Selected Stories From Past Issues of The San Quentin News
MAY 1981 – Approximately 200 law students from area colleges attended the Warden’s Tour and Banquet Apr. 11. The tours, conducted once a month in March through October, were started during the tenure of Warden Clinton Duffy (1940–51) as an effort to increase the public’s awareness of San Quentin. Each group is assigned an inmate tour guide.
MAY 1981 – The gunrail officer in the Protective Housing Unit fired three rounds of birdshot to break up a scuffle between several guards and two convicts under the influence of pruno. The ricocheting pellets sent one guard and two cons to the hospital.
MAY 1981 – The Supreme Court left intact rulings that the five–month lockdown was not cruel and unusual punishment. The case stemmed from 1974 when there had been 82 assaults with weapons, 12 murders of inmates and eight assaults with weapons on staff. As a result, inmates were locked in their cells 24 hours a day for five months.
The prison population of San Quentin reached 1,000 on Oct. 8, 1874; it was almost 2,000 in 1907; and it reached it’s maximum of 6,397 on July 7, 1934. The current population can be found on the masthead of page one of this paper.
MAY 1981 – A release date scheduled for next month wasn’t quite good enough for ranch resident Charles Sorg, 33. Sorg jumped the gun and escaped on May 3, when he was discovered missing during the 10:30 count.
MAY 1981 – Forty-two moms from throughout California traveled to San Quentin to share breakfast behind the bars with their lucky convict sons for the Annual Family Day treat. One Mom came all the way from Illinois and two came from Nevada. A good day was had by all.
MAY 1981 – A story in the S.Q. News reported that the library featured 15 daily California newspapers, including some in Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. Among the 82 different magazines that can be found there are Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Business World and Low Rider.
JUNE 1981 – In the sixth stabbing in six days at Folsom prison, a convicted murderer was stabbed in the back with a 10-inch knife. He underwent surgery and was in stable condition. There were no suspects in custody and the incidents do not appear related at this time. There are 1,855 inmates at Folsom, about 100 more than the prison was designed to hold.
JUNE 1981 – Chief Justice Warren E. Burger called for mandatory educational and vocational programs for prison inmates. He also called for a national academy for the training of prison and jail guards.
JUNE 1981 – Fearing that guards might be smuggling weapons in to inmates in maximum security cells, Warden George Sumner has called for a rule requiring guards to pass through a metal detector upon entering the prison. On May 20, guntower guard Atha Frazier, 28, was arrested for carrying a loaded pistol and ammunition into the prison. Frazier, a guard for eight months, has been charged with possessing drugs on prison grounds and smuggling a firearm into a prison. In the past, searches of the Adjustment Center have turned up street-made knives and hacksaw blades.
JUNE 1981 – An officer working the adjustment Center was attacked and stabbed with a spear-type weapon by an inmate being removed from the shower area. The weapon was a spear approximately 18 inches long with a two-and-a-half-inch steel tip. The guard was treated at Marin General Hospital and released.
JUNE 1981 – A C-Section inmate was in serious condition following four hours of surgery to remove a knife that was stabbed through his neck. Permanent damage may include paralysis to the victim’s left extremities. There were no witnesses to the assault.