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A College Education In Prison Opens Unexpected Path to Freedom And More Local News

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Inside a maximum-security prison in the middle of California’s high desert, there’s an unusual educational experiment underway. It’s become something no one expected — a path to freedom. Also on today’s podcast, in light of the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit, KPBS profiles a City Heights refugee family that has been affected by climate change both in the U.S. and in their home country. And, more people are working in San Diego. The San Diego County unemployment rate fell to 3.4% in August from 3.6% in July.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Monday, September 23rd I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up inside a maximum security prison in the middle of the high desert. There's an unusual educational experiment underway and more and more people around the world are having to migrate because of climate change.

Speaker 2: 00:19 They rely on the rain and if they miss one, see some of that grain is going to be devastating.

Speaker 1: 00:27 That and more coming up right after the break.

Speaker 3: 00:31 Mm.

Speaker 1: 00:33 Thank you for joining us for San Diego News Matters. I'm Deb Welsh in the middle of California is high desert inside a maximum security prison. Cal State La is conducting an unusual experiment with men, sentenced to die behind bars for some of our worst crimes and it's become something no one expected a path to freedom as part of our California dream collaboration. K QEDs. Vanessa Rancano reports

Speaker 4: 01:00 once a month. Tiffany Lim makes the 70 mile drive from la to the state prison in Lancaster. She makes her way through one security gate after another until she reaches the library. We're a group of men in blue is eager to see her

Speaker 5: 01:14 run this. You guys haven't seen you guys? Wow. So just, I wanted just to check in about how things have been going this summer.

Speaker 4: 01:23 Lim is something between a principal and a mom figure to the men in this group. She works for California State University La and runs its program here. We're still looking probably at spring 2020 for you to graduate. So you guys are really, you're so close. They're the only inmates in California who have access to a face to face BA program run by a public university today. They have some news for limb. [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 01:49 rolling. All right. [inaudible] suitable

Speaker 4: 01:54 after 20 years in prison. 10 when was granted parole or you'd be on a campus with, you're going admit attack.

Speaker 5: 02:00 Yeah. You know, I've got to tell you guys, I'm going to be very candid with you. It's, I don't know about whether or not I should bring it up. I worry, you know, I mean obviously he's our brother and we're [inaudible].

Speaker 4: 02:11 It's a bittersweet. Many of these guys aren't getting out anytime soon.

Speaker 2: 02:16 I've been incarcerated for 27 years this month. I'm 38 I was arrested at 17 all my twenties all my thirties and all my forties I'm currently serving the sins of life without the possibility parole, a life without sentence life without l, Y, l. Y

Speaker 4: 02:31 most of the 38 men taking cal state classes here have life without the possibility of parole sentences. Alan Burnett got sentenced to life after he was found guilty of aiding and abetting in a murder.

Speaker 2: 02:43 When we first started the program, they didn't even want us to have it because majority of our class had life without the possibility of parole. These guys are never going to get out. They don't need an education. These guys aren't worthy

Speaker 4: 02:54 should those behind bars for our most serious crimes get to improve their lives. They do. Time. Carolyn Eggleston has spent 40 years studying prison education. I think America has never decided whether

Speaker 1: 03:09 the punishment for somebody committing a crime is the loss of freedom or the need to punish them every day while they are in prison. And we as a society really struggle with that.

Speaker 4: 03:22 For some in prison education can be a form of freedom for James Cain. It has. He's been in 13 years.

Speaker 2: 03:30 It's been the most amazing experience of my entire life as either a fruity man or as an incarcerated human being. If I had the chance right now to go home or have this education, I would choose this education.

Speaker 4: 03:47 The program is mostly grant based, not taxpayer funded. It tacks on about $12,000 per inmate to the annual cost of incarceration and that's money that could be spent trying to keep people out of prison in the first place. Still there is some evidence getting an education inside has a ripple effect outside. After Alan Burnett enrolled in college, so did his sister and nieces and nephew, he says, and his stepdaughter.

