they're not technically new , they're just operating longer. So I don't know of any detention center that was actually like shut down because of this. But you're right that it didn't take long for the Trump administration to sue California over this law. And it is important to point out that every advocate I spoke to also mentioned that the Biden administration chose to keep Trump's lawsuit going. They could have just stopped it. To your question about what the decision was , the Court of Appeals said California's ban on private prisons violated the Constitution supremacy clause , which essentially states that the federal laws take precedence over state laws. The court claimed that AB32 prevents ice from using detention facilities in California. And with that interpretation of the law , the judges determined that California should not have that level of exertion over the federal government's detention operations.
S1: Gustavo , you mentioned President Biden chose to continue the lawsuit that was started by Trump. Biden campaigned on ending private prisons and he signed an executive order not long after taking office that was supposed to phase them out.
S3: And actually , when I was reporting on this , I went to the Biden-Harris campaign website , which is still up and saw that the promise is still there. Just verbatim from the website , they say Biden will end the federal government's use of private prisons and he will make clear that the federal government should not use private facilities for any detention , including detention for undocumented immigrants. You mentioned the loopholes. This ban on federal prisons is kind of seen through two different lenses , right ? One would be federal prisons , which would be where people who are convicted of federal crimes go , and the other will be federal detention centers , which is for undocumented immigrants , many of whom have not been convicted of any crimes. The biggest loophole is that company is these private companies that are being pushed away from the federal prison system are simply shifting to immigration detention. And that's not just physical detention. These companies are investing a lot of money and receiving millions in government contracts to monitor undocumented immigrants once they're released from detention centers and still have pending court dates.
S1: San Diego County has a private detention center , the Otay Mesa Detention Center.
S3: I mean , the most recent and one we wrote about and reported on here KPBS , is that a group of inmates file a federal complaint alleging medical neglect and retaliatory use of solitary confinement. One detainee I spoke with said he complained about increasing back and neck pain for four months. And they wouldn't take him to a hospital. They said he had arthritis. And by the time they finally took him to a hospital in El Centro , the doctors quickly realized that he needed immediate surgery , emergency spinal cord surgery , and he was going to have trouble walking. Also this year , in August , three women accused staff at the automated detention center of sexual assault. They said guards groped them , performed unnecessary strip searches and even forced themselves on them. And some of the listeners will remember that there were several outbreaks of COVID 19 in their facility , so much so that the ACLU sued Corecivic , asking a court to release all the detainees because their health was at serious risk if they stayed at that facility.
S3: I mean , initially , when you kind of hear this news , the the initial reaction is like , oh , well , we'll appeal the appeal and take it to the Supreme Court. Advocates I spoke to were quick to point out that there's a conservative majority of the Supreme Court right now. Right. And if the California Court of Appeals ruled this way , it's very unlikely that the Supreme Court , which is arguably a more right leaning body , would view it differently. But they're not letting them. They're not letting that stop them from this fight or this movement. Now , advocates are kind of shifting their attention , and they have been doing this for months now to try to persuade Governor Newsom and the California legislature to shift resources away from private prisons. They get state funding through different means , like help with transportation and different things like that , and just reinvest in the communities that the prisons are in. Right. A lot of these private facilities are in rural parts of California. They don't. They're seen as big job centers. But these jobs don't pay all that much. There's not a lot of opportunity to grow. And advocates are arguing that the state government could actually help by investing in these communities with higher paying jobs that would actually increase their quality of life instead of making them dependent on these private facilities that pay them really low wages for work. That shows that kind of it's not fun work , and it leaves even the guards with a lot of mental health issues after working there for a long time.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS investigative board reporter Gustavo Solis. And , Gustavo , thank you.
S3: Thank you.
S4: You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Andrew Bone. Maureen CAVANAUGH is off like the rest of the country. San Diego County's COVID numbers have been trending downward over the past several weeks. The county entered the CDC's lowest risk tier for COVID in mid-September , just about the same time President Biden declared the coronavirus pandemic over. But with the downward trend for infections across the nation , some 400 Americans continue to die from COVID each day , and it looks to remain a part of our lives , whether we like it or not. So if the pandemic is over , as the president stated , where are we now and where is COVID likely headed as we veer toward winter ? We have three local experts who we've turned to over the course of the coronavirus pandemic to help us navigate these questions. Rebecca Fielding Miller is an epidemiologist and a professor in UC San Diego School of Public Health. Karen McDaniels Davidson is a professor in San Diego State School of Public Health , and Dr. Eric Topol is director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Hoya. Welcome to all of you.
