Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Horrific conditions at San Quentin prison

I heard only a part of this story about San Quentin prison on NPR yesterday, but that was enough to turn my stomach.

With overcrowding, it gets harder for prison officials to take care of the basics. Crumbling walls, broken lights and filth are standard.

'That's human feces,' says inmate Mike Johnson, pointing to his wall. Johnson has been here for five months on a DUI charge. He says in all that time, the feces has never been cleaned off.

'They'll clean down there on the bottom where the (officers) stay,' he says, 'but up here, we're just a number.'

Johnson's 4-foot-wide cell was built for one man. Now it holds two. With such crowded conditions, it's harder to prevent violence."

What the broadcast version included that the print version doesn't is that the two men in the cell have to take turns standing up.

And if you're tempted to say that these criminals deserve what they get, most of San Quentin's inmates are there for parole violations, mostly drug offenses.

This is really starting to get pretty scary. The recidivism rate in California is 70%. Our prisons aren't deterrents for crime, they're mass-production facilities for criminals. What happens when we run out space to warehouse them all?

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