21 March 2023 :
(March 17, 2023) - California to transform San Quentin from prison to rehab centre
The infamous state prison on San Francisco Bay that has been home to the largest death row population in the United States will be transformed into a lockup where less-dangerous prisoners will receive education, training and rehabilitation, California officials announced Thursday.
The nearly 700 inmates serving death sentences at San Quentin State Prison will be moved elsewhere in the California penitentiary system, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced, and it will be renamed the San Quentin Rehabilitation Center.
“Today, we take the next step in our pursuit of true rehabilitation, justice, and safer communities through this evidenced-backed investment, creating a new model for safety and justice — the California Model — that will lead the nation,” Newsom said in a statement.
The governor planned a visit Friday to San Quentin, which is also the California location where prisoners were once executed, though none have been put to death since 2006. Newsom announced a moratorium on executions in 2019 and dismantled the prison’s gas chamber, and in 2022 he announced plans to begin transferring inmates sentenced to death to other prisons.
Full details of the plan were not immediately made public, though officials said the facility would concentrate on “education, rehabilitation and breaking cycles of crime.” Newsom was expected to share more during his visit, the 2nd stop on a 4-day policy tour that he’s doing in lieu of a traditional State of the State address this year.
Newsom’s office cited as a model Norway’s approach to incarceration, which focuses on preparing people to return to society, as inspiration for the program. Oregon and North Dakota have also taken inspiration from the Scandinavian country’s policies.
In maximum-security Norwegian prisons, cells often look more like dorm rooms with additional furniture such as chairs, desks, even TVs, and prisoners have kitchen access and activities like basketball. The nation has a low recidivism rate.
At the overhauled San Quentin, vocational training programs would set people up to land good-paying jobs as plumbers, electricians or truck drivers after they’re released, Newsom told the Los Angeles Times.
A group made up public safety experts, crime victims and formerly incarcerated people will advise the state on the transformation. Newsom is allocating $20 million to launch the plan.
Republican Assemblymember Tom Lackey expressed criticism of the plan, saying Newsom and state Democratic lawmakers should spend more time focusing their efforts on supporting the victims of crime.
“Communities win when we have rehabilitative efforts, but yet, how about victims?” Lackey said. “Have we rehabilitated them?”
Meanwhile Taina Vargas, executive director of Initiate Justice Action, an advocacy group based in Los Angeles, said she is pleased the state is moving toward rehabilitating incarcerated people but more drastic changes are needed to transform the criminal justice system that imprisons so many people.
“Over the long term, I think we want to prevent people from going to prison in the first place, which means that we want to offer more opportunities for high paying jobs in the community,” she said.