San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin State Prison is located on 432 acres (1.7 km²) on Point San Quentin in Marin County, California, United States, north of San Francisco. San Quentin State Prison was opened in July 1852, and is the oldest prison in California. The state's male death row is located at San Quentin, as well as its only gas chamber. In the 2000s the gas chamber has been used to carry out lethal injections.

Current facility

The prison occupies 275 acres of waterfront land overlooking the bay and is estimated to be worth $80 to $100 million, making it the most valuable prison in the world. [] In addition, the annual operating budget of $210 million makes the prison the most expensive to operate on earth.

It has its own ZIP Code, 94974; the surrounding area is 94964. It is bordered by the water of the San Francisco Bay to the south and east and by Interstate 580, just after it crosses the bay on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

San Quentin has the only on-site college degree-granting program in California's entire prison system, run by the Prison University Project. [MacLaren, Becca. [ San Quentin inmates get diplomas, set goals.] "Marin Independent Journal", June 29, 2007.] [ [ Prison University Project Web site.] Accessed 06 Jan 2008.]


Although numerous towns and localities in the area (and in California generally) are named for Roman Catholic saints, and "San Quintín" is Spanish for "Saint Quentin", the prison is not in fact named after the saint. The land on which it is situated, Point Quentin, is named after a Coast Miwok warrior named Quentín, fighting under Chief Marin, who was taken prisoner at that place. [Sliney, Edgar M. (Ted). [ A History of Mission San Rafael, Archangel.] "From the "Marin County Historical Society Magazine", vol. XV, no. 1, 1989, pp. 4-13."] [Gudde, Erwin G. "California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names". Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. ISBN 0520242173]

In 1851, California's first prison opened; it was "a 268-ton wooden ship named The Waban, anchored in San Francisco Bay and outfitted to hold 30 inmates." [California Department of Justice. [ California Criminal Justice Time Line 1822-2000.] Accessed 08 Jan 2008.] [Ewell, Miranda. San Quentin Sets Its History Free. Famed Prison To Detail Its Past In New Museum. "San Jose Mercury News", May 27, 1991.] Subsequently, inmates who were housed on the Waban constructed San Quentin which "opened in 1852 with 68 inmates."Reed, Dan. Killer Location May Doom San Quentin Prison. Also Calling It Outdated, State to Consider Razing Infamous Bayside Penitentiary for Housing. "San Jose Mercury News", August 20, 2001.] The prison held both male and female inmates until 1932 when the original California Institution for Women prison at Tehachapi was built.

In 1941 the first prison meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous took place at San Quentin; in commemoration of this, the 25-millionth copy of the A.A. "Big Book" was presented to Jill Brown, of San Quentin, at the International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The use of torture as "an approved method of interrogation" at San Quentin was banned in 1944.

Alfredo Santos, one-time convicted heroin dealer and successful artist, painted six remarkable, 20-foot sepia toned murals during his incarceration that have hung in the dining hall of the prison since 1955. [Russell, Ron. [ Hidden Treasure: Half a century ago, ex-heroin dealer Alfredo Santos created an epic work of art inside San Quentin. Now, he's coming back to be honored for it.] "SF Weekly", July 23, 2003.]

On February 24, 1969, Johnny Cash played a live concert, "At San Quentin", for the prison inmates. The concert was released as an album and was filmed by Granada Television [Internet Movie Database. [ Johnny Cash in San Quentin.] Accessed 08 Jan 2008.] .

In 2003, Metallica filmed the video for the song St. Anger inside San Quentin, playing to enthusiastic inmates. In 2007, as part of their World-wide tour, Michael Franti and Spearhead played a show for almost the entire prison population.

On 18 November 2006 the hip-hop group Flipsyde had a concert in the prison, which was not open for the public.

