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Eric Westervelt

Nationwide protests over police accountability and racial justice have reenergized longstanding efforts to fundamentally change how police departments respond to someone in a mental health emergency. Many are calling for removing or dramatically reducing law enforcement's role in responding to those crisis calls unless absolutely necessary.

Updated at 2:06 p.m. ET

An explosion of coronavirus infections at California's San Quentin State Prison, the state's oldest, has public health officials there worried about its impact on prisoners, staff and the wider hospital system in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"Shocking, heartbreaking are certainly the words I would use to describe it," said David Sears, a physician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He recently toured San Quentin and warned officials about just such an outbreak.

The growing calls for systemic reform of American policing follow years of rising anger at the ongoing deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement, including the recent killing of George Floyd.

The nationwide demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's killing have been met at times with heavy-handed police tactics that include beatings, the use of tear gas and rubber bullets fired into crowds.

California's first-of-its-kind effort to get cash aid into the hands of undocumented workers affected by the coronavirus got off to a bumpy start over the past week.

Across the state, tens of thousands of immigrants calling to apply encountered busy signals, crashed phone lines and frustration.

Images of some American farmers dumping milk, plowing under crops and tossing perishables amid sagging demand and falling prices during the deadly coronavirus pandemic has made for dramatic TV.

But it's not the whole story.

As public health experts plead for cities and states to dramatically increase the scale and speed of testing and contact tracing for the coronavirus, researchers in San Francisco, backed by dozens of volunteers, have launched an ambitious effort to test everyone older than 4 years old in a big part of one hard-hit neighborhood.

Just a month after San Francisco became the first city in the nation to order residents to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, the city has launched an ambitious new effort to try to warn residents who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. The city's goal: Get them all tested and convince them to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

California is releasing thousands of inmates early due to the pandemic without adequate transportation, support services or housing once they get out, statewide prison advocates and reentry service providers say.

"Absolutely do not stop folks from coming home, but we need realistic resources," says London Croudy, with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, a nonprofit that advocates for inmates' rights and the formerly incarcerated. "We want to be there for these folks, but we need help!"

The Trump administration Wednesday said it will crack down on exports of critical medical supplies, including N95 respirator masks, surgical masks and gloves needed to fight the coronavirus.

Customs and Border Protection, working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will now detain exports of these scarce medical supplies at U.S. ports. CBP said the agencies will determine "whether to return the PPE (personal protection equipment) for use within the United States; to purchase the PPE on behalf of the United States; or, allow it to be exported."

Editor's note: This story contains language that some may find offensive.

President Trump says the federal government's procurement and distribution of vital medical supplies to fight COVID-19 is "a fine-tuned machine," but many hospitals and state governors say they're still struggling to get what they need.

Across much of the nation, health care workers report ongoing, dire shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) including hospital gowns, face shields and especially respiratory N95 face masks.

President Trump says key help is on the way from the strategic reserve and from private industry ramping up production, including big shipments from 3M.

It's recreation time at a Los Angeles County jail known as the Twin Towers. Nearly a dozen disheveled young men stand docilely as they munch on sandwiches out of brown paper bags.

They're half-naked except for sleeveless, thick, blanket-like restraints wrapped around them like medieval garments.

All are chained and handcuffed to shiny metal tables bolted to the floor.

"It's lunchtime and they're actually [in] programming right now," says a veteran guard, LA County Sheriff's Deputy Myron Trimble.

Charles Gibson pushes a shopping cart toward his soggy tent on a tenuous patch of a grassy drainage ditch along a bike trail in Santa Rosa, Calif. He's one of nearly 200 people living in a sprawling camp here that has sprung up along a popular recreation corridor. It's a community, Gibson says, that often feels caught between opposing forces who aren't always listening.

"I mean, they [local officials] want us to be able to govern ourselves, but they are not giving us the tools we need," Gibson says. "They don't want you hiding, but they don't want you in their face, you know?"

Water and wildlife in the nation's public forests are slowly being poisoned by insecticides and other chemicals used in illegal marijuana operations, say forest police and researchers. They warn that the potential environmental damage could last generations.

Many of the grows are the work of highly organized drug cartels that take advantage of the forests' thick canopy to help hide their operations. Some sites go undetected for years.

