Notorious Prisons in the USA – San Quentin

21 Dec, 2016//Posted by : aebbvelocityloca//Category : blog

San Quentin - Bail Bonds San MarcosAnother notorious California prison is San Quentin. It is actually the oldest prison in California, dating back to 1852. Unlike Alcatraz, which we mentioned before, San Quentin is still operational. Its full name is San Quentin State Prison.

It is known for its death row. However, San Quentin is a bit more complex than the usual ‘worst of the worst’ perception which persists in the collective consciousness in the USA. It has been the site for many correctional programs, as well as infamous torture methods.


It is located near San Francisco, similarly to Alcatraz. It is immediately adjacent to San Quentin village on the Point of San Quentin. The village originally served to house the workers of the state prison; however, the population nowadays has no relation to the prison itself. There are about 100 people living there.


As mentioned before, this is the oldest prison in California. Technically. In 1851, there was a ship named The Waban, which served as a prison off the coast of California. It could hold only about 30 prisoners, so it wasn’t a sustainable solution for the growing population of the area. These same prisoners built the first parts of the San Quentin prison on land. It was opened in 1852 and initially held about 70 prisoners.

Initially, it was a mixed prison, with both male and female populations. However, in the 1930s, the first women only prison opened in California, so the entire female population of San Quentin was relocated there.

Current state

In the 2000s, there was a report which detailed the state of the prison. The report was extremely unfavorable to the prison. It was named dirty, old, poorly staffed with severely lacking medical care facilities. It was also deemed overcrowded. As a way of remediation of the dilapidated condition of the complex, a new medical center was opened in 2007 with plans to build further facilities in the near future.


The prison has been called sprawling many times. It is a pretty big complex with various facilities. It is designed to house around 3000 inmates. However, in 2013, the population of the prison was just over 4000. The situation has improved somewhat. In 2016, the population has been reduced to 3600 inmates. The prison itself comprises three security levels.

Level 1 contains open dormitories without the security perimeter. This is the minimum security prison ward.

Level 2 are open dormitories with a security perimeter and armed guards. This is a standard ward for regular inmates.

Condemned unit is the section of the prison devoted to the death row inmates. San Quentin is the only prison in California which has a gas chamber (although it is not in use anymore). It is also the only male death row prison in California, so all capital punishment prisoners live here.

The canteen of the prison is adorned with four large murals depicting the history of California.

The new medical center is also a prominent facility. San Quentin was actually the location of the first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for prison populations.

Infamous inmates

Among the most notorious inmates to ever inhabit these facilities are Charles Manson of the Manson family, Sirhan Sirhan, the killer of Bobby Kennedy and Danny Trejo, the now famous actor.

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