Inside California’s Donovan State Prison
KPBS (San Diego) continues its reporting on the Golden State’s overburdened prison system with this two-hour radio broadcast from within the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa, Calif. The broadcast includes interviews with both prison officials and inmates at Donovan, describing all facets of day-to-day life in the prison. (Among the officials interviewed is William Edrozo, a gang investigator who is responsible for keeping tabs on what he estimates at 45 different prison and street gangs that operate at Donovan.)
Here’s an excerpt from reporter Maureen Cavanaugh’s conversation with inmate Terry Campbell, who is in his 45th year of a life term for first-degree murder:
CAVANAUGH: Are you ever afraid in here?
CAMPBELL: Yeah, sometimes.
CAVANAUGH: Of what?
CAMPBELL: Of being assaulted, dying here. You know, it’s a constant risk. You know, like I mentioned earlier, we have mentally ill inmates on this yard, you know, people that are not altogether there. And we have some inmates that are doing life without the possibility of ever getting out. So, you know, and then we just have inmates who have a bad day. So you can’t get away. You can’t go away. You can’t move from your current home. You can’t, you know, you can’t go across town. You’re here. You see the same people every day, day in and day out. So, for a lot of inmates, I would imagine that constant fear is an everyday thing that they have to deal with.
CAVANAUGH: Would you say, in a sense, since you’ve been here for such a long time, you’ve acclimated yourself to this life?
CAMPBELL: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s a process like anything else. It took me a long time when I came to prison to even realize what a life sentence in prison meant. And so you become accustomed to it. You become institutionalized, to use a term. And so, yes, I’ve become institutionalized. And a lot of people that leave prison, even guys that are only here for a few years or ten years or whatever, you know, it’s not like you can get out of prison and suddenly, you know, you’re used to being out and you can be a citizen, functioning normally in a normal society. It’s going to be a process getting out, too, because a lot of parolees, unfortunately, when they leave prison, they apply in-prison solutions to out-of-prison problems and it just doesn’t work out and it usually leads to reincarceration so…
In a previous post, I noted KPBS’ video programming on California’s prison system.