August 3, 1999

Column 22

I didn't intend to stay out of touch for so long. Sorry about that, but things happen. I'm back and want to talk about a couple of things. Hopefully you are still checking to see if there is anything new and haven't given up on me. It is strange how you can spend time and energy on things which eat up your time and when you look back on it, you wonder why you put so much time into it. I'm not trying to be cryptic, I am just talking about how, as we go through life, what seems to be important at the moment turns out not to be as important as you thought, but by the time you realise it, you have spent an enormous amount of time and energy on it before you get your focus back.

There is an interesting effort, under way by the State of California. Evidently they want to sell San Quentin Prison and move Death Row to another prison. For those of you who don't know, San Quentin Prison sits on a large chunk of land along the north shore of the San Francisco Bay. It has been located here for 140 years, or so. Now the State of California wants to move Death Row and close San Quentin down, so they can sell the land and use the money for other things. I say other things, because what they say they want to use the money for and what they end up using money for, are rarely the same thing.

I was talking with an Attorney I know, about this and he was telling me some real estate people have been lobbying the politicians to sell this piece of land, so it can be torn down and turned into a housing development and shopping malls. I don't know if that's true, but it makes sense. The Prison, is located on a prime piece of land and land developers would do just about anything to get their hands on this place to develop it.

The Attorney was explaining to me, the real reasons the State wants to move the prison. Reasons which are more devious and manipulative. The State of California has been wanting to move Death Row for many years. Ideally, they would like to locate it in some out of the way place which is remote and hard to get to. The reasons for this is so it will be harder for Lawyers (who work on the appeals) to work on the cases with their clients. Also, when they have an execution, it will be difficult for people (who want to protest) to get there. Americans have proven over and over again, they have short attention span and the State knows if the executions are held out of sight, in a place where you can't protest, many people will lose interest in getting involved in protesting against the Death Penalty and State sanctioned murder.
I was thinking how ironic it would be if San Quentin was sold and because of the long and infamous history of this place, it was deemed a National Historical Monument and the land developers weren't able to touch it. San Quentin Prison has a longer and more notorious history than Alcatraz Prison, which is a National Historic Monument, I think. (If not, than something similar to that)

The Politicians and Bureaucrats talk about how expensive it is to run San Quentin, as a reason to sell it. I think it is disingenuous for the to make that claim, if they move Death Row some place far away from the courts and Lawyers, the tax payers will end up paying a lot more in other areas. The Attorneys and Investigators will have to travel further and stay longer, (when they go to see their client) thus charging much more than they do when working with their clients here at San Quentin. I'm sure San Quentin will be sold and some land developer will congratulate himself on donating all the money to the various politicians. Those of us on Death Row will be moved to some place far away and it will end up costing the tax payers more than when Death Row was here in San Quentin, but that's the way big business and politics works, I suppose. It isn't what the truth is, but rather what you convince the public the truth is. As I said, I have no doubts they will move all of us on Death Row. I just think people should know there is more to it than what you are told by the media and Government Officials.

Since I am on the subject of money and prisons, I want to talk for a bit about an article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle (a newspaper) in June. It is an article which talks about the California Prisons and the telephone company MCI Worldcom. If you want to read the article for yourself, go to this URL
This article explains how California and MCI Worldcom overcharge for collect telephone calls from Prisoners to their families. By doing this, the State and MCI make an obscene amount of money (16 million dollars for California alone in 1998, MCI wouldn't tell how much it made for that year). At the same time they make it hard for prisoners to maintain a strong relationship with their families and loved ones. This increases the likelihood that the prisoners will get into trouble again when they are released, from prison.

This is a perfect example of how the State of California is more interested in money than they are in trying to make sure prisoners get out of prison and stay out. If those in prison were able to stay out of prison, The Prison Industrial complex would suffer and they would lose money. As long as prisons do what it can, to make sure prisoners come back to prison, there will be a strong Prison Industrial Complex. But if prisoners get out and STAY out of prisons, it erodes the very foundation of what makes the Prison Industrial Complex so strong and successful, which is obviously prisoners. As long as there are lots of prisoners coming back to prison, business will be good.

It is an ugly cycle taking place in the prison system at the moment. The prisoners come to prison and a wedge is driven between the prisoner and their family and loved ones, (in more ways than just overcharging for telephone calls) while they are in prison. This increases the likelihood of the prisoner getting out and committing another crime. This makes more crime victims who are demanding harsher sentences and tougher penalties, which the politicians are happy to provide. As a result, the Prison Industrial Complex gets stronger while the prison population becomes larger and larger. The victims rights groups are pacified by thinking they did something to solve the problem, meanwhile the problem gets bigger and bigger and the victims increase, but nothing is done to correct the real problem, which is the way the current system operates and perpetuates this problem and keeps this cycle going.

I'll end this here, but I hope to be back soon. Before I go, I want to encourage people to boycott MCI Worldcom and anything related to MCI Worldcom such as it's Internet and computer services.