/41/42/43/44/45/46/47/48/49/50/51/index of all columns


June 20, 2011

Column 51

In the more than two decades I have been here on death row, there have been numerous changes and the death row that I arrived to is long gone. I wrote about what it was like here on death row in many of my earlier instalments. I suspect half of what I wrote about then has changed considerably. 

When I first arrived here at San Quentin's Death Row, there were a bit over 300 prisoners condemned to death. This includes those at the woman's death row as we. (the womans death row is located at Chowchilla Women's Prison) In the time since I arrived here, the death row population has more than doubled and is now around 700 prisoners. At least that is the latest number I have heard. I suspect it shouldn't be any surprise that because of the large increase in prisoners, there would be changes to death row and the way the prisoners are treated. Some of the changes are logical and necessary because of the physical and logistical restraints. But some of the changes seem to be more mean spirited rather than motivated by necessity. An example of the mean spiritedness is what has been happening with the visiting program here on death row. 

When I first arrived to death row, there was visiting for 6 days a week. It then changed to 5 days a week. At that time all a visitor had to do (once they had been approved to visit) was to show up at the visiting processing center outside the prison gate, when they wanted to visit. The allowed visiting days then went to four days a week and the visitors were then required to make a appointment to visit a week in advance. Condemned prisoners are the only prisoners in the California prison system who have to make an appointment. At the same time the number of visits allowed per visiting day was cut down to a fraction of the amount of visits allowed before. About 2 years ago, the visits were then cut to 3 days a week. So in 20 years the death row population has doubled, but the number of visits that have been allowed per visiting day has been cut back to a fraction of the number allowed before. So basically the number of people competing for visits is doubled and the process has been made more difficult and the time allowed to visit is a fraction of what it was. 

Most people don't care if prisoners on death row are able to visit, but the losses have made it extremely difficult for the friends and families who visit their loved ones on death row. Most people on death row expects to be punished, but it seems the ones being punished are the family and friends of those who are on death row. Instead of having a fraction of the visits for double the number of prisoners, it would be simple for the prison to make changes in order to allow more friends and family to have a opportunity to vists their loved ones. There could be more visiting cubicles made available. There could be expanded visting hours in order to allow more visits to be scheduled. Or the most logical and inexpensive solution would be to go to the old system of visits.. A open visiting room (no visiting cubicles) and eliminate the pre- schedule requirements for visiting. All a visitor has to do is show up at the visiting processing area and they would be allowed to visit. 

That is all I have to say for this one, I am sorry I hadn't written for a bit. Feel free to send a message or write to me directly at my regular address. Take good care. 

Best wishes,
Dean Carter

P.O. box C-97919
San Quentin Prison
San Quentin, California 94974 USA