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The California State Prison System

Jan 17, 2008
California State Prison

Prisoners cycle repeatedly back and forth between prisons, where they do not receive sufficient treatment, and inpatient facilities, where they are permitted to stay for only a short while. Prisoners have been warehoused and locked down in overcrowded and brutal prisons - many due to the 3strikes law - for longer and longer time. Through the summer, groups of local, amateur baseball players gain access to the prison yard and play against the inmates in weekly games. The California Department of Corrections (CDC) operates 32 prisons and 40 fire and conservation camps comprising about 3,000 structures having 37 million gross square feet of building space. There are six major prison gangs that are recognized nationally for their participation in organized crime and violence. From 1975 to 1985, members committed 40 homicides in California prisons and local jails, as well as 13 homicides in the community. The machine shop at the prison, run by inmates, manufactures steel frames for double bunks--and triple bunks--in addition to license plates. As a result of these focus groups, we developed a two week, 8 session health promotion intervention for HIV+ inmates preparing to be released from prison. There have been 15 deaths at the prison this year; nine in 1999 and 10 in 1998. If the prison is filled to capacity, it will have about 500 full-time employees, most of them guards. Operation from the grounds of San Quentin, the Prison Law Office is an aggressive advocacy group that assists inmates in unanswered appeals, and is often involved in class action suits which are to the benefit of everyone. Provision of inadequate health care creates needless pain and suffering for the many prisoners who require such services. State prisons vary between 1 percent under capacity and 14 percent over capacity, while the federal prison system is 34 percent above capacity. But most experts agree that prisons have done little to make communities safer.

San Quentin Prison

San Quentin State Prison was opened in July 1852, and is the oldest prison in California. Less than a quarter mile from the old prison is the California State Prison at Sacramento, known as "New Folsom," which houses about 3,000 Level 4 inmates. In just over a month, seven women have died at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla. According to internally generated California DOC data, as of July 2002 the EOP system, which was designed to hold 2,481 prisoners, was catering to 3,179. The gangs, organized along racial lines, have historically been a major source of inmate friction and disorder within the California prison system. The court system in the state of California ought to be on death row too. More than 626 out of every 100,000 Californians are incarcerated. The California Department of Corrections supports the project by accommodating the program inside San Quentin. Built in 1852, San Quentin was an answer to rampant lawlessness in California. One of the issues was moving Death Row from San Quentin because it is no longer the optimal location for California's condemned. The debate on prison overcrowding continues and is not likely to go away any time soon and while the media continues to overlook these issues and the politicians do their best to avoid them it looks like there is no solution coming anytime soon.
About the Author
Ian Mate writes about The California State Prison System.
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