May 17  2005

Column 40

Recently the prison passed out a memorandum that says starting July 1, 2005 there will not be any tobacco products allowed in California Prisons.
In fact the title of the memorandum is 'Tobacco Product Ban'.
The memo goes on to say:
'Effective July 1, 2005, all tobacco and tobacco related products will be considered contraband and will no longer be sold in the canteen. All tobacco products will become disposed of per 31919(a), i.e., sent home, donated or destroyed.'
'The California Department of Corrections is exploring and developing educational material, smoking cessation programs and other means to ensure a smooth transition to a tobacco free environment.'

I was amused when I read this memo. This is the brainchild of one of the politicians who wants to be able to go back to his district and tell the voters that he is doing a good job of fighting crime and making sure those bad criminals in prison do not have any smoking privileges because he has stopped any tobacco from being in the California Prisons. Of course the public reason for this ban, according to this politician, is to cut down on tobacco related health costs in the California Prisons. If this was the case, then this politician would also introduce a law to make the prisons feed all the prisoners healthy food so obesity and diabetes and heart problems are not costing the state of California extra money.

Personally, I don't care if they have tobacco products in the prisons, or not. I don't smoke so it doesn't effect me at all. But I figure if the politicians are going to try and punish prisoners then they should at least be honest about it. I suspect the next few months will be very interesting. Conditions in the prisons are already very tense and I suspect there will be a lot of prisoners on edge and grouchy because of the withdrawals of the nicotine. I suspect there will also be a lot of 'incidents', caused by this.
I have talked to a couple of guards about this new policy. Not any in depth conversations, but enough to get a sense of their feelings about it. One commented that they wish the damned politicians would stop using the prisons to try and get re-elected because all it does is cause more problems and potentially dangerous situations for the people who have to work in the prisons. I can understand how they feel. Things are already hard enough for the guards as it is, without some politician creating more tension and hostile attitudes inside the prisons.
One thing that struck me as ironic is how they are cutting out the smoking for those on Death Row and those with a Death Sentence have to stop smoking too. I guess the politicians want the people on death Row to be healthy when the State of California finally kills them. Talk about moving from the ridiculous and into the absurd.

I have had a lot of people ask me about this new prisoner who was sentenced to Death recently. I don't talk about other prisoners by name, so I won't name any names, but I am sure most of you know who I am talking about. His trial was on the news every night and there were thousands of reporters from all over the world who were camped out at the courthouse during his trial.
The question I had been asked the most is, will he have problems here. I don't see that he would have any problems.
The guy was convicted of a horrible thing, but with all the public attention on his trial, I don't see how he could get a fair trial. I know there are many of you who will say of course I will say he is innocent. I don't know if he is innocent or not. It isn't any of my business and I don't really care. But there are others in prison (not just on Death Row) who have been convicted of worse and they didn't get the Death Penalty.

I talked about the politicians who stopped tobacco products in prison. If they really wanted to do something productive and worthwhile, they should pass a law similar to what the United Kingdom has regarding pre-trial prisoners and cases. The Media isn't allowed to publicize the case or the accused until the trial is over with. This is to insure the Defendant gets a fair trial.
What I don't understand is how the public allows the media to focus the public attention in some tragic affair (like this guy who was recently brought here to Death Row) and yet the Media doesn't give but passing attention to the issues that really effect the public. It is incredible to me that the public allows the Media to get away with this, when there are so many important things happening that are going to effect every American. Things like the national debt and other social issues that have a direct effect on every American, except the very wealthy.

Getting back to my comments about how the Media needs to be govern, like the Media in the United Kingdom is, regarding trials and prisoners. After the trial of the unnamed Defendant (who I mentioned earlier) the media were interviewing the jurors. From the comments they made, you would have thought they were part of the Prosecution, rather then what they are supposed to be, fair and impartial Jurors. After the trial, I would see some of the Jurors in particular (one with this badly dyed red hair job, and some innocuous looking guy) who seemed to seek out the Media to talk to them. Anytime there was anything newsworthy regarding the trial, these 2 Jurors in particular would be right there trying to be interviewed by the Media. Maybe their own lives are very empty and they got caught up in the publicity of this trial and their identity became that of professional Jurors. Or at least professional Jurors in this particular case. They seemed to be milking this moment in the spotlight for all it was worth.
Somehow I doubt if suddenly, when this trial was over with, these Jurors then became aware of the Media and all the publicity involved with this case they were sitting on. I have no doubts the publicity and Media attention was prominent in these Jurors minds all through the trial and a trial is not supposed to be like that. I don't know when trials have become public entertainment. Maybe it started with the OJ trial, but it seems the Media moves from one trial to the next to provide entertainment to the public. Maybe being on Death Row I am out of touch with trends, but it just seems to be wrong to me and not what the Justice System in America is supposed to be about.

As you can see, I haven't written in some time. I have decided that from now on I will write shorter pieces, and try to do so more often. Maybe that will help as far as being more productive in writing for this site.
I do have other things I have to do and this site is something I do when I feel I have something to say or have the time to write about a certain topic.

Best Wishes,
Dean Carter
P.O. Box C-97919 5E79
San Quentin Prison
San Quentin, California, 94974