S5: Pleased to be here.
S2: Thanks for having us.
S6: Great to be with you , Jane.
S4: I want to set this up by taking a listen to what the president said when he spoke with 60 Minutes from the Detroit Auto Show back on September 14th.
S3: The pandemic.
S2: Is over. We still have a problem with COVID.
S6: We're still doing a lot of.
S2: Work on it.
S6: It's but the pandemic is over. If you notice , no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I.
S2: Think it's changing. And I think.
S1: This is.
S6: A perfect example of it.
S4: Dr. Topol , I'll start with you.
S6: We're we're going to see more of what we have been seeing. There's some very troublesome variants out there that have more immune evasion. And the five that we had to contend with through the summer. We're already seeing a significant uptick in the European Union. And you mentioned that things are coming down in the U.S. overall and certainly in San Diego. But unfortunately , we're already seeing upswing in cases in the Northeast. And as you know , we don't track cases that well. So there's a lot of disturbing things out there that tell us , I think , pretty well that while the weeks ahead , look , okay , we're in for some more trouble in the next couple of few months.
S2: It was frustration. You know , I was actually at a conference when he made those remarks and almost everyone at that conference was wearing masks indoors. And so I looked around and I said , well , we're all scientists here and we're wearing masks. And so just because we were you might be they're not wearing masks doesn't mean the pandemic is over and people aren't wearing masks because no one is asking them to. When people are asked to wear masks , they do wear masks.
S5: I think it's very clear that this is not over when it's pretty consistently the second and third leading cause of death across the country when so few children have been vaccinated or likely to be vaccinated in the near future. And and I agree it's it's a strange metric to say we're not asking anybody to wear masks , so nobody's wearing masks. So the pandemic is over. That's not how we typically measure infectious disease when we're doing a good job.
S4: Karen , you know , the president's words came on the eve of an election , and it's hard to ignore how many people seem to be over the pandemic.
S2: I think that with when you have politicians who lead public health response , where you have political appointees who lead the public health response , they're going to be influenced by politics , They're going to be influenced by polling. And it's strange because polling shows that when people are informed , they're actually willing to do a lot of the public health protections that we ask them to do. But I think that we've stopped talking about COVID and we're trying to minimize it going into the election so that it's not at the front of people's minds. And so therefore , it's not at the front of people's minds when they're not wearing masks.
S4: And Rebecca , throughout the course of the pandemic , we have heard comparisons between COVID and the flu.
S5: I will defer completely to Dr. Topol on how things will play out with boosters and how that is similar to the flu. But it's true , you might have flu like symptoms , you might have a headache , you might have respiratory issues , but the flu doesn't result in up to 20. Percent of people who have the flu have a long term disability. Right. The flu does not have these long term cognitive effects that we're seeing in COVID. And so while in the short term it might feel like , oh , this was just kind of a bad flu , the long term effects are clearly a lot worse. And another really important difference is COVID has can have really strong effects on people between the ages of five and 65. Whereas for flu , we usually see the very young and the very older at high risk. But I mean , I have friends in their thirties who have experienced stroke and pulmonary embolism who are otherwise very healthy. And you don't get that with the flu.
S2: And if I could add to that , the other big difference is that we don't have seasonality with COVID , and I don't expect to see seasonality with COVID while we have transmission out of control and new variants emerging with the flu. We have a particular winter season where we expect to see it. We can kind of predict what's coming and we try to tailor the the annual flu vaccine to that. But we don't have that with COVID , and I don't see it any time in the near future.
