Here's a look at the transformation of San Quentin State Prison

Tara Campbell Image
Thursday, July 27, 2023
A look at the transformation of San Quentin State Prison
Progress is already being made inside San Quentin to turn a maximum security prison to a one-of-a-kind rehabilitation center. Here's a closer look:

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (KGO) -- The goal is to transform San Quentin from a maximum security prison to a one-of-a-kind rehabilitation center. Governor Gavin Newsom's plan garnered enough legislative support to set aside $380 million for new buildings and training.

"We're actually learning how to code websites and this is one example of a website I built over the past couple weeks," said Willie Johnson. He's been at San Quentin for more than two decades and says learning to code will serve him well.

"What we're trying to do is learn new skills so we can get out there have a second chance," said Johnson.

Coding is one of a handful of educational and vocational programs at San Quentin and all of them have long wait lists.

MORE: Former San Quentin inmate weighs in on Gov. Newsom's plan to transform the max security prison

"Each program only serves a certain number of people and so we have waiting lists at San Quentin and some of them are very extensive," said the prison's warden, Richard Broomfield. "It would be like going to Disneyland and never getting to ride the rides because it's too crowded."

Tearing down a former furniture warehouse is the first step in cutting down the wait times, with the state allocating $160 million to create a campus in its place by the end of 2025.

"What we want to create here is not only a more humane lived-experience for the residents," said Sacramento Mayor Darrel Steinberg, the Governor's lead advisor for San Quentin's transformation. "In addition we want to better prepare the residents for success when they leave and break that cycle of crime."

And, Jason Jones believes bolstering the prisons programs will be a big part in reducing recidivism. San Quentin is where he learned to code. He's know helping to lead the way at The Last Mile, an organization that teaches technology and entrepreneurship skills to those incarcerated.

VIDEO: SF marathon a defiant step for former San Quentin inmates participating at event

Three former San Quentin inmates will race in Sunday's San Francisco Marathon.

"When I came home, I became an immediate asset for my community. My first week coming home, I set up a tech program in West Oakland so I immediately became a resource to my community," said Jones.

"This is something that's just really an awesome opportunity to learn because I love music, it's healing, it's powerful and it's been a huge part of my journey."

Henok Rufael is in the audio engineering program and has also earned a certificate in alcohol and drug counseling.

"I recognize that a lot of the guys getting out have to have two jobs, so if I can do counseling and also work with music and audio for me it's the best of both worlds," said Rufael.

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