California Considering Sale of San Quentin

The inmates are opposed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to consider selling San Quentin to earn money for the state.

They live two inmates to a 4-by-9-foot cell. And it's fine with them. Why? The opportunities for learning and rehabilitation.

One inmate says:

"Some places you go for punishment," said inmate John Taylor, a catcher for the prison baseball team, the San Quentin Giants. "Here, it's more rehabilitation. I just don't know why the governor would want to shut us down."

Taylor's job at the prison: cutting weeds. He says:

"This is the first place visitors see when they come in," he said. "We want it to look good."


What's so great about the opportunities at San Quentin? It's proximity to San Francisco.

Prison volunteers come from around the Bay Area and include professional artists, graduate students and professors at nearby universities, including the University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco State University. Others are retirees. Most are experienced teachers in their field.

As another inmate, who like Taylor, is serving up to a life sentence, says:

The prison is unique," said Vinny Nguyen, 31, who is serving 25 years to life for murder. "We're surrounded by a lot of universities, and we get a lot of help and contact from the outside. It makes us want to be positive. That would all be destroyed along with San Quentin."

Arnie needs to rethink this. While the death penalty unit needs to be replaced, and $356 million has been budgeted for the new Camp Death, the prison holds 4,700 other inmates who will be released one day. Isn't it better that they learn some educational, technical and interpersonal skills that will help them when they get out? Isn't that in all of California's best interest?

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    last night. I think it's a wonderful thing San Quentin is doing. Yes, the inmates are serving time as a punishment but I believe that is not what serving time is all about, or should be about. If the inmates can get a certain level of rehabilitation during their time then I believe the state benefits from that more then letting the prisoners rot in a cell. After all, they still have basically no freedom and they are still in prison. I recall one of the ball players saying that inside the walls of the prison there are race barriers but on the field everyone is a teammate and skin color doesn't matter. That right there is one aspect that is already helping the mental attitude of the incarcerated. I hope Arnie can figure something out to keep this prison functional.  

    Why couldn't the PROGRAMS (none / 0) (#2)
    by Bemused on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 07:32:15 AM EST
     simply be transferred to other institutions? that way the state could profit from the sale of valuable real estate and the rehab programs could be set up at existing at existing and/or new facilities that occupy less expensive land?

    Sounds like... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 08:38:15 AM EST
    any new location would have to be close to San Fran to maintain the community involvement in attempted rehabilitation...move the prison to the sticks and the volunteers can't get there easily.

    Who would be the buyers? (none / 0) (#6)
    by sj on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 09:48:22 AM EST
    Prisons for profit, right?  Is there any for-profit prison that has rehabilitation as a goal?  This one wouldn't either.

    sure, but all land convenient to SF is not (none / 0) (#4)
    by Bemused on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 08:50:20 AM EST
     located on a point in Marin County surrounded by SF/SR Bay. Even by Bay area standards that is extremely valuable land. It may not be the ideal time to sell the land but the underlying idea of selling the land and closing an antiquated and deteriorated facility seems prudent to me.

    Would they sell it as a prison (none / 0) (#7)
    by ruffian on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 11:14:47 AM EST
    or just for the land?

    If closing a prison forces them to lock up fewer petty criminals, I see it as a good thing.

    The land is prime land for private development (none / 0) (#8)
    by Bemused on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 11:46:06 AM EST
     on the open market no one wanting to use it for a private prison could possibly compete with the price that would be paid by private land  developers. Prisons are not anywhere remotely near that profitable. Again, San Quentin sits on a point dividing SF from SR Bay and waterfont property such as that in  Marin County is hugely valuable. It makes no economic or aesthetic sense to have a prison there in this day and age. when it was built in 1854 that was still remote country  and the bridge wasn't there.

      The best use of the property would obviously be to tear down the prison to make way for upscale housing and ancillary development. That land is so valuable the sale proceeds could likely pay for the purchase of land for a modern facility and the construction, possibly more. (It's also possible the state already ownd land suitable for replacement of the housing for inmates at San Quentin.)  I wouldn't though bet the farm on the sale leading to the incarceration of fewer people.


    Even if they just sell the land (none / 0) (#9)
    by sj on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 11:46:19 AM EST
    The prisoners have to go somewhere.  I'm thinking that it is unlikely they will go to another facility that has rehabilition as a consideration.

    This has been talked about for years (none / 0) (#10)
    by fuzzyone on Tue Jun 09, 2009 at 11:50:17 AM EST
    And has never happened and there appears to be no real prospect of it happening now.  It certainly would not happen in time to help with the state budget crisis given the legal battle and need to build a new death row before the current prison could go away. Any new prison would be in the boonies which is where all recent prisons have been built in CA.  No way the state is going to spend the money to build anywhere near SF.  In addition to the loss of programs many of the lawyers who represent inmates on death row, including the three agencies that provide such representation, are in SF and moving death row would create a real problem, and additional expense, for that representation.

    SQ is a dump, make not mistake about that.  It is old, drafty, leaky, and generally dirty and run down.