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Inmates Staff Mobile Kitchens To Feed Firefighters On The Fire Line

By Julia Mitric After the Clayton Fire broke out on Aug. 13, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection scrambled to set up an operating base. The base is known as fire camp and it's like a village. You'll find a school bus transformed into a medical station and a long row of portable toilets. Generators hum from every side. They provide power for sleeping trailers and an industrial ice maker. A service truck drives down Main Street in Lower Lake, Calif. on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016 as clean-up begins on damage from the Clayton Fire, which burned an estimated 300 structures in Lake County. Melissa Bosworth / Capital Public Radio A five-wheel trailer redesigned as a commercial kitchen occupies the heart of fire camp. It's called the MKU, or mobile kitchen unit, and it's staffed with prison inmates. Mark Montoya was tapped to be the Food Unit Leader for the Clayton Fire in Lake County.It's Montoya's job to make sure 2,372 firefighters get fed between shifts on the fire line. Firefighting crew assigned to the Clayton Fire line up for breakfast at the Mobile Kitchen Unit, where inmates serve meals at the Lake County Fairgrounds fire camp in Lakeport, Calif. on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. Melissa Bosworth / Capital Public Radio Montoya and a rotating officer from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation oversee a crew of 26 inmates split into two staffing shifts, breakfast and dinner. You can't miss the inmates working at fire camp. They're a knot of orange amidst a sea of firefighters in blue. This inmate kitchen crew is drawn from Trinity and Sugar Pine conservation camps, part of a state-wide program run jointly by Cal Fire and CDCR. Inmates from the Trinity River Kitchen Crew serve dinner out of the Mobile Kitchen Unit's service window at the fire camp at the Lake County Fairgrounds during the Clayton Fire on Wednesday, Aug. 17. Melissa Bosworth / Capital Public Radio Montoya leads the way into the dining hall and scans the crowd as dozens of crews quickly finish their meal and head out. "I'd say I've got about 450 people eating right now," says Montoya. This late breakfast shift constitutes a "lull" in the day. Montoya knows firsthand what it's like to wait in a long line for a hot meal after working to contain a wildfire. "There's a few things that really motivate you at that point," says Montoya. "One is to eat, to get your engine re-stocked and get some sleep and rest so you can be ready to come back and do it again." A few hours later, the assembly line starts back up all over again for dinner. As firefighters come off their shift, they change out of their firefighting gear and into their blue dress uniforms. They wash their hands at a row of outdoor sinks and walk up a metal ramp toward the window of the MKU. Inmates hand them plates of crunchy chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetables and biscuits. Inmates working at the Mobile Kitchen Unit during the Clayton Fire transfer fried chicken to a serving tray at the fire camp at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeport, Calif. on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. Inmates assigned to the mobile kitchen are responsible for preparing and serving meals to firefighters and crew at the fire camp. Melissa Bosworth / Capital Public Radio As they move through the line, one firefighter asked for an extra biscuit. Another asks how the inmates are doing inside the trailer. It's nearly 97 degrees outside. Montoya says this MKU has a good team. "I'm fortunate to have CDCR inmate staff who were cooks while they were out - so they have a culinary background." Cipriano Valdez is a lead cook with this MKU. "After serving a thousand, you're looking out the window to see if more people are coming, you know?" says Valdez. "And yeah, they keep on coming." The crew estimates they washed and baked 1,100 potatoes for last night's dinner shift. As inmate kitchen staff, Valdez makes about $1 an hour. "You could say, in about a week, you could make $200," Valdez says, with a shrug. Cipriano Valdez, an inmate stationed with the Trinity River Kitchen Crew, poses for a photo between cooking shifts at the fire camp at the Lake County Fairgrounds Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. Melissa Bosworth / Capital Public Radio He says he made about that much in a day as a truck driver before he was incarcerated. "But since I am here, I got to make some type of money," Valdez says. He says the opportunity to earn money was the main thing that drew him to this position. But Valdez also adds that the experience gives him a chance to see things he'd never see behind prison walls: ranches, mountains, different types of old cars and "regular" people. As part of the MKU, Valdez has traveled to several different regions in California. Wherever the wildfires break out. "I feel like I'm not in prison anymore," says Valdez. "It kind-of makes you feel like you're on the street again. It makes you feel a little bit better." Correctional officer Oscar "OJ" Smith of CDCR supervises Valdez and his fellow staff on the MKU. "My primary role is providing security - making sure we don't lose anybody here. It happens rarely," Smith adds. "But it can happen." A sign poseted on the gate outside the food service area at the fire camp at the Lake County Fairgrounds indicates that weapons are not allowed inside, where inmate workers prepare meals for the fire crew. Melissa Bosworth / Capital Public Radio Smith also says he's there to assist Cal Fire by making sure meals come out on time "so that firefighters are fed adequately so that they can accomplish their mission of fighting fire." Smith describes the inmate fire camp program as an opportunity for rehabilitation. "It provides work training and leadership skills so that they can go out and become productive taxpayers someday," he says. Back in the dining hall, Battalion Chief Cameron Todd from Murphy says he's grateful to inmate staff for a hot meal. Before the mobile kitchen rolled into camp, Todd and his crew confess they ate "something grey" out of a tin after a 16-hour shift on the fire line. As Todd sees it, inmates are part of the firefighting effort. "You treat them with courtesy and respect and you thank them for a good meal," says Todd. "They are just like the rest of us. They just want to do a good job, get this fire put out and go home." In the midst of this fire season there are 11 inmate-run mobile kitchen units serving fire camps up and down the state. As for Cipriano Valdez, he expects to be paroled later this year.

