Activism and Invisibility: Caryl Chessman, George Jackson and the California Prison Movement 1954 – 1977

chessman_jackson

The construction of prisoners’ public profiles played a critical role in shaping the Californian prison narrative of the fifties, sixties and seventies. Penology in California during these years gradually moved away from inmate education (and rehabilitation in general), starting with the promotion of bibliotherapy under Richard A. McGee’s tenure as director of the California Department of Corrections (CDC) from 1944 until 1961[i]; the prisoners’ subsequent contravention of their consigned, publicly invisible identities through their application of these literary resources; and finally, the state’s limitation or retraction of those resources in response to the groundswell of sympathy for prisoners generated by their writings and activism

The racial dynamics at work within the two prisoners’ movements discussed in this essay – that of Caryl Chessman and that of George Jackson and the Black Panthers – dictated the nature of those movements, and the state’s response to them almost in entirety. Both of these characters challenged the inmate’s relegated identity of invisibility to the public eye. Insofar as this aspect of invisibility “is the guarantee of order,”[ii] the penal system was impelled to renege on many of the pedagogical reforms it had made throughout the 1950s. Allowing prisoners to build such public profiles only tarnished the system’s image. The movements surrounding both of these characters ultimately pushed the California Department of Corrections toward a penology that became increasingly severe, with its eventual abandonment of the rehabilitative ideal that had characterized the 1950s as the “Era of Treatment”[iii] in California. While these two personalities cannot be blamed in any way for the penological shift that took place during these years, their cases are demonstrative of the system-level factors that led to the CDC’s disillusionment with the notion of reintegration, the longer prison sentences that ensued, and the growth of the inmate population in California. Chessman’s case led to the CDC’s reconsideration of educating inmates in ways that might politically enfranchise them, while the Black Panthers were largely framed as an inherent threat to the white middle-class status quo, thereby justifying unusually brutal police repression and rates of incarceration.

Caryl Chessman was a white convict, originally from Michigan, who first arrived at San Quentin in 1941, (at age 19) for an armed robbery. He became a trustee in the warden’s office before being transferred to the lower-security California Institute for Men at Chino, from which he escaped. He was caught and thrown back into prison shortly thereafter. A series of rapes occurred in the Bay Area after Chessman was granted parole in 1947, and he was arrested one night when police spotted him driving a car that matched the description of the culprit’s. He was promptly convicted for the rapes and sentenced to death.[iv]

The Californian prison system prior to the mid-1940s was about as overcrowded as it is today – with most prisons at double capacity – and was, moreover, grievously mismanaged. San Quentin – the oldest prison in California, and to this day its largest – had been designed for 2,700 inmates, but by the early 1940s held 4,300, including psychiatric patients. [v] As a whole the system was rife with abuse, with prisoners being beaten, fed rancid food, and arbitrarily thrown into freezing dungeons. Occassional riots were suppressed brutally.[vi]

But increasing public awareness of conditions on the inside led the Governor Earl Warren to commission an inquiry into the state’s penitentiaries, which resulted to the Prison Reorganization Act of 1944, under which the management of the state’s entire prison system would be centralized under the CDC. The department’s new director, Richard McGee, would embody the progressive and rehabilitative ideals the CDC claimed to apply to its prisons for the next two decades. Among his first initiatives were ending racial segregation in the prisons, improving the quality of food prisoners were being fed, and providing places of worship for inmates[vii]: “The programs of custodial institutions will place greater emphasis on preparation for release and reintegration into normal society and less on the prevention of escapes and on economic production,” wrote McGee during his tenure as director of the CDC[viii]. A new warden named Clinton Duffy, similarly “riding a wave of reformist zeal,”[ix] was appointed to administer San Quentin in 1940. Duffy improved the food inmates were being fed, opened a library at San Quentin run by leading bibliotherapist Herman Spector,[x] and initiated an inmate music and comedy show that was aired on a San Francisco radio station.[xi] In the press, Duffy was exalted as a hero of a new, progressive and efficient penal philosophy.[xii] In 1944, CDC deputy director Dr. Norman Fenton began group counselling sessions at San Quentin: “The treatment program for the inmate in the prison [is] planned in terms of an understanding of him as a person,” wrote Fenton. “Human kindness pervades the things that are done in attempting to help him in the prison…. With understanding help in an atmosphere of kindness this purpose can best be accomplished.”[xiii]

Perhaps most importantly, McGee established a series of vocational training and educational programs to the largely illiterate population of convicts, and by 1953 these programs were being offered in seven of the state’s facilities.[xiv] “Education, and especially vocational education, is one of the foremost positive factors in preparing men and women for return to society,” wrote McGee. He went on to state that approximately 6,000 inmates were registered in one or more courses, and that during the previous five years, enrolment in job training classes had increased more than five-fold.[xv]

