Former Correctional Officer William Conroy describes life for female inmates at San Quentin between 1903 and 1907, the years he worked there. He also advocates for improving the women’s department to at least be equal to the areas designated for the men. His article published Dec. 30, 1911.
“All the carpenter work, plumbing, brick work, machine work and blacksmith work, in fact every conceivable variety of work done at San Quentin, is done by prisoners, as they are mostly masters of every imaginable trade,” wrote former Correctional Officer William Conroy, who worked at San Quentin from 1903 to 1907. In the Santa Cruz Evening News, Dec. 19, 1911, Conroy described jobs held by inmates, the system used to show an inmate had completed an assignment and their usual work schedule.
“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.