Inmates Staff Mobile Kitchens To Feed Firefighters On The Fire Line

End Of Legislative Session Reveals Bills That Passed And Died

With the legislative sessions coming to an end, our own state reporter Ben Bradford joins us for this week's Capital Chat to talk about the bills that survived – and those that didn't.

End Of Legislative Session Reveals Bills That Passed And Died

Local Author Draws Literary Material From Personal Experiences

Local author Jodi Angel will share excerpts from her newest memoir at Stories on Stage August 26. We'll talk with Angel about how she mines her life experiences for literary material. Actress Ruby Sketchley performed a reading of Jodi's work to preview Friday's event. Angel is best known for her collection of short stories, "The History of Vegas," which won awards and was featured in many publications and anthologies.

Local Author Draws Literary Material From Personal Experiences

Theatre Review: A Novel Musical Twist On Hugo's Classic 'The Hunchback Of Notre Dame'

By Jeff Hudson No other Broadway-style musical that I know of is set in a French cathedral during the late 15th Century. And yet "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is quite a departure from most musicals. It opens with vocal music hinting at Gregorian chant. But soon we are transported to a lushly imagined live-action vision of the streets of Paris during the Middle Ages. This staging features a rich vocal texture – it includes a 19-voice chorus that gives the singing in "Hunchback" a sonic depth that at times is more like an opera than a Broadway show. Another unusual aspect — there's a scene involving a fairly suggestive dance by a gypsy girl, who teases the crowd with two scarves, a tambourine, and sings lyrics like "come feel the heat, come taste the desire." The number is less racy than a Broadway show like "Chicago," but it's still a bit of a departure for a Disney show. The breakthrough is the innovative way the way the show pairs deaf actor John McGinty, playing the hunchback Quasimodo, with vocalist Jim Hogan, who sings while McGinty communicates through sign language. They perform together like a pair of ballet dancers – I've never encountered anything quite like it, and it's pretty exciting. This musical offers a somewhat prettified pastel vision of somber life during the Middle Ages, though it does include references to people dying of the pox. And the gypsy dancer turns out to be a strong, resourceful woman in a rather modern mode. But these are minor reservations – all in all, this is a new musical that's a lot of fun to watch, and it's got several catchy tunes you're likely to hum for days. Check it out during this brief Music Circus run – and don't be surprised if you see "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" return as a touring show someday. The Music Circus production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" continues through Sunday, August 28th at the Wells Fargo Pavilion in Sacramento.

Theatre Review: A Novel Musical Twist On Hugo's Classic 'The Hunchback Of Notre Dame'

Unglamorous 'Mop-Up' Duty Keeps Fires Extinguished

Sharon McNary | The California Report Fire officials on Tuesday declared full containment of the Blue Cut wildfire in San Bernardino County that tore through tens of thousands of acres of timber and brush. Dozens of people lost their homes, their cars and other personal belongings. Once the flames are tamed, though, the job is far from over. More: Read the full story

Unglamorous 'Mop-Up' Duty Keeps Fires Extinguished

California Foster Children Overprescribed Psychotropic Drugs

By Ja'Nel Johnson A state audit is highly critical of the way state and county departments monitor the prescribing of psychotropic medications to children in foster care. The California State Auditor reviewed statewide data and case files from Los Angeles, Madera, Riverside and Sonoma, and found some foster children were prescribed psychotropic medications in amounts and dosages that exceeded state guidelines. The report says 12 percent of California's foster children received 96,000 Medi-Cal-paid prescriptions for psychotropic drugs between 2014 and 2015, which would amount to 10 prescriptions per child per year. The audit also found the California Department of Social Services and the Department of Health Care Services were unable to completely identify which foster children were prescribed the medications. "The oversight structure specifically for the psychotropic medications and foster youth is fragmented and there needs to be better collaboration in order to ensure the health and safety of these kids," says Margartia Fernandez, chief of public affairs for the California State Auditor. The Department of Social Services is responsible for monitoring counties' compliance with prescribing guidelines, says Fernandez. The report also shows that counties didn't always obtain required court or parental approval to prescribe the medications. The state auditor recommends requiring the California Department of Social Services to collaborate with counties to ensure that foster children only receive psychotropic medications that are appropriate and medically necessary. "Ensuring that counties understand them, that they know how to use them and that they're using the guidelines for the health and safety of these children." Sen. Mike McGuire, who requested the audit, says "the findings show that the health and safety of thousands of foster youth have been put at risk for years." Currently, there is no comprehensive state oversight plan for monitoring these prescriptions.

