California Gov. Newsom announces new vision for San Quentin State Prison: ‘We have failed for too long’

PHOTO: Aerial view San Quentin State Prison, July 8, 2020, in San Quentin, California.

California’s oldest state prison will get overhauled into a “one-of-a-kind” correctional institution that borrows rehabilitation practices from places such as Norway, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said.

Under the proposed $20 million plan, San Quentin State Prison will be transformed from a maximum-security prison into one focused on rehabilitation and education to improve public safety and reduce recidivism rates in the state, Newsom said. More immediately, it would also be renamed San Quentin Rehabilitation Center.

Newsom visited the prison, located in Marin County on a peninsula north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Friday afternoon to announce the plan, which he said he hopes becomes a model for the nation and world.

“We want to be the preeminent restorative justice facility in the world,” Newsom told reporters.

Officials highlighted high rates of recidivism in California — two-thirds of people incarcerated in the state will return to prison within three years of their release, according to state Department of Corrections figures.

“We have failed for too long,” Newsom said.

Aerial view San Quentin State Prison, July 8, 2020, in San Quentin, California.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

An advisory group made up of criminal justice, rehabilitation and public safety experts will advise the state on the transformation. Formerly incarcerated individuals, representatives of crime victims and survivors — a “critical” part of this process, Newsom said — will also be among the members. The group will be co-chaired by former San Quentin Warden Ron Broomfield and Brie Williams, a professor of medicine at the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations.

Newsom is allocating $20 million in his 2023-24 budget proposal, which will be voted on by the state legislature, to begin the “reimagining and repurposing of the facility,” his office said in a statement. Newsom said the goal is to have the plan in place by 2025.

“I’m not naive about how difficult this is going to be,” the Democratic governor said. “But we are here with a sense of urgency and a sense of intentionality.”

The San Quentin plan is the latest in the Democratic governor’s efforts to reform the state’s prison system, which have included ending the state’s use of private for-profit prisons and placing a moratorium on executions in the state.

San Quentin’s death row unit, the nation’s largest, is being shut down and all condemned inmates moved to other prisons. Both the existing condemned row housing unit and a Prison Industry…

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