Location: San Quentin, CA
Notable Residents: George Jackson, Danny Trejo, Charles Manson, Edward Bunker, Scott Peterson
Amenities: Offers the lone on-site college degree-granting program within California's prison system
San Quentin State Prison officially opened in 1852, making it the oldest prison in the state of California. In addition to being one of our 50 Key Sites of the Civil Rights Movement project, San Quentin also has the state's lone death row for male inmates. It happens to be the largest in the United States. Though the prison has a gas chamber, all executions since 1996 have been completed by lethal injection. San Quentin hosted both male and female prisoners until 1932, when the original California Institution for Woman was built. Torture was an acceptable method of interrogation at the prison until 1944, and a dungeon erected in 1854 is reportedly the oldest piece of public work in the state of California.
The massive prison was designed to hold 3,000 prisoners, but at times has housed over 5,000. Overcrowded California prisons have garnered significant media attention, and while San Quentin has managed to decrease its population over the years, it is still over capacity.
Despite its numerous problems, some good has come from the place: Since 1996, it has offered the lone on-site college degree-granting program within California's prison system. Starting in 2003, San Quentin began the California Reentry Program, which helps inmates readjust to society after serving their sentences. Jail is supposed to be about rehabilitation, after all. Lastly, the San Quentin News is the only inmate-produced newspaper in the state, and one of the few in the world. That's something we can appreciate.