It was against this backdrop of reformation and rehabilitation that Caryl Chessman would challenge his own conviction, the reality of the state’s ongoing abnegation of prisoners’ rights, and the death sentence writ large, upon entering the public sphere in 1954 with the publication of his first book, Cell 2455, Death Row.[xvi] Throughout the thirteen years he spent on death row, he would publish three additional books, his execution would be stayed eight times, and he would build the largest public profile of any inmate since Eugene Debs. When he returned to San Quentin following his death sentence, Chessman began to spend hours on end in Spector’s library, studying literature, history, philosophy, and law. “He immediately set about educating himself in the law and writing legal writs, stretching the legal resources of the library and the patience of the prison administration,” writes former prison activist Eric Cummins.[xvii] “By degrees, the prison’s prohibition against law books was stretched to accommodate Chessman.” In addition to preparing to represent himself in postconviction hearings, Chessman became known for assisting his fellow convicts with their own cases, beginning a small lending library of his own on the row, and writing a how-to textbook on criminal law.[xviii] In 1952, Chessman, representing himself, won his first stay of execution.[xix]

The publication of his first book, Cell 2455 began to radically alter the relationship between inmates and prison administrators. Spector – who was known for his enthusiastic faith in the rehabilitative capacity of reading had writing, but who “did not bother to attempt the reform of those about to die”[xx] – had initially opposed the book’s publication. When it found its way to the desk of McGee, however, the director promptly approved its release.[xxi] The book receieved glowing reviews by critics, and by July of that year, Cell 2455 was a best-seller. The book allowed Chessman to begin earning a substantial personal income: Columbia Pictures gave him a $6,500 advance for the rights to turn the book into a motion picture, and the royalties he earned from its sales allowed him to set up a $20,000 trust fund, and hire a team of professional attorneys.[xxii] One of the correctional officers at San Quentin even resigned in protest of his execution.

The CDC’s practice of intellectually enfranchising its inmates had clearly put it in an awkward situation. In response to Chessman’s growing notoriety, San Quentin officials ordered that manuscripts written by anyone on Death Row would be immediately confiscated and not sent to publishers until after their execution. They enforced this edict aggressively, conducting thorough shakedowns of the cells on Death Row. (One of these searches uncovered a manuscript of Chessman’s third book, which resulted in his being sent to solitary confinement. A few days later, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus from Chessman was delivered to Marin County Superior Court. It had been scrawled on a piece of toilet paper, and presumably snuck out by one of the guards.[xxiii])

Though norms in the prison system during Chessman’s time were tending towards an ideal of rehabilitation, the doctrine of inmate invisibility remained on the books of the California Penal Code. Two articles in that document assisted the administration in its claim that anything produced by a convict was property of the state: article 673, which stipulated that “a sentence of imprisonment in a state prison… suspends all the civil rights of the person so sentenced, and forfeits all public offices and all private trusts, authority, or power during such imprisonment”; and article 674, which stated, “A person sentenced to imprisonment in the state prison for life is thereafter deemed civilly dead.”[1][xxiv]  Citing these edicts, the CDC claimed that anything produced by these wards of the state automatically fell under the control of the state.

Perhaps the most important dimension of Chessman’s public persona, politically, was his championing of the very rehabilitative discourse that the CDC had claimed to pioneer. “I think that I am now worth more to society alive than dead,” he wrote in Cell 2455.

The long years lived in this crucible called Death Row have carried me beyond bitterness, beyond hate, beyond savage animal violence. Death Row has compelled me to study as I have never studied before, to accept disciplines I never would have accepted otherwise and to gain a penetrating insight into worthwhile contributions toward ultimate solution to that problem. This book is a beginning contribution; I would like to believe that it also signals

the beginning for me of a journey back from outer darkness.[xxv]

The following two manuscripts that Chessman would write, to complete his autobiographical trilogy, would be clandestinely snuck out of San Quentin before being shipped to his publisher in New York. In the case of his third book, The Face of Justice, Chessman had to layer the paper he typed on with onion skin, so that it could only be read by holding the sheet up to the light. His publisher stated that “it is clear that probably no manuscript in the history of authorship has been written under more excruciating conditions.”[xxvi]

By that point, in 1957, the effort to spare Chessman’s life from the gas chamber had ballooned into an international movement. Chessman’s character – an all-American outlaw whose prose described at length his own “burgalaries, armed robberies, shooting matches with the police, and high-speed getaways”, as well as  his desire at age 19 to travel to Germany and assassinate Hitler[xxvii] – had tremendous popular appeal at the time, both in the U.S. and globally. (His works were translated into eighteen languages.[xxviii])  Throughout the years of his incarceration, he would garner the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury, Albert Schweitzer, Marlon Brando, Shirley MacLaine, Brigitte Bardot, and the Queen Mother of Belgium[xxix]. At one point, when Chessman was only ten hours from his planned execution, Governor Pat Brown received a call from President Eisenhower, asking him to stay the execution because he planned on travelling to Uruguay the following month, where the government was concerned that riots would occur there if Chessman were executed due to his tremendous popular support there.[xxx] A petition for clemency from Sao Paolo with two million signatures on it was hand-delivered to the governor’s office, which was already inundated with letters opposing Chessman’s execution.[xxxi]

The movement was powerless to halt the edicts of the state’s judicial machinery, however, and in April of 1960, Chessman lost his final appeal at the California Supreme Court. A debate on the death penalty in the California state legislature had ended in a default to the status quo,[xxxii] and Governor Brown, despite his opposition to capital punishment, was powerless to act.[xxxiii] The night before his execution, Chessman dictated a final statement expressing hope that the legal precedents set by his case – which had at times made its way up to the Supreme Court – would help convicts in future. “The intense controversy over the sort of person I was an am had led… people to inquire about what sort of a person comes to Death Row and why. I certainly hope this experience I have gone through never has to be suffered by anyone else in the history of this country.”[xxxiv] A large vigil of activists stood outside the gates of San Quentin as he was sent to the gas chamber on the night of May 2.