Speaker 2: 04:14 And so this thing right here that we're doing, this program is transcending this facility and this reaching out into the community as well.

Speaker 4: 04:20 Since the cal state La Program began, five men have had their sentences commuted, including Burnett.

Speaker 2: 04:27 Look at us now like Tommy's going home, tens going home yet life without and Moody's going on. Everybody who's gotten out, they all had life without

Speaker 4: 04:34 three of them are free men now finishing their bas on the cal state la campus in Landcaster. I'm Vanessa Rancano.

Speaker 1: 04:43 Climate change often impacts some of the world's most vulnerable people as part of our ongoing coverage of San Diego's climate crisis. KPB has reporter Prius Schreder takes a look at how people around the world are becoming climate refugees who saying, hey, Nuer came to the United States from Somalia more than three decades ago to study as a foreign military exchange student. After completing his training, newer said he felt unsafe returning to his home country because of the ongoing civil war. He applied and was granted asylum here in the u s

Speaker 6: 05:18 the country was in a blue tickle. Turmoil when [inaudible] left the country, people were divided so badly since

Speaker 1: 05:26 resettling in San Diego. Neuro has helped dozens of families from east Africa make a new home in San Diego, which has one of the largest populations of Somali refugees in the world. While Somalia has been suffering from civil war and political turmoil for decades. Experts say drought, which causes food and security has been a main driver of mass migration throughout the region for generations. People in nurse family have supported themselves through farming but in recent years has forced them off their farms and into refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Speaker 6: 06:02 They could lie on the rain and if they miss one, see some of that rain is going to be devastating on the food on what are would be scarce.

Speaker 1: 06:17 Rom Lasa, he is the director of the Partnership for the advancement of New Americans, a nonprofit dedicated to refugee rights. She's also seen the impacts climate change has had on migration.

Speaker 4: 06:28 So what's happening and what I know that people tell us is they leave their rural communities, um, in search of food and search of water during drought, um, and they're going into other land. You'll see a lot more conflict as well that kind of exasperates already highly volatile, you know, violence. What is already happening is violence. I'm in persecution and then the climate crisis exasperates that okay.

Speaker 1: 06:56 According to a recent study, Somalia is the most vulnerable country in the world to climate change. The United Nations says the drought in Somalia has caused 49,000 people to leave their homes in search of food and water so far this year, nor says that he's seen many able bodied men in east Africa joined armed factions simply to survive.

Speaker 6: 07:18 Well, many people, I don't know. We from that homes to seek help to find food and water. Many youths that are attracted by the arm functionals like our Shabbat or warring functionalists. And this climate change also boosted the tension between the clans.

Speaker 1: 07:49 Worldwide studies show more than 17 million people have been displaced because of weather related disasters like droughts, wildfires, and extreme temperatures. Rom Ramen othen is a climate sustainability professor at the Scripps Institution of oceanography

Speaker 7: 08:05 probably in about 10 to 15 years. That's going to be the biggest problem. They're going to face refugees, migration, the social unrest that would cause if you don't have a governance system.

Speaker 1: 08:22 Newer says for too long, climate change has taken a back seat to other issues.

Speaker 6: 08:27 The international community and the local government should didn't do much and didn't give much attention about the climate change, the focusing on war on terrorism and the piracy, but this is a really a pattern and an issue that's affecting people's lives in east Africa.

Speaker 1: 08:54 He hopes politicians and policy makers will wake up to the reality before it's too late. Prius Sri, they're k PBS news representatives from 195 countries are in New York City today. They'll present climate action plans at the United Nations climate action summit. KPBS has Donald Bloodworth tells us the United Nations Secretary General says he's hopeful the goals of the Paris climate agreement can still be met on time.

