Op-Ed: Here in San Quentin, I see why solitary confinement must end
We all know why people kill. It’s simple: some part of us craves power and freedom. Others seek love and happiness. Still others seek revenge.
In prison, no one ever escapes the power and loneliness that make us all killers. But prison isn’t the only place people commit murder. The world offers a variety of violent activities from which to choose.
In California, there are 2,000 inmates locked up in men’s prisons and in women’s prisons in Marin and Solano counties. In Orange County, which includes Irvine, there are more than 17,000 inmates and the prisons do not even have names yet.(1)
Some of these men and women are murderers, rapists, child molesters and thieves. A great many of them are drug dealers and pedophiles. More than 300 rapists live among inmates in Orange County prisons.
In San Quentin State Prison and Folsom State Prison, which house men and women, there are 1,200 inmates and the prisons do not even have names, much less addresses. The total population and the population of the prisons in California is about 9,000.
If you’re a prisoner, you’re in a dangerous situation. Your friends or loved ones are out in the world, trying to escape or be saved, and you’re confined within this narrow cage, isolated and alone.
Here in San Quentin, people have committed a variety of violent activities. The prisoners have murdered, robbed, raped, been on drugs, been institutionalized or self-harming.
Some of the people here have killed people or have attempted to kill people. Some have been violent animals, like the two women who committed a double execution in the prison yard. Some have been violent animals but not so violent that they need to be murdered. They deserve love and to be loved. Their actions don’t deserve to be punished.
There are also violent animals you never imagine you’ll have to encounter in prison. They’re not the violent people you’ve known outside prison. Sometimes, they’re not even the prisoners you’ve seen. They’re people from other countries, who’ve been sent here to serve a term of years because their government is not serious about prosecuting them. You never heard them talk about what they did before they were arrested. You never heard them talk about how