Charlene “Charlie” Padilla, Mother of Chino Inmate, to Get Prestigious Journalism Award

Perhaps you know someone doing time in Chino right now. Charlene Padilla does: her son. And the concern “Charlie,” as she is known, has for her boy was spun into an unlikely reporting assignment and a prestigious journalism award.

Padilla is one of four individuals and a newspaper that will be honored with the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) national Sunshine Award for important contributions in the pursuit of open government.

She and David Andreatta of the Democrat and Chronicle in Monroe County, N.Y., Jill Riepenhoff and Todd Jones of the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio and The Advocate newspaper of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, will be honored during the President's Installation Banquet at the 2010 SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference Oct. 5 in Las Vegas.

Padilla received a letter from her son months after an August 2009 inmate riot at
the California Institution for Men at Chino. He described his and other
inmates' confinement in outside cages without adequate clothing or
shade to protect them from searing daytime sun or blankets during the

The inmate's mother then began a letter-writing, fact-finding mission to develop evidence of the conditions at CIM. The Ontario resident's queries yielded scores of
letters from inmates who described the build-up to the riot, the
violence and injuries they saw.

Steven Cuevas, a reporter at the Southern California public radio station KPCC
89.3 FM, used the materials Padilla gathered for
three-part series. Though Padilla initially shied away from
publicity about her role gathering accounts of the outdoor caging of
inmates, she eventually agreed to be interviewed by Cuevas.

According to SPJ:

Although she was not a trained journalist,
Padilla's qualities of true investigative journalism showed dogged
determination, exhaustive documentation and research. As a mother and
concerned Californian, she worked to expose and correct substandard
conditions in a state prison.

More information on SPJ:

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