California Foster Children Overprescribed Psychotropic Drugs

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame Makes Debut At Music Circus

Glenn Casale, director of the Music Circus production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, joins Insight Wednesday to talk about the Northern California premiere of this Victor Hugo-inspired piece. Another aspect of this production he'll discuss is how the role of Quasimodo will be played by a deaf actor, John McGinty, who will be making his Music Circus debut in this play. Joining Casale is Lesli Margherita, who plays the role of Esmeralda. She previewed one of her songs in studio.

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame Makes Debut At Music Circus

Boxing Becomes Therapeutic Approach To People With Parkinson's Disease

Melissa Tafoya coaches athletes at her gym, Rock Steady Boxing Sacramento. But some of her trainees aren't there just to fight – they're battling with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease. We'll talk with Tafoya about her training program and a local physical therapist on how it benefits people with the central nervous disorder. One of Tafoya's trainees, Madeleine Kenefick, accompanies her trainer to talk about her personal progress against Parkinson's Disease using boxing. Also joining is Dr. Erin Vestal, a physical therapist at Kaiser Roseville who specializes in neurologic rehabilitation. One point Vestal makes is how boxing increases dopamine levels, which helps combat the disease.  

Boxing Becomes Therapeutic Approach To People With Parkinson's Disease

Beauty In Progress: Mural Artists Leave Their Mark On Sacramento Alleys

By Melody Stone Sacramento art-lover and midtown resident David Sobon spent a lot of time walking around his neighborhood looking at the blank walls of the alleys. It was on one of these walks when he developed a vision for the spaces between buildings. "Walking the grid, just looking at the alleys, looking at the streets and seeing some existing murals and thinking there's a lot more spaces that can be activated," says Sobon. That vision was shared with others in the arts community. Through a partnership with the Friends of the Arts Commission and fundraising, the first Sacramento Mural Festival kicked off this week in the central city.   Mural locations for the Sacramento Mural Festival. Sobon says after only a few days of painting the public is already engaging with the art festival. "[I was] driving around on the bike yesterday, just stopping and talking to the families and the kids, and the people looking up in awe at some of these, just gorgeous pieces, of artwork being produced," he says. Los Angeles resident Drew Merritt is painting one of those pieces. "It's on the Native American Health Center so we wanted to have somebody Native American and we wanted to have somebody from here," says Merritt. The image on Monday morning was mostly grays; Merritt says he'll be adding color and feathers to the figure's headdress. The health center provided the photo reference for Merritt's work. "Very rarely am I OK with painting someone else's photo reference," he says. "It kind of takes away the magic of it, because then you're kind of like a printer... but having said that, the photo reference they sent me was so strong and so beautiful I was like 'yeah, this time I'm going to make an exception.'" Merritt got his start painting graffiti, but kept getting in trouble for his art. #SMF916 mural progress by @drewmerritt ???? | Photo by @courtneykimmey A photo posted by LeBasse Projects (@lebasseprojects) on Aug 23, 2016 at 2:46pm PDT "Whenever I got in trouble as a kid, the lawyer that I hired for my graffiti cases when it came time to pay him he was like 'well my wife wants to have a mural in my kid's room'," says Merritt. "From there I just started doing more canvas works... large scale murals, commission work, and now I do primarily gallery work — different stuff all over the world." But Merritt always makes time for mural festivals; he says these sort of events can spur momentum around public art. "The first year, people are a little skeptical... by the next year, everybody wants to get involved. It just grows really quick, and it's something that's really cool for the community," says Merritt. Sobon says buildings will now be known for their art. "[The murals] create a space for people to gather, for people to do things," says Sobon. "I think it's going to turn buildings into landmarks." The artists will continue working until Aug. 27 when the festival wraps up with an art party, which will benefit arts education. Day three of the Sacramento Mural Festival, Nate Frizzell's piece on K Street across from Faces Nightclub. Malak Habbak / Capital Public Radio A mural by Sacramento-based artist Irubiel Moreno, also in the K Street alley adjacent to Faces. Malak Habbak / Capital Public Radio Jake Castro's piece on the back of the Crest Theater. Malak Habbak / Capital Public Radio  

Beauty In Progress: Mural Artists Leave Their Mark On Sacramento Alleys

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