In the more than two decades I have been here on death row, there have
been numerous changes and the death row that I arrived to is long gone.
I wrote about what it was like here on death row in many of my earlier
instalments. I suspect half of what I wrote about then has changed
When I first arrived here at San Quentin's Death Row, there were a bit
over 300 prisoners condemned to death. This includes those at the
woman's death row as we. (the womans death row is located at Chowchilla
Women's Prison) In the time since I arrived here, the death
row population has more than doubled and is now around 700 prisoners.
At least that is the latest number I have heard. I suspect it shouldn't
be any surprise that because of the large increase in prisoners, there
would be changes to death row and the way the prisoners are treated.
Some of the changes are logical and necessary because of the physical
and logistical restraints. But some of the changes seem to be more mean
spirited rather than motivated by necessity. An example of the mean
spiritedness is what has been happening with the visiting program here
on death row.
When I first arrived to death row, there was visiting for 6 days a
week. It then changed to 5 days a week. At that time all a visitor had
to do (once they had been approved to visit) was to show up at the
visiting processing center outside the prison gate, when they wanted to
visit. The allowed visiting days then went to four days a week and the
visitors were then required to make a appointment to visit a week in
advance. Condemned prisoners are the only prisoners in the California
prison system who have to make an appointment. At the same time the
number of visits allowed per visiting day was cut down to a fraction of
the amount of visits allowed before. About 2 years ago, the visits were
then cut to 3 days a week. So in 20 years the death row population has
doubled, but the number of visits that have been allowed per visiting
day has been cut back to a fraction of the number allowed before. So
basically the number of people competing for visits is doubled and the
process has been made more difficult and the time allowed to visit is a
fraction of what it was.
Most people don't care if prisoners on death row are able to visit, but
the losses have made it extremely difficult for the friends and
families who visit their loved ones on death row. Most people on death
row expects to be punished, but it seems the ones being punished are
the family and friends of those who are on death row. Instead of having
a fraction of the visits for double the number of prisoners, it would
be simple for the prison to make changes in order to allow more friends
and family to have a opportunity to vists their loved ones. There could
be more visiting cubicles made available. There could be expanded
visting hours in order to allow more visits to be scheduled. Or the
most logical and inexpensive solution would be to go to the old system
of visits.. A open visiting room (no visiting cubicles) and eliminate
schedule requirements for visiting. All a visitor has to do is show up
at the visiting processing area and they would be allowed to visit.
That is all I have to say for this one, I am sorry I hadn't written for
a bit. Feel free to send a message or write to me directly at my
regular address. Take good care.
San Quentin, California 94974