Notable current inmates

*Lawrence Bittaker - serial killer convicted of torturing and murdering 5 young women
*Vincent Brothers - convicted and sentenced to death in the shooting and stabbing of 5 members of his family, including 3 children.
*Kevin Cooper - convicted and sentenced to death for the hatchet and knife massacre of the Ryen family.
*Tiequon Aundray Cox - sentenced to death in 1986 for the 1984 murders of four relatives of the former defensive back NFL player Kermit Alexander.
*Richard Allen Davis - convicted of kidnapping and murdering Polly Klaas.
*Scott Erskine - convicted of killing Jonathan Sellers, 10, and Charlie Keever, 13.
*Richard Farley - convicted of killing seven of his co-workers and nearly killing another, a female co-worker whom he stalked after she rejected him.
*Ryan Hoyt - Associate of Jesse James Hollywood, convicted of the murder of Nicholas Markowitz
*Randy Kraft - serial killer who was convicted of 16 murders and suspected of 51 others.
*Jarvis Jay Masters - convicted and sentenced to death for participating in the murder of prison guard Hal Burchfield.
*Michael Morales - convicted for the brutal murder of Terri Winchell
*Charles Ng - serial killer who tortured and murdered 11 people.
*Scott Peterson - convicted murderer of his pregnant wife, Laci and their unborn child, Conner.
*Richard Ramirez - serial killer known as "The Night Stalker"; convicted of killing 13 people.
*Hans Reiser - convicted murderer of his wife.
*Morris Solomon Jr. - serial killer convicted of murdering 6 prostitutes in Sacramento.
*Cary Stayner - convicted murderer who killed 4 women in Yosemite, California.
*William Suff - serial killer convicted of murdering 12 prostitutes in Riverside County
*Marcus Wesson - convicted of killing nine of his family members.
*David Westerfield - convicted of kidnapping and killing 7 year old Danielle Van Dam
*Brandon Wilson - convicted in the 1998 slashing death of 9 year old Matthew Cecchi.

Notable former inmates

*Clarence Ray Allen - Convicted for ordering the strangulation of Mary Sue Kitts and the shotgun killing of Bryon Schletewitz and seven others (others were not killed). Executed on January 17, 2006.
* Charles Bolles, alias Black Bart, an American Old West outlaw.
*William Richard Bradford - convicted of two murders in the 1980s, the Los Angeles Police Department revealed in July 2006 that there is cause to believe he was a serial killer responsible for several murders in the 1970s and 1980s. He died of natural causes while awaiting execution on March 10, 2008.
*Edward Bunker - FBI most wanted fugitive who reformed and became an author and actor. Was sentenced at age 17, the youngest inmate at the time.
*Caryl Chessman - Convicted rape offender, was given the death penalty in 1948 and executed in 1960; the last man executed in California for a sexual offense that did not result in murder.
*Billy Cook - Murderer of Carl Mosser, his wife Thelma, their three small children and motorist Robert Dewey; he died in the gas chamber on December 12, 1952.
*Juan Corona - Convicted of killing 25 people and sentenced to life without parole. He is currently at Corcoran State Prison.
*Joseph Cosey - convicted of various crimes; known for document forgery from 1913-1940 of historical United States figures.
*Henry Cowell - American composer convicted on a "morals" charge in 1936.
*Mack Ray Edwards convicted child killer who committed suicide while on death row.
*Barbara Graham - Convicted murderess, executed in the gas chamber on June 3, 1955. Subject of the film "I Want to Live!" starring Susan Hayward.
*Leo Gordon - American character actor (TV and film) and screenplay writer. Sentenced to 4 years for armed robbery. Later part of a movie cast which filmed scenes inside San Quentin.
*Merle Haggard - The noted country singer, sentenced to 15 years time (he served 3 years) starting at age 19 for grand theft auto and armed robbery.
*Robert Alton Harris - The first person executed in San Quentin's gas chamber after the reinstitution of California's death penalty.
*Michael Wayne Hunter - Sentenced to death after the murders of his father and stepmother in 1981. Retried in 2002, sentenced to Life. Transferred to Salinas Valley State Prison.
*George Jackson - Member of the Black Panther Party, killed in San Quentin in 1971.
*Jang In-hwan - Korean independence activist who assassinated former American diplomat Durham Stevens in 1908cite book|title=Japan's Colonization of Korea: Discourse and Power|first=Alexis|last=Dudden|publisher=University of Hawaii Press|date=2004|id=ISBN 0824828291|pages=81-83]
*Charles Manson - Leader of the Manson family. Transferred to Corcoran State Prison in 1989. [Lopez, Pablo. Charles Manson Transferred to Corcoran Prison. "Fresno Bee", March 16, 1989.] []
*S. S. Millard - Exploitation filmmaker
*James Mitose - Japanese American martial artist who brought the art of Kenpo to the United States starting in the late 1930s.
*Wallace Fard Muhammad - Founder of the Nation of Islam.
*Louise Peete - Convicted murderess, executed in the gas chamber on 11 April 1947.
*Abe Ruef - San Francisco political boss, for bribery
*Sirhan Sirhan - Assassin of Robert F. Kennedy. Was sent to Death Row at San Quentin in May 1969 [Sirhan Transferred to San Quentin in Secret Night Flight. "Los Angeles Times", May 24, 1969.] . After the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment, Sirhan was transferred to Correctional Training Facility [Gorney, Cynthia. Sirhan Sirhan Feels 10 Years Is Long Enough in Prison. "Los Angeles Times", September 23, 1979.] . He is currently at Corcoran State Prison.
*Danny Trejo - Actor.
*Stanley Tookie Williams - Convicted murderer & early leader of the Crips street gang. Author and cause celebre. Executed by lethal injection on December 13, 2005.

