“As I have been requested to write a story on the state’s prison at San Quentin where I was a guard for some time, I will do my utmost to give the public an honest story of what I know of it,” wrote former Correctional Officer William “Bill” Conroy in the Santa Cruz Evening News on Dec. 18, 1911. The first installment of his series documented how the state prison admitted new inmates.
On Oct. 31, 1914, San Quentin Warden James A. Johnston’s article on reforms at the prison was published in The California Outlook. It was also published in other periodicals. Titled “How we treat our prisoners at San Quentin,” the warden’s piece described reception, recreation, parole and the general treatment of inmates at the state’s oldest prison. At the time, the institution still housed female inmates. Often referred to as the reform warden, Johnston had previously served as the warden at Folsom Prison where he put an end to the use of straight jackets and other cruel practices. More than 100 years ago, he pushed for fair treatment of inmates and training to help them learn the skills necessary to re-enter society.
California Medical Facility was given an 8mm film that appears to have been shot in the mid- to late-1970s or possibly the early 1980s. Titled, “The Correctional Officer: Doing Time – Life as an inmate,” the video was a training tool for correctional officers to help improve the relationship between inmates and staff. In the mid-1970s, the corrections department, along with the California Youth Authority, started a training academy for correctional officers. This video was part of those early efforts.
CDCR Time Capsule (videos) 1960-64: Newsreels highlight early rehabilitative art programs at San Quentin
Using art as a tool for rehabilitation inside prison has been around for decades with the practice’s popularity fluctuating, depending on the decade. The British Pathé YouTube channel features three short newsreels highlighting art shows at San Quentin State Prison in the early 1960s. The British Pathé YouTube channel features three short newsreels highlighting art shows at San Quentin State Prison in the early 1960s. Newsreels typically played before the movies started, much like today’s previews.
A 1988 edition of Correction News published a story on a Folsom State Prison correctional officer who was killed after trying to stop a robbery. He succumbed to his injuries nine days after the attack.
A popular TV game show in 1958 featured a prison warden as one of the contestants – San Quentin Warden Fred R. Dickson. He had a long career in corrections, eventually being appointed to run what was then known as the Adult Authority.