S6: I think the long COVID , which has still not really been unraveled with no treatment , no biomarker , is completely different than what we see with influenza , of course. And what it's a good part , comparing flu and COVID is that we've done so much better against this virus. You lose perspective. There's never been a vaccine against flu that 95% effective against infections , hospitalizations and deaths as it was all the way through the Delta variant. It's only when al-Muqrin came where we started to see the problems with infections and transmission not being checked by the vaccines. We never had a pill by Paxil. It the best we've had with with flu has been Tamiflu. That doesn't work that well. So , you know , this is a virus that we can triumph over. And that's why , you know , I'm so keen on nasal vaccines and. Panjabi Cold virus vaccines , because we're we we tend to think that it's as challenging as influenza. But we've already seen some things that show us that we can prevail. The problem that was just touched on is that it's still out of control. We haven't gotten ahead of the virus. It's not contained. You know , we got down to less than 12,000 cases a day in June of 2021 , and people said the pandemic is over. And then what happened ? So , you know , we've seen this movie before. And how many times you have to see it before you , you know , say , wait a minute , the only way to know the pandemic is over , that is contained is to look backwards and say , oh , we went all these months and things have been quiescent. Yeah , there's been some small outbreaks , but overall , you know , it really has been contained and under control and we're just not there yet. And it different from the 1918 1919 pandemic with the flu , because that just petered out in less time than this has gone on , of course , with no vaccines. So it's a totally different look.
S4: And Dr. Topol , you know , it's been about three weeks since the government rolled out new COVID boosters that target both the original strains of the virus as well as Omicron. But numbers released this week said only about 2% of eligible people have gotten it.
S6: We're less than a half of the use of uptake of boosters in any high income country in the world. So we've had a batch of our booster campaign. In part , that was our governmental agencies infighting and reluctance to acknowledge how important boosters were because they thought that was going to interfere with the primary series vaccines and all sorts of issues. However , with this one added on to the problem that we've had with booster acceptance , it was put out without the data. We a lot of people would like to see , which is the human response to this , be a five bivalent vaccine. We're going to see that I understand next week that I think will help a bit. But also when you tell the public , which is what they want to hear , of course , the pandemic is over. Who's going to sign up for a vaccine when the panda booster , when a lot of people get , you know , a lot of reactions , you know , in terms of fatigue and , you know , feature fever , chills and all the other things that you get from having a shot. Who wants to get that when you're being told the pandemic is over ? So that doesn't help the cause. And so I think hopefully we can get some momentum , but it is concerning.
S5: And when when we see sort of the political will sapping away from addressing this , when there is a moonshot initiative to address cancer , when one of the biggest public health issues in the county that the county has done really well on is addressing cardiovascular disease. I wish that we would address it with that urgency. And , you know , I understand that our public health force is tired and burned out , and I don't blame them. And I think that the lack of political will , the lack of positioning this with any urgency has really removed their ability to to push booster campaigns , to do the outreach , to continue the pop up clinics and all of this. Yeah , I , I genuinely wish we treated this with the same urgency that we treat cancer. That would be lovely.
S2: We are not in a good position to come out of the emergency because we are going to be faced again in the coming weeks and months with another surge. It is coming. And I think that taking away a lot of those protections and taking away funding for testing and vaccines and antivirals is a mistake leading into the winter. Mm hmm.
S4: And Dr. Topol , as we mentioned , San Diego's COVID numbers have been trending in the right direction , But we have been on something of a roller coaster over the past few years.
S6: You know , I just said I think because the numbers are trending down here , we have some weeks ahead that will be relatively quiet. But unfortunately , as we go forward , it's pretty clear there's a variant right now that's already passed 12% in the country , Bay 4.6. I wish we had better names for these new variants , but that's what we have to we're stuck with. And that one is really troubling because every show , which is what immunocompromised people rely upon to prevent infections in particular , it no longer works against that. And also people who've had a recent BA five infection are going to be vulnerable. So the point that was just made by Karen about how be the lack of boosters and the high infection rates don't necessarily put us in a powerful position to withstand that variant. And then there's the other ones that are creeping up , like , you know , this one called a 2.275.2. Now that one has got lots of trouble and there's another one called BQ .1.1. I know these are hard to deal with these numbers and names , but they are far worse than what we've seen so far in terms of their ability to evade our immune response , which includes vaccines , infections and their combination. So likely November , December. We have to contend with any one of these or combinations of these new difficult variant.
S4: And as I understand. Numbers are slowly starting to rise in Europe again.
S6: They're going up substantially in several countries. And it tells us , you know what ? What happens in Europe doesn't stay in Europe. And every single time it comes here , not directly , of course , but it's the same story in terms of the the variants taking hold and then the winter months. And , you know , more people inside the lack of mitigation measures for the reasons that have been discussed. All these things , you know , basically help the virus , give it , give it legs. And so what's happening in Europe will will unquestionably recur here.
