Thursday, February 13, 2003

Urine, Feces and Darts...a normal day on California's Death Row.

From the SFGate...


...For the first time in 30 years, journalists got a glimpse of conditions inside Death Row -- three antiquated buildings at San Quentin State Prison that house 614 condemned inmates.

The visit was part of a campaign by prison officials to drum up public support for a $220 million bond for a new Death Row facility -- despite a $26 billion shortfall projected for California's budget this year.

...Condemned prisoners arrive faster than they leave. About 30 new Death Row inmates arrive each year, and their appeals typically stretch out about 20 years. But executions average about one per year.

...Outside on one of the exercise yards, inmates shoot hoops or play cards for six hours a day. Some puff on cigarettes lit from a slow-burning "wick" -- tightly rolled toilet paper that a guard ignites because inmates aren't allowed to have matches. Some prisoners grouse about conditions, or yell out questions to a correctional officer.

....Lt. Art Munoz says work in this unit is especially dangerous and stressful. He points to the solid doors on several of the revamped 40-square-foot cells. On the other side of the unit, older style doors are covered with metal grates, and officers slide a plastic shield in place for protection from inmates, who sometimes fling urine, feces or darts from their cells. "This is the kind of job that anything can happen," Munoz said.

....On Tuesday, some inmates on Death Row argued against spending money on a new facility for people who are scheduled for death. "They should spend the money on education or on the legal defense fund to help people like me who are innocent," said one 32-year-old condemned convict.

...Death Row inmates have more privileges than the other prisoners at San Quentin, which houses about 5,966 convicts. The best-behaved condemned are allowed an unlimited number of phone calls, contact visits and quarterly boxes of candy, cigarettes, soup and other treats. If the convicts assault staff or another inmate, those incentives are curtailed.

read the rest...full of nuggets..