Visitors to California Prisons, Beware

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I just addressed my very first letter with the words “VISITING APPLICATION ENCLOSED” on the envelope; I’m trying to meet with a source currently residing in a California prison.

If you’ve never filled one of these applications out, the front is pretty much what you’d expect—name, Social Security number, do you have a criminal record? But I learned some interesting stuff on the back. Like, for example, that I lose the right to leave without being searched in the event that a “cause for a search arises while the visitor is one the institution grounds.” Also, giving letters to or taking letters from inmates is a misdemeanor. Ditto for gifts. But my favorite clause is the last one. “Hostages will not be recognized for bargaining purposes during attempted escapes by inmates.” First of all, I wonder if, when it comes down to it, that’s really true. Second: Does this mean that by signing that I understand this condition, I can’t sue the state of California for not trying to save me if I become a hostage in an attempted escape?

 

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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