Lyft is facing a flood of lawsuits from women around the country who say the ride-hailing company has known for years — and failed to stop — what they describe as an epidemic of sexual assault and rape involving some of its drivers.

"This is out of control. And this needs to stop," says attorney Laurel Simes, a partner in a San Francisco firm representing several dozen women who are suing the company.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Dan Efseaff, the parks and recreation director for the devastated town of Paradise, Calif., looks out over Little Feather River Canyon in Butte County. The Camp Fire raced up this canyon like a blowtorch in a paper funnel on its way to Paradise, incinerating most everything in its path, including scores of homes.

Efseaff is floating an idea that some may think radical: paying people not to rebuild in this slice of canyon: "The whole community needs some defensible space," he says.

Faced with a flood of addicted inmates and challenged by lawsuits, America's county jails are struggling to adjust to an opioid health crisis that has turned many of the jails into their area's largest drug treatment centers.

In an effort to get a handle on the problem, more jails are adding some form of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, to help inmates safely detox from opioids and stay clean behind bars and after release.

Latosha Poston says she made a lot of mistakes in her life. Her legal troubles began in her teens after her first child was born in Indianapolis. Over the years, bad decisions led to some arrests, some convictions.

"Sometimes we get stuck in our past and let our past guide us," she says.

The 44-year-old has worked hard to straighten out her life. But her criminal records — all involving misdemeanors — continued to haunt her as she tried to find a decent job and place to live.

Before the state's most destructive wildfire tore through Butte County, Calif., detailed plans for a tiny home village for the homeless in the northern California city of Chico were met with a mix of indifference, NIMBY-ism and outright rejection from a previous city council.

But November's Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and incinerated some 14,000 area homes, breathed new life into plans for a community of one-room wooden homes to help house some of Butte County's homeless.

It's a Friday night and roommates Jason Jones and Tamiko Panzella are hanging out in the Oakland, Calif., apartment they share, laughing about an epic gym workout misfire.

"I get there and we have to take our shoes and socks off. And I'm like, oh no, she got me into yoga. She tricked me," Jones says, laughing.

What made the yoga session more jarring — it was Jones' first full day of freedom after more than a decade behind bars.

Updated at 6:29 p.m. ET

Facing staggering liability costs for its potential culpability in a series of deadly wildfires, the parent company of California's largest utility is exploring whether to sell off a major part of the company, NPR has learned.

For months prior to the recent shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, suspect Robert Bowers spewed venomous bigotry, hatred and conspiracies online, especially against Jews and immigrants. During the Oct. 27 attack, according to a federal indictment, he said he wanted "to kill Jews."

He is charged with 44 counts — including hate crimes — for the murder of 11 people and wounding of six others at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue.

On Thursday, Californians took part in an annual statewide earthquake preparedness event called The Great Shake Out. The event encouraged people to practice safety drills, check quake supplies and go over emergency plans with family, schools and employers.

While many Californians now know the mantra to "drop, cover and hold on," there's growing concern that people and companies are not adequately covered for the days after.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

Blues legend Otis Rush, whose unique style of soloing and powerful tenor voice helped shape the Chicago blues sound and deeply influenced a generation of blues and rock musicians, died Saturday of complications from a stroke he suffered in 2003. He was 84 years old.

Cities in California can no longer tack on exorbitant legal fees to settle minor local code violations, thanks to a new law enacted this week.

The law makes it illegal for cities and counties to charge defendants for the legal costs to investigate, prosecute or appeal a criminal violation of a local ordinance.

For more than 15 years, Oakland's police department has been under federal oversight following a police abuse and racial profiling scandal.

As part of a negotiated settlement in 2003, the city agreed to work toward sweeping police reforms. The Riders Settlement mandated ongoing monitoring of the department, including the collection of data on police stops and an end to discriminatory policing.

But there's mounting frustration that federal oversight and better data collection have not led to real change, despite a massive price tag.

As legalization of recreational and medical marijuana continues to expand, police across the country are more concerned than ever about stoned drivers taking to the nation's roads and freeways, endangering lives.

With few accurate roadside tools to detect pot impairment, police today have to rely largely on field sobriety tests developed to fight drunk driving or old-fashioned observation, which can be foiled with Visine or breath mints.

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