The Good Life on Death Row
As a change of pace, I thought I might spark some interest with a different kind of California scenery. It also gives me an opportunity to vent my frustration with one aspect of our judicial system. Welcome to San Quentin State Prison.
View from the San Francisco Bay
Aerial View of San Quentin
San Quentin is the oldest prison in California having been built in the 1850’s. It is the home of California’s only death row. All inmates sentenced to death end up here. Death was carried out by hanging until 1942 at which time the gas chamber was built. More recently (1998 I think) lethal injection became the method of choice.
There are roughly 6,000 inmates in San Quentin (it’s designed to hold about 3,300) and 550 of them are on death row. Some of these have been on death row for nearly 2 decades. This is due to the lengthy appeals process and the unmanageable backlog in the courts of appointing lawyers to handle these appeals. So, instead of carrying out the death sentences in a reasonable amount of time, California taxpayers continue to pay for food, clothing, medical attention and all other expenses associated with keeping these 550 murderers alive and well. Since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1977, only 10 executions have been carried out. Four times that many death row inmates have died from suicide, AIDS, and even old age. Unbelievable! Worse yet, California is getting ready to build a new $220 million death row on prime bay side real estate so they can house 1,400 prisoners there instead of 550. This is our inane way of controlling crime and criminals.
Anyway, there are currently some notorious killers passing their time here. Among them are:
Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Robert Kennedy. He is not on death row because there was no death penalty in the state when he was arrested and convicted.
Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker is here.
Scott Peterson, who killed his wife Lacy and his unborn baby is a fairly new arrival.
David Carpenter, the Trailside Killer is lodged here.
Richard Allen Davis, who killed 12 year old Polly Klass is here. By the way, he had been arrested 15 times prior to this offense and two of those were for kidnapping. That is supposed to be life in prison but, hey, he was behaving so they let him out. He was out of prison the last time just 3 months before he kidnapped, raped and killed Polly.
Charles Manson was here, but he got moved to Corcoran. He is not on death row because he didn’t actually kill anyone. He just drove his merry band to the homes of Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas so they could carve them up at his urging. Good ol Charlie.
Adjustment Center. Bad boys who misbehave go here for a while.
Gas Chamber. Doesn’t get near enough use these days.
Lethal Injection room. Ya built it, why don’t ya use it?
The inmates, once they have a death date, get to choose if they want gas or injection. Of course, there is always a crowd of protesters outside the prison walls holding their signs and candles whenever an execution is going to take place.
Last note. When searching the net for this info and these pics I was astonished to see that many prisoners have web pages, even death row inmates. There are also sites where inmates from all over the US can solicit pen pals. Jeez. Some absolutely crazy woman actually married Richard Ramirez in the prison! Oh well, hope you enjoyed. Like they say, nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. Just wish the death row inmates didn’t get to LIVE there either.