S2: I'd love to see a recommendation that everybody test to exit isolation. I think that that is one of the most basic things that we can do. We can provide rapid tests to folks so that they can test negative twice before they exit isolation and go back out into the world. We can work on improving our indoor air quality. We can work on ventilation until we get ventilation improve , We can work on air filtration. These are simple things. Well , some of them are simple. Meditation takes a lot more time and engineering efforts , but I think it is possible we did. We had the rapid acceleration of diagnostics that we did at the beginning of the pandemic , but still ongoing where we developed tests , we developed all kinds of things and we can use that to actually improve our indoor air quality and to have a rapid acceleration of indoor air quality. We can also put in place some on ramps based on transmission that we see in wastewater. We have a lot of wastewater testing. We should be using that to think about what added protections we need to add to protect those who are left vulnerable to this disease.
S4: And this is a question for all of you.
S6: These are really helpful , as just outlined , rapid testing. You know , we have a CDC that tells us five days is good enough without the need for rapid testing , which is totally wrong. Rapid tests should be done , as already mentioned , and they're very helpful. And the average time we just published yesterday for these people to not be infectious is between ten and 14 days. So , you know , what we've done in this country is actually promoted spread by having non data driven practices supported by our public health agency. But yes , the masks are really still important , high quality masks when indoors they're really important. And I don't go anywhere these days. We've seen too many people wearing masks , unfortunately , indoors. It's a real problem.
S5: Rebecca I have to second that. I think that it's really interesting this this narrative of sanitizing and handwashing caught on very early and it which you should wash your hands. Don't get me wrong. But like this narrative caught on very early and it's stuck in people's minds. And I think the narrative of of it's airborne. You have to clean the air , you have to wear a mask. Your quality of mask is really important. For some reason , that has not had the same hook , but masking is one of the best things that you can do in the absence of all other structural things to protect yourself in the moment. And it's one of the best ways that you can demonstrate community care and make sure that other people around you are safe. And I think that we need to be very clear that , you know , those those fabric masks that we were all using early on , they were a great stopgap , but that is not what we need to be using right now. We need access to everybody needs access to high quality well-fitting masks that don't gap. We need masks that children well , that are accessible. It's actually really hard to find a mask that fits a tiny face. But masking and really widespread use of antigen testing are some of the most powerful tools that an individual can use to protect themselves or to protect a party or a conference or any other time they want to get together with their friends.
S4: Is there anything else anyone would like to add ? No.
S6: It's just been great to have a chance to participate in this discussion with Rebecca and Corinne and Eugene. I think it's not the happy talk that people are hearing , but it's the real stuff. And hopefully , you know , eventually this will pass. Eventually we'll get to a very good point in this whole ordeal , but unfortunately we're not quite there yet.
S4: It is the reality check we all need , though. I've been joined by Rebecca Fielding Miller , professor in UC San Diego School of Public Health , Karen McDaniels , Davidson , professor in San Diego State School of Public Health , and Dr. Eric Topol , director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Hoya. Thank you very much to you all for your insight and for joining us today.
S2: Thank you. Thank you.
S4: You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Andrew Bowen. Maureen CAVANAUGH is off. PEN America recently announced the winners of their 2022 prison writing awards. The award recognizes exceptional works from incarcerated writers that will be published in a forthcoming anthology. The first place winner for both the fiction and nonfiction categories is San Diegan. Frank Kim Saku. Sara Gosa. Sara Gosa was homeless in San Diego for several years before being taken into federal custody on drug related charges. He was released last month and spoke with KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Here's their conversation.
S2: You were just recognized with two prison writing awards from PEN America , both for works that you wrote while incarcerated. Before we talk more about your writing process , can you give us an idea of what it is you write about ? Sure.
S1: Yes. I was recognized by winning these awards and it was a big surprise to me. I started writing in prison about my life in addiction and about my life living homeless on the streets. So I guess those are the topics I really cover in my writing homelessness , addiction and incarceration.
