By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor, OPEC

In 1858, the Annual Report of the Board of Prison Directors issued “rules and regulations for the government of the state prison at San Quentin.” It was signed by newly elected Gov. John B. Weller, Lt. Gov. Joseph Walkup and Secretary of State Ferris Forman. The three men literally kicked in doors to get the rules established. Over time, those rules would eventually become today’s California Code of Regulations, Title 15, Division 3.

Taking San Quentin by force

Gov. John B. Weller.

James Estell won the contract to run the state prison at San Quentin, but by 1857, he didn’t see much profit. He opted to turn over the contract to sub-lessee John F. McCauley.

McCauley reportedly ignored prison inspectors, used harsh methods of punishment and kept prisoners barefoot and half-clothed.

When word of the conditions reached the State Legislature, “they declared the lease (with McCauley) null and void and advised the state to take immediate charge,” according to reports at the time.

On March 1, 1858, Gov. John B. Weller rode to the prison along with the lieutenant governor and the state controller, essentially forming a posse to wrest back control of the prison.

“Weller, accompanied by Lt. Gov. Joseph Walkup, and Secretary of State Ferris Forman proceeded to the prison and … against the will and protest of McCauley’s agents, took possession, breaking open some inner doors to get the keys,” according to “The History of California,” published in 1897 by Theodore Hittell.

“Governor Weller, in visiting the State Prison …, was refused, by the sub-Lessee, the keys of the office, and he broke the door in and took forcible possession,” reported the Sacramento Daily Union on March 3, 1858.

McCauley’s attorney, J.G. Baldwin, penned a letter on the matter, which was published in the Sacramento Daily Union on March 29, 1858.

“I understand the Governor had to use some force in getting possession,” he wrote.

Gov. Weller sent a message to the state Assembly, confirming his actions.

“I proceeded … to take possession of the State Prison. To effect this … I was compelled to use a little force. Some changes were at once made, which, in my judgment, the public interest demanded,” he wrote on March 4, 1858. “It is exceedingly desirable that a permanent organization of the State Prison should be effected (as soon) as possible.”

Lt. Gov. Joseph Walkup was appointed Warden of San Quentin in 1858.

A later lawsuit against the state revealed some of the details of the takeover.

“At the time of this … alleged forcible entry … (McCauley) was not upon the premises, but the same was in charge of his agent, Sims. (The Governor), accompanied by several others, entered a building connected with the Prison, and informed Sims that he was the Governor of the State, and had come with the intention to take possession of the premises, pursuant to an Act of the Legislature, passed a few days previous. Upon refusal of Sims to yield possession, (the Governor) called upon a person present, informed him that he was appointed Warden of the Prison, and then demanded the keys. Sims … refused,” reported the Sacramento Daily Union, March 29, 1859. “The door of the room was immediately forced, by order of the (Governor), and the keys taken.”

He left Lt. Gov. Walkup in charge as warden, for which he earned a salary of $75 per month.

“Among the reforms inaugurated by (Gov. Weller), is for the immediate better clothing of the prisoners and supplying them with more wholesome food, and in liberal rations,” reported the Daily Alta California, March 11, 1858.

Less than a year later, those reforms were formalized.

“A copy of the rules and regulations for the government of the officers and convicts is herewith transmitted (to the legislature),” reported the Sacramento Daily Union, Feb. 3, 1859.

Rules and regulations of 1858

There were 24 rules ranging from who was in charge of the prison to the responsibilities of the “Commander of the Boats” at the prison.

The 1858 report contained 24 rules for running San Quentin. There was only one prison at the time.

Rule III called for the “Superintendent of Labor (to) have charge under the general direction of the Chief Warden … of all laboring parties inside or outside of the walls of the Prison; excepting the Tailors’ and Shoemakers’ shops. When employing Prisoners outside of the walls, he shall, before removing them, report to the Lieutenant of the Guard the number which he proses to employ, and where.”

Rule VI stated, “The Commissary and Quartermaster shall have charge of all stores and livestock, other than those employed in the work of the Prison. He will have the general superintendence of the Tailors’ and Shoemakers’ shops. He shall purchase, when required by the Warden, the supplies and materials for the Prison.”

At the end of an offender’s prison sentence, the Commissary “shall be required to pay to any discharged convict, a sum not exceeding ten dollars.”

According to Rule VII, the doctor was required to reside at the prison, examine inmates when they arrived and treat those who were ill or injured. He was also a sort of undertaker. “He shall take care that the dead are decently and properly buried; and perform such other duties connected with his profession as the Board of Directors, or Chief Warden, shall prescribe.” Rule XXIII stated, “In case of a death amongst the Convicts by violence, immediate notice must be given to the Coroner of Marin County, in order that an inquest may be held, if he deems it necessary.”

Before there were bridges crossing the bay, San Quentin relied on ferries and boats. Rule X stated, “The Commander of the Boats shall have charge of all the boats and other craft belonging, or that may hereafter belong, to the prison, and shall see that they are kept in proper order and ready for use.”

Rule XIII dealt with the gate. “The Gate-keepers shall permit no Prisoner to pass outside the gate until it shall have been signalized that the Guards are regularly posted, except by the order of the Superintendent of Labor, or Warden; nor shall they allow any Convicts to pass outside the Gates, unless so ordered by the Warden, or Superintendent of Labor.” The Gate-keepers were required to keep a log of who was coming and going. Upon the “ringing of the second evening bell, they shall make a correct report of the Convicts so passing in and out, to the Superintendent of Labor.”