Speaker 8: 09:23 The Paris climate agreement was adopted by 196 countries in 2015 it sought to slow the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius and ultimately returned to a global average from preindustrial times last week. UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez addressed the UN's climate goals during an interview with covering climate. Now, do you start? Guts are still reachable, but that needs reform changes in the way we produce foods in the way we power our economies in the way we organize our cities in the way we produce energy. Gutierrez did not comment on the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the agreement. In June, 2017 the United States withdrawal takes effect. November, 2020 Donald Bloodworth KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 10:11 San Diego county's unemployment keeps going down. It fell to 3.4% in August from 3.6% in July. KPBS editor Tom Fudge says these are the latest figures from the California Economic Development Department.

Speaker 8: 10:26 The region's non-farm employment increased by 5,200 jobs last month, driven mostly by gains in construction, education and health services. Farm jobs made slight gains during that same period. The EDD says non-farm employment increases were driven by gains in nearly every industry around the county. The data show government jobs had the highest year over year increase of any industry. Only three industries recorded losses last month compared to August, 2018 losses. We're seeing in trade transportation and utilities. Tom Fudge k PBS news.

Speaker 1: 11:03 The federal government has let California set its own emission standards until now. KPBS is Sarah Katsuyama says that California isn't the only state affected by this change. The Trump administration officially revoked California's waiver that allowed higher standards on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. This decision also affects 13 other states who had adopted California's tougher standards. SDSU marketing strategist and cofounder of bottom line marketing. Miro COPEC says like California, other countries have strict emissions standards. That's why four car companies are sticking with the agreement they made to meet California stricter emission guidelines. Despite Trump's decision,

Speaker 8: 11:46 what the administration doesn't understand in this whole process is that car companies absolutely have to do this because u s auto manufacturers

Speaker 9: 11:54 have to be competitive internationally.

Speaker 1: 11:55 California along with 22 other states have filed a lawsuit in federal court against the move by the Trump administration. Sarah Cat Sianna's KPBS news, the number of women in construction in California has grown at a slightly faster rate than men over the past five years, but the industry is still male dominated even as it experiences a severe labor shortage. Capitol. Public radio is, Chris Nichols has this report.

Speaker 9: 12:24 The Carl is one of just a few women at a new home construction site in Lincoln, a suburb outside Sacramento.

Speaker 5: 12:32 Sorry, I enjoy it. I chose clean the, the houses and um, and I like to work with the team.

Speaker 9: 12:41 She says she's used to working at a job site

Speaker 5: 12:44 because my family works on construction

Speaker 9: 12:47 but women like Latitia represent less than 10% of the construction workforce in California and across the country and there an even smaller share at job sites. That's despite the fact that the industry has a shortage of about 400,000 workers nationwide. Alison Paul is President of professional women in building. She's hoping to educate women about the industry.

Speaker 10: 13:09 It's not just working on a job site there. There are so many other careers available to them and there's so many opportunities for growth as well.

Speaker 9: 13:17 Jobs such as executives, architects, sales and marketing professionals. Paul says one way her group is recruiting young women is through the Building Industry Technology Academy. It's a program at 32 high schools across California for boys and girls.

Speaker 10: 13:33 We are trying to create a bit more of an opportunity for women to join our industry

Speaker 9: 13:39 officials say the shortage of workers can delay construction projects for months hurting not just the builders, but also home buyers in a California market with an already thin supply and very high home prices in Sacramento. I'm Chris Nichols.

Speaker 1: 13:57 San Diego's unemployment rate fell last month. In fact, the news was similar across the state. California's economic expansion is now the longest effort. Capitol public radio has been added or reports.

Speaker 11: 14:10 The state added nearly 35,000 jobs last month that extends the labor market growth to a record 114 months, nine and a half years since the bottom of the great recession and that suggests president Trump's tariff battles with China happened affected California's economy, at least not yet. On the other hand, there are a couple of other reasons for concern. The civilian labor force shrunk for the sixth consecutive month. 200,000 Californians have dropped out of the workforce since February and construction jobs fell for the second straight month. That would should be the height of construction season. California is unemployment rate held steady in August at 4.1% at the state capitol. I'm Ben Adler.

Speaker 1: 14:48 Thanks for listening to San Diego News matters. If you're not already a subscriber, take a minute to become one. You can find San Diego news matters on apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.