San Quentin State Prison: An Overview of the Oldest State Prison in California

Jul 4


Jeff Donaven

Jeff Donaven

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San Quentin State Prison is popular among tourists and nearby residents alike for its historical value and hair-raising tales on housing the most notorious inmates in the United States of America. Being the oldest state prison in California, most of its visitors are thrill-seeking history junkies and law students from all over the continent.


However,San Quentin State Prison: An Overview of the Oldest State Prison in California Articles opposing to its dark track-record in history, San Quentin has become one of the most state-of-the-art and activity-filled correctional institutions of the 21st century. Compared to the age-old rumors on inhumane treatment of its prisoners, this rehabilitation and correction institution has been supporting an array of programs for its inmates, ex-convicts, and their families for many decades.

Presently, San Quentin has an annual Christmas Toy Give-Away, an on­site college degree­granting scholarships for its inmates, baseball tournaments, and juvenile-support programs that aim to eliminate violence and give a fresh start for prisoners and their loved ones.

Today, San Quentin remains as one of the largest state prisons in the U.S. It houses an approximate population of four-thousand inmates and one-thousand and seven hundred staff members. The San Quentin State Prison correctional complex is located on Point San Quentin, with a total land area of 432 acres along the north side of San Francisco bay.

It has four housing units: Level I Housing which is an open dormitory with a relaxed and limited security level, Level II Housing which is an open dormitory with secure perimeter fences and armed coverage, a Reception Center for short-term housing where incoming inmates are accommodated while their documents are being processed, and a Condemned unit where the high-security risk inmates are being contained.

Reviews regarding San Quentin State Prison’s Security vary. Outside of the correctional institution’s vicinity, there have been residential areas rumored to have had sightings of escaped inmates. Some residents also claim that the cases of robbery and house break-in’s within their communities have been committed by the same inmates on the loose.

Although this may be the type of reviews commonly heard from nearby residents, visitors of the correction and rehabilitation institution claim that the in-house monitoring department and security departments are tightly bound to their duties.

Dress code and visitation hours are strictly monitored by the guards and wardens. While physical contact such as hugging and handshakes with the inmates are allowed, money is strictly prohibited from being exposed within visual proximity of the prisoners. Failure to meet the basic security and dress code requirements may cause cancellation of visitation appointment for family members of the inmates and tourists alike.