Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘san quentin

Homicide at San Quentin Raises Questions about Prison Safety

leave a comment »

Last week, Edward Schaefer, who was about two weeks into a 24-to-life sentence for killing 9-year-old Melody Osheroff in a motorcycle DUI, was fatally stabbed by another inmate in the yard at California’s San Quentin prison. The suspect is Frank Anthony Souza, who is serving a 60-year sentence for beating and strangling a San Jose homeless man. The state Inspector General’s Office has suggested that it may investigate the killing, particularly whether Schaefer should have been kept in the general population. (Inmates whose crimes involved killing a child may be vulnerable to retaliation by other inmates and are sometimes held in solitary or protective custody for that reason.) From the Marin Independent-Journal:

Lt. Sam Robinson, a spokesman for San Quentin, said that when Schaefer arrived at the prison, he initially was kept in administrative segregation, a cell by himself away from the general prison population. Inmates typically are placed in administrative segregation, often referred to as isolation or “the hole,” for disciplinary reasons.

Robinson said administrative segregation differs from the prison’s security needs yard, where inmates such as gang dropouts and snitches are placed for protective custody.

Robinson said Schaefer initially was placed in administrative segregation, not because prison officials believed him to be at risk of attack but because he had been in administrative segregation when he was paroled from Soledad Prison in 2007.

On July 21, Schaefer was moved after consultation with prison officials, Robinson said. “He felt comfortable with moving on to the general population here in our reception center,” Robinson said. “He expressed no reservations about living in our general population.”

And from the Independent-Journal‘s editorial board:

Some say Schaefer got what he deserved.

But that’s not the justice our legal system meted out. … Aaron, Melody’s father, wanted Schaefer to spend his time behind bars reflecting on what he had done. He says Schaefer got off too easy.

Written by sara

August 4, 2010 at 11:00 am

Web Resources: Prison University Project Guest Lectures

leave a comment »

The Prison University Project is a Bay Area nonprofit that provides college courses for inmates at San Quentin State Prison. In spring and summer 2009, PUP hosted a guest lecture series at San Quentin enabling both students and volunteers to learn more about California sentencing law and policy. Recordings of the lectures are available online at the PUP website, and include presentations by a range of leading experts including Berkeley law professors Franklin Zimring and Jonathan Simon, Barry Krisberg of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Kara Dansky of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, and more.

Written by sara

April 3, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Upcoming Event: Three Perspectives on Race and Incarceration

leave a comment »

This Thursday, Feb. 4, Stanford Law School will host a panel entitled “Three Perspectives on Race and Incarceration” (free and open to public with RSVP at link above):

Why are people of color—African American males in particular—grossly over-represented in prisons and in jails relative to the numbers in the U.S. population? What happens to them in prison? What happens when they get out? The purpose of this panel is to examine the causes and consequences of racial disparities in imprisonment from three different vantage points. Professor Steven Raphael will discuss the relationship between criminal justice policies and racial disparities in imprisonment. Filmmaker Tamara Perkins will discuss a new documentary she is developing which tells the stories of black men in San Quentin State Prison. Finally, Chief Ronald Davis will discuss a re-entry program he has developed in collaboration with Free At Last in East Palo Alto.

Written by sara

February 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Eugenics and Testicle Transplants: San Quentin’s Dark History

with one comment

Aerial view of San Quentin Prison. Courtesy CDCR

Under Dr. Leo Stanley, chief surgeon at California’s San Quentin Prison from 1913 to 1951, prisoners became subjects in a wide variety of medical experiments: sterilization; testicle transplants (using testicles from executed prisoners, as well as from goats and boars); Spanish flu treatments. As historian Ethan Blue recounts in his article on Dr. Stanley’s career (may be behind a firewall for non-university readers, but cite is Pacific Historical Review 78(2), 2009):

The benefits of human experimentation in prisons were many, [Dr. Stanley] believed, because “in such a place all men are treated alike, and live under the same conditions of food, work, and general surroundings . . . .[P]atients could be under daily observation, and the ‘follow up’ conditions were ideal.” San Quentin prisoners had access to esteemed doctors from the Bay Area, and hence the benefits of medical modernity unavailable to a great many other prison inmates. The downside of this privilege was that these doctors also had access to them. (p. 227)

Written by sara

January 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Prisons That Float

leave a comment »

I was interested to note this BBC report on England’s use of prison ships — more here on a so-called “Tory mutiny” over the issue (pun intended?). The BBC article notes that the UK’s last floating jail, the HMP Weare, which was sold in 2005, “was originally a troop ship in the Falklands War and then a floating jail in the US.” I wonder how prevalent floating jails have been in U.S. history and where they were used? California’s famed San Quentin Prison, of course, began life as a ship. The young California Legislature approved the construction of a state prison in 1851, and leased the prison operation (and the prisoners’ labor) to two Mexican-American War heroes, Guadalupe Vallejo and James Madison Estell. But county jails started sending prisoners Estell’s way a bit prematurely, before a site for the new prison had even been chosen, so in the meantime, the prisoners were put on a ship, the Waban. Here’s a description from Shelley Bookspan’s history of the California prison system, A Germ of Goodness:

The ship had a capacity of perhaps fifty, but soon more than three times that many convicts languished there. According to a popular account, the prisonkeepers discovered the point at San Quentin accidentally. The ship, moored in the Sacramento River, was so burdened with bodies that it drifted uncontrollably until landing at Quentin Point, across the bay from San Francisco, whereupon the overseers discovered brick clay and declared the site acceptable for a permanent position. Other, more reliable accounts indicate that the location provided easy access to an existing quarry on Angel Island, and a tug pulled the ship across the San Francisco Bay to be harbored there.

(pp. 3-4) The first cell block at the San Quentin Prison opened in 1854.

Written by sara

January 23, 2010 at 3:32 pm

%d bloggers like this: