Monday, April 23, 2007

The Secret Making of an Execution Chamber

[Image: Photo by Liz Hafalia for the SF Chrinicle, 2007.]

State legislators and officials in Marin County have been debating for years now about what to do with San Quentin State Prison. The facility is notorious for its subhuman health conditions said to be the worst in the state. There is a large $337m expansion plan that has been kicked back and forth now, which would tear down and modernize the prison. While the prison sits on some of the most precious Bay Area real estate, many have fought to oppose the expansion in favor of developing much needed affordable housing. But, even though legislators have approved a significant portion of the funding, in case the expansion plan somehow meets approval, Arnold has apparently been slipping some other developments in the project past legislators' knowledge.
The story broke a few days ago, but needless to say Marin County and State officials overseeing the expansion project were pretty infuriated when they discovered that some of the money approved had already gone into much construction for a new execution chamber. Public outcry has currently haled its construction, even though it is already %82 finished. However, the secret work done on the new spacious execution chamber could sink the whole prison expansion plan for good. While the question of where to put current prisoners if the facility is torn down and a new one is not built is a crucial question, the expansion of a new prison project will surely only add to the prison problem in this state, which has become a billion dollar business hand in hand with an overcriminalizing justice system. To rethink San Quentin in favor of abolishing it is to reconsider the more dubious landscape of the criminal system and how it too must be retooled in favor of more effective alternatives to mass incarceration.

If neither option impresses you, just take a look at the China model: Death Vans (craziness!).


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