S1: I used to be a college professor and then I worked in social services for several years. I was in recovery for several years. And so from my perspective , I had a I had a normal life. And I was just trying to do the best I could in the world. And then one day it felt to me as if six years had gone by. And I find myself in a federal prison facing many , many years , a sentence of many , many years. And I didn't know how that happened. And I had these memories of living on the streets , of getting high all the time , of the psychosis that comes with that. And of all the things I had to do to keep getting high. And it was just , you know , they would come out in dreams. They would come out in these memories. They would just intrude at these strange moments. And so I just began writing down kind of in a journal. And then after a certain point. I decided that I really wanted these writings to find some kind of a life , because I realized that what I was writing about was a community of people and experiences , of people that are really difficult and that not many people write about. And so I thought , This needs an audience. And so I was really trying to find an audience when I heard about the Pen Prison Writing awards.
S2: So Life in Pieces is your work of fiction , and it's a patchwork of those fragmented memories of homelessness in San Diego.
S1: That made me laugh at first. I lived in Manhattan , and I know what the East Village is. This is not the East Village. I mean , it's got that space for art. It's got a cool performance space. It's got cool new bars and restaurants. It's got a gritty , industrial vibe. There's a lot of new construction. But if you go far enough south and far enough east to the very corner of downtown , right where the East Village hits Barrio Logan on the south and Golden Hill on the east , where Vinnies is St Vincent de Paul and the Neo Good Day Center is and the Alpha Project tent. That's San Diego Skid Row. It's the heart of darkness. It's where homeless people go to shoot up light in the street , out in the open. It's where everything goes down.
S2: So one of the things evident in your writing is this distinct relationship you have with the streets of San Diego , particularly in this fiction piece. Can you talk a little bit about that ? Yeah.
S1: Well , it's interesting because at least for me being unhoused , I live a life that's out in the open and on the streets. And it's funny because when I was housed in San Diego , I would go to the restaurants on the same streets. I had friends who lived in condos , in apartments , on the same streets. And so I would walk to work or to Petco Park or to wherever I was going and walk on the exact same streets that I walked on when I became homeless. But then when I was living on the streets , the same streets felt really different. All of a sudden , there was a. There was so much more detail , so much more variety and so much more that they weren't just a way to get from point A to point B anymore. They became places where whole lives were lived , whole communities were formed and all kinds of things went down transactions , commerce , relationships , all kinds of things.
S2: Let's also talk about that line between truth and honesty , between fiction and nonfiction.
S1: Because early on , when I was first incarcerated , I wanted to try to put all of this behind me and pretend it never happened. So as I started to try to write it down , what became clear to me is I didn't remember if things happened in this particular order or in a different order. I didn't remember if if I said something or if somebody else said something. And then I also realized that , you know , when you're unhoused and you're on the streets and you're high all the time , or at least when I was high all the time , there'd be days and days on end where I wouldn't sleep. And my life was in constant crisis and I wasn't eating regularly. And so I can't trust my memory or my cognition under those circumstances. And at the same time , because of using crystal meth on a daily basis , my mind was also in constant psychosis. And so you definitely can't trust what you think or what you remember under those circumstances. So I thought the only thing I can do is write what I believe to be true , represent my life and my experiences to the best of my ability. But I can't hold myself. Responsible for making sure that everything I say is factually correct because there's no way I can check. All I can do is do my best to tell the truth. But then just acknowledge the fact that my work is just right at that place where fiction and nonfiction make. And what I strive for is honesty. But I can't necessarily strive for factual factuality.
S2: I wanted to go back to something you were saying earlier when we were talking about. How did you know you wanted your writing to reach people outside of prison and the hope that was represented in what you had said there ? For someone who is in federal prison is is remarkable to once an audience and then to achieve it.
S1: Because I was locked up during COVID the entire time I was locked up , there were no visits. And so I guess if I didn't have hope that I could write and possibly get published. Then I would have no hope at all. It gave me an opportunity to imagine a world bigger than my prison cell. And really , that's what I want. I want my work to have a life of its own. And I want my work to reach people. I want to talk about and I want people to read about. What is it like living unhoused on the streets ? I want people to know a little bit more about individuals who become homeless and the communities that we form and the lives that we lead and the choices that we make and the reasons we make them. You know , I'm not trying to explain or justify anything. I'm just trying to tell the truth as I see it. And I hope that that truth is able to connect me with people in the world that make me different or separate from them.
S2: Frank , thank you so much.
S1: Oh , thank you.
S4: That was formerly incarcerated San Diegan Frank and Sara Goza , winner of two 2022 PEN America Prison Writing Awards. Speaking with KPBS , arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. You can read an excerpt from Sarah Ghost's work on our website , and the anthology will be published this December.