Inmates were to be treated with respect, according to Rule XIX. “It is conjoined upon all Officers and Employees to treat Convicts like human beings entitled to commiseration, and who may reform and become useful members of society; they are to be treated with as much kindness as is consistent with security.”

Rules for Prisoners, 1891

On June 1, 1891, San Quentin Warden W.E. Hale issued 22 Rules for Prisoners.

Sq Warden We Hale 1898

San Quentin Warden W.E. Hale, 1891-99.

While on work details, inmates were not allowed to speak to the Warden and were discouraged from speaking to officers of the prison unless it was necessary.

Rule II stated, “In no case, while at work, must they address the Warden. On notifying the Captain of the Yard that an interview with the Warden is desired, the time for visiting the Warden’s office will be fixed, after his permission is given.”

Rule III banned “profane or disrespectful language.”

Inmate manufactured weapons, as well as use of force, were the subjects of Rule IV.

“An officer or Guard shall be justified in using such force as may be necessary to overpower the offender, in case of any attack upon or resistance to an officer of the Prison, or any assault with any instrument calculated or liable to take life, upon any officer, Guard or free person, or any wanton and unprovoked attack upon a fellow prisoner with a deadly weapon, of any kind whatever, or the instigating or abetting of any such attack,” the rule states.

Rule VIII outlined Prison-issued garb and supplies. “The issue of clothing to each prisoner will be: two shirts, two pairs of pantaloons, two pairs of shoes, two hats, four pairs of socks, and, as a special reward for diligent labor and good conduct, also a reasonable amount of underclothes per year, as the Warden may direct. One plug of tobacco and one pint of coal oil will be issued once a week. Two pairs of blankets will be issued in the spring and an extra pair in the fall.”

Inmates were to be in bed when they heard the nightly bugle, according to Rule XIV. “At the sound of the bugle, at nine o’clock p.m., the unemployed prisoners must go to bed, and profound silence must be observed from that time until the ringing of the bell in the morning, at which time every prisoner must immediately dress and be prepared to march out of his cell, and at the sound of the bugle, line up and proceed to breakfast. The whistle will recall prisoners from their work, and each will take place in line as directed.”

Changing over time

The Rules and Regulations of the Director of Corrections, circa 1973, listed rules for staff and inmates.

R.K. Procunier was the department director at the time.

Raymond Procunier, Director of Corrections, 1967-75.

DP-1001, for example, directed staff to inform inmates of expectations. “Violation or attempted violation of a rule will lead to disciplinary action. Not knowing a rule is no excuse for violation.”

DP-1100 declared “each inmate has the right to expect that as a human being, he or she will be treated respectfully, impartially and fairly by all personnel.” The rule also stated inmates should also show respect to staff and other inmates.

Tim Lockwood, Chief of CDCR’s Regulation and Policy Management Branch, said small pocketbooks were developed and given to inmates. They were also carried by staff in the chest pocket of their uniforms.

“In 1977, the existing director’s pocketbook rules were adopted into the Title 15 of what was then called the California Administrative Code, now called the California Code of Regulations. The Department used a public adoption process in place at the time,” he said. “This was before the Office of Administrative Law, the current control agency over the state department regulations (which) was created by legislation in 1979.”

To learn more about Title 15, visit

Life in 1858

  • “The immensely increasing demand for Fish’s Infallible Hair Restorative unquestionably proves it to be all the proprietor claims,” reads one ad for a hair tonic. It claims to nourish hair to “restore the natural color permanently; … make it grow on bald heads; remove all dandruff, itching and pain from the scalp; quiets and tones up the nerves, and cures all nervous headache and may be relied upon to cure all diseases of the scalp and hair.”
  • New boots sold for $10 and “footed boots” for $8 at Swain & Co.
  • Mammoth Pavilion, in San Francisco, boasted a “new apparatus for gymnastic exercises.” The pavilion also offered a “promenade concert every Sunday” as well as a “splendid ball with double orchestra.”
  • Board and tuition for Santa Clara College was $335 per session.
  • Freight shipping rates to Sacramento and Marysville, via a river steam boat, were $4 and $8 per ton, respectively, via the California Steam Navigation Company.
  • Meals at the Barnum Restaurant, in Sacramento, were $1. Board for the week was $10.
  • Dr. Morse’s Invigorating Cordial claimed to cure all ills, “restore the appetite, renew the strength, harden the muscles, brace the nerves, give elasticity to the spirits, recruit the mental energies, banish despondency, impart to the attenuated frame a more robust appearance, allay irritation, calm the disturbed imagination, build up the shattered constitution; and may be taken without fear by the feeblest maiden, wife or mother; as it is composed solely of the juices of rare Oriental herbs, potent only to invigorate, exhilarate and restore.” The price was listed at $3 per bottle.
  • Dr. L.J. Czapkay’s advertisement for his Grand Medical and Surgical Institute at the corner of Montgomery and Sacramento streets in San Francisco featured testimonials by his patients. The doctor’s ad proclaimed the institute was “established for the permanent cure of all private and chronic diseases and the suppression of quackery. Attending and resident physician, L.J. Czapkay, M.D., late in the Hungarian Revolutionary War, Chief Physician to the 20th Regiment of Honveds, Chief Surgeon to the military hospital of Pesth, Hungary, and late lecturer on diseases of women and children.”