The big shuffle of inmates within the California prison system over the past several weeks has led to a more “logical” housing of inmates but to all kinds of difficulties for many of San Quentin’s prisoners themselves.
California classifies its inmates into four groups, ranging from Close A, which calls for the most supervision, on down to Close B, Medium A and Medium B, which requires the least. The changes at S.Q. have mainly been to acquire space in cellblocks for Close B prisoners from other facilities. That has meant moving out the Medium A inmates who have been living in those cells, often for many years.
MOST WANT TO STAY
An outsider might think an inmate would welcome being moved from a S.Q. cell to a dormitory in a less restrictive prison. A few inmates do, but most do not.
S.Q. is known as the “program prison” among the state’s 33 adult facilities. There’s a lot going on to keep an inmate occupied, become educated and rehabilitated and perhaps qualify earlier for parole. No other California prison comes close to having the same number of programs. Among the programs are on-site college courses, not present at nearly any other state prison. Also, racial tensions at San Quentin are at a much lower level than at some other facilities, making it a good place for inmates not involved in those issues.
Those are not the only reasons for the upset. In their S.Q. cell inmates can have a television, electric typewriter, radio, pot for heating water and plug-in razors and clippers. At the prisons to which some inmates are being transferred, those items are often prohibited. Only battery-operated appliances are allowed. Prisoners who recently bought plug-in items with the help of their families now find that the items can’t be used at their new location.
Aggravating the situation is the fact that the prison system is under tremendous pressure from the financially strapped state government to cut costs. This has led to a push from Sacramento to get bodies on the transfer bus irrespective of any hardships that might be involved, hardships that notably include transfer away from the inmate’s family, generally considered a positive influence.