San Quentin Inmates Speak Out
Opinion is divided within the San Quentin community over the Supreme Court’s ruling about overcrowding in California prisons.
Random interviews with 20 members of the community were conducted: 10 men in blue (5 from North Block, 5 from H-Unit) and 10 members of the teaching staff of the Prison University Project (PUP).
Men in blue were asked, “Do you think you will be affected by this ruling?” PUP teachers were asked, “What do you think will happen because of the Supreme Court ruling to reduce overcrowding?” Both groups were asked: “How soon do you think something will happen?”
The H-Unit response: All 5 of the men asked (100%) believe the ruling will not affect them. Jason, Frank, and Tim opined it will take a few years before anything happens. Adam believes the state will “draw it out as long as they can…it’s a money thing.” Tim added, “I’ve been hearing this for so long. The federal government has been telling the state to do something about this and the state just ignores them.”
The North Block response: Two of the men asked (40%) said it will affect them. “It might influence the Parole Board to release programming lifers who have served their minimum terms,” said Jesus. The other three (60%) believe the ruling will not affect them.
John said, “The only thing that will affect my sentence is if Three Strikes is overturned.” When will something happen? Quentin believes, “in about six months” while Terry maintained, “at least two years.”
PUP teachers each had their own take. Edward said, “I’m not sure how it is going to be implemented; Brown thinks it can be accomplished by sending inmates to county jails…it’s not going to be an easy process.” Ivy did not agree with Justice Scalia’s scare tactics and Vlad hopes that at least non-violent offenders and non-violent third strikers will be released. Karen said, “Things are starting to happen now – for the wrong reasons, largely economic reasons – and we should be reforming the system for moral reasons.”
Maureen believes something might happen in the fall; Vlad thinks it will take about six months. Diarmuid, an attorney from Ireland, said, “It will be difficult to come up with an operational plan that is certain or manageable in a short period.”
Finally, Camille, a math tutor, expressed hope for the future of those incarcerated: “I think that some will have more options, just by the nature of being able to interact with those from the outside…let’s give people more options to open them up to the world.”