Today’s News: 29,000 state inmates are refusing food; San Onofre closure leaves power gap; Times changes

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n 2006, California prisons were forced to house inmates using double and triple bunking in gyms and day rooms. Since then, overcrowding has been reduced by 43,000 inmates, from 200 to 150 percent of capacity. Photo: California Department of Corrections

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Inmate protest. Tens of thousands of California inmates are into their third day without food.

State prison officials say they’ve received at least eight demand letters from different groups of inmates involved in the protest. A common thread centers on solitary confinement conditions. But prisoners are also demanding better food, cleaner facilities and more access to prison libraries and educational opportunities.

As of last night, 29,000 inmates – about one quarter of the state’s prison population – were refusing food. Prison officials won’t declare a full-fledged hunger strike until an inmate has missed nine consecutive meals. That would be dinner tonight for most of the protestors. But 10 inmates at High Desert State Prison in Susanville have not eaten since July 1st. Prison officials say medical staff is keeping a close eye on those inmates for signs of distress.

The protest comes at a difficult time for the state prison system. Federal courts are demanding that California release more than 9,000 inmates to relieve overcrowding that has led to sub-standard medical treatment and mental health care. The state has also been ordered to move 2,600 inmates from two Central Valley prisons because they are considered to be at high risk of contracting valley fever, a potentially deadly disease. L.A. Times

Newspaper news. More management changes are on the way for the L.A. Times. Tribune Co. says it will spin off its newspapers into a separate entity, much like News Corp. did last month. The New York Times says the motivation is to “separate high-value, high-return entertainment and television assets from newspapers, which face a difficult operating environment that has dragged down earnings.” The company says it may still sell some or all of its newspapers. In addition to the Times, that includes the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel and six other daily papers. New York Times

Power loss. California is looking for a way to keep the lights on. A State Senate committee is holding a hearing today on the future of energy supplies in California, now that the decision has been made not to reopen the San Onofre nuclear power plant. San Onofre cranked out 22 megawatts of power and was the largest single source of electricity for Southern California. CAL-ISO, the state’s grid operator, and the Public Utilities Commissions are working on a permanent plan for offsetting the loss of the nuke plant. A report should be ready in September. AP

Rapist release. L.A prosecutors are trying to prevent a serial rapist responsible for nearly 50 sexual assaults from being released in this county. Christopher Hubbart has spent almost two decades in a state mental hospital. He’s among about 500 offenders in California who have been confined under a law that allows the state to hold violent sexual predators past their original release date. Authorities say the 62-year-old has completed his treatment and is ready for release, albeit under close supervision. Prosecutors in Santa Clara County – where Hubbart committed his most recent crimes – have the sole legal authority to contest his release, and they’ve declined to do so. L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey says that if Hubbart must be released, it shouldn’t be to L.A. L.A. Times

Professor’s plea. A U.C. Irvine professor has pleaded guilty to setting six fires in a revenge plot against a high school that his son attended before committing suicide. Forty-nine-year-old Rainer Klaus Reinscheid is facing between 3 and 18 years in prison. Prosecutors say Reinscheid spelled out his intentions to burn down University High School and kill school administrators in an email to his wife shortly after the death of their son. One of his former lawyers says Reinscheid was anguished by his son’s death and never intended to carry out the things that he wrote about. O.C. Weekly