In popular culture

*Underaged girls have sometimes been referred to as "San Quentin Quail", on the assumption that violators of California's minor protection laws could end up there. In the 1940 Marx Brothers film "Go West" Groucho Marx plays a character named "S. Quentin Quale". There was also a 1946 Warner Brothers cartoon featuring a quail named and titled "Quentin Quail". []

*Two films were made with the title of "San Quentin". The first, made in 1937, was directed by Lloyd Bacon. It starred Pat O'Brien, Humphrey Bogart, and Ann Sheridan. It was filmed at the prison. [ San Quentin (1937)] The second, made in 1946, starred Lawrence Tierney. [ San Quentin (1946)]

*"House of Numbers," a 1957 film noir, depicts two brothers (both played by Jack Palance) in a plot to break out of San Quentin. [ House of Numbers (1957)] One of Alfredo Santos' murals is shown during the scenes in the cafeteria.

*1958's "I Want To Live!" depicted the story of Barbara Graham, who was executed in San Quentin's gas chamber. It was directed by Robert Wise and starred Susan Hayward. [ I Want to Live (1958)]

*In 1993 a movie titled "Blood In Blood Out", which was based on Mexican / Prison gang warfare in Southern California, was filmed in parts at the prison.

* In the 1996 movie The Rock, it is said that one of the main characters, John Mason, had escaped from San Quentin and Alcatraz.

*In the movie "Heathers" the character Veronica, after realizing that she had helped her boyfriend murder a high school classmate mutters that she does not know whether her college application should be sent to Stanford or San Quentin.

*MythBusters visited San Quentin in a 2005 episode to conduct research about a paper crossbow.

*The character Quentin in "Cube" is named after San Quentin.

*Lawrence Taylor's character in , Quentin Sands is named after San Quentin.

* a 2008 BBC documentary that explores the relationships between prisoners and their guards. [ [,,2179988,00.html Rachel Cooke interviews broadcaster and documentary maker Louis Theroux | Review | The Observer ] ]

*In "NaS"'s track Life's A Bitch from his acclaimed record "Illmatic", AZ mentioned it in his verse: :Now some, restin in peace and some are sittin in San Quentin:Others such as myself are tryin to carry on tradition

*Through the summer, groups of local, amateur baseball players gain access to the prison yard and play against the inmates in weekly games. Appropriately, the team of prisoners is called the "Giants" in honor of the San Francisco Giants, who donated old uniforms to the team. The team of outside players is called the "Willing". The only non-prisoners on the field are the opposing team--even the umpires are inmates and the only guards nearby are in the adjacent tower. These games were detailed in a Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel episode on June 20, 2006.

*Metallica's "St. Anger" video was shot at the prison in 2003.

* In the 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You, Patrick Verona was rumored to have recently spent a year in San Quentin.

* Tupac Shakur lists San Quentin as one of the places to which the song "Hold Ya Head" from is dedicated to.

* Music legend Johnny Cash performed a concert for inmates at San Quentin in 1969. The performance was recorded and released later that year as an album entitled "Johnny Cash at San Quentin". The concert was also filmed by a UK television channel. During the concert, the song "San Quentin", about an inmate's loathing of his incarceration, received such an enthusiastic response that it was immediately encored.

* San Francisco rapper San Quinn named himself after the prison. [cite web |url=
title=Meet San Francisco Quincy
publisher=WHAT IM SEEING dot com


External links

* [ Official page at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Web site.] Accessed 06 Jan 2008.
* [ > Library > Crime > Prison > San Quentin State Prison.] Accessed 06 Jan 2008.
*Clark, Richard. [ The gas chamber.] Accessed 06 Jan 2008.
*California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. [ Death Row Pictures.] Accessed 06 Jan 2008.
* [ BBC's Louis Theroux goes to see the life Behind Bars] - News Article

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