In many ways, Chessman’s story encapsulates the paradoxes the California Department of Corrections (CDC) would face under the reigning penology of rehabilitation. “That the Chessman controversy originated in California is no coincidence,” writes Theodore Hamm, “for this is the state where the modern rehabilitative ideal was most actively implemented and contested.”[xxxv] The state’s decision to ultimately execute him, however, marked a major turning point in the prison movement Chessman had himself initiated. “To many, Chessman’s death definitively exposed the sham of prison rehabilitation. He had done everything treatment experts asked for and more. And still they would not let him go, or even acknowledge his transformation,” writes Cummins.

It was Caryl Chessman who first broke up the control mechanisms of writing and reading at San Quentin. And it was he who first turned the attention of Bay Area political activists toward the prison. Chessman had taught the world much. To his prison keepers, his example had shown how much trouble educating inmates could cause them; prison administrations after him would initially make it much harder for inmates to read and write. But to the inmates

Chessman had given a precious gift.[xxxvi]

The first group to capitalize on that gift would be the Black Muslims. The Californian prison movement would play out in a radically different way in the subsequent years, under the leadership of the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers, and the Chicano movement, among others, whose mandates were overtly radical and revolutionary; the mainstream media’s approach to these groups would be far more ambiguous. With regards to his public image, Chessman had the advantage of being white, and moreover was not seen as a political radical: he simply fought for an end to the death penalty and the legal recognition of prisoners’ civil rights. Hamm points out that the death penalty continued to be applied to black people convicted of rape throughout the 1950s, with hardly any public backlash whatsoever.[xxxvii]

The prison movement took on increasingly revolutionary, ethno-nationalist dimensions throughout the sixties. The Nation of Islam was largely a prison-born movement, but one that viewed prisons simply as a cog in the pervasive machinery of racial oppression in America. Its leader Elijah Mohammed had spent much of World War II in prison for resisting the draft, and Malcolm X had discovered the movement during his term in the Massachusetts State Prison. To Mohammed, the black prisoner “symbolized white society’s crime of keeping black men oppressed and deprived and ignorant.”[xxxviii] By 1960, the Nation of Islam was estimated to have between 65,000 and 100,000 members nationwide, a sizeable portion of which was in prisons.[xxxix] In 1962, officials at Lorton prison, Virginia, attempted to crack down on Muslim proselytizing, sparking one of the first major prison race riots of the era of the civil rights movement.[xl] Though much of their rhetoric was militant in nature, the Black Muslims by and large were not as openly adversarial as the black separatist movement they spawned would become towards the end of the decade. This is primarily because they adhered to the Muslim doctrine holding that “members should abide by the rules of the community in which they resided, whether it be the prison or the larger community.”[xli] The importance of the Muslims for the limited purposes of this essay, however, is that they played a key role in driving the movement towards militant ethno-nationalism. In his 1979 book Opening the Gates: The rise of the Prisoners movement, Ronald Berkman states,

The Muslims introduced a collective and disciplined form of organization, a form without historical precedent in prison politics. With collective organization came the notion of collective oppression, which tended to blunt the individual pathology model. Collective oppression was defined wholly in racial terms, but, nonetheless, provided a model for prisoners to understand more deeply the society that had incarcerated them. … Finally, the Muslims presented the successful struggle of African nations as a testament to the possibility of black independence from white oppression. Blacks could now locate themselves as

part of an international struggle against white oppression. [xlii]

Eldridge Cleaver, the spiritual leader of the Muslims at San Quentin following the shooting death of Booker T. Johnson by one of the prison guards, was among the prison activists to bring the perspective of collective oppression to the new movement for black liberation during the Nation of Islam’s gradual decline after the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X.[xliii] One of the founding members of the Panthers, and the author of the radical essays compiled in Soul on Ice, Cleaver was instrumental in bringing the group’s presence to San Quentin, where George Jackson would spend the final months of his life. Cleaver was especially instrumental in pressing for inmates’ control over the curricula of prison study groups.[xliv] As time passed, control over the political education of inmates had been wrested almost entirely from prison administrators; the accounts of inmates in Soledad, Folsom, and San Quentin in the late-60s are far more likely to discuss study sessions organized by their own activist clubs, as opposed to the administrative programs of the 50s. Wrote Huey Newton not long after his long-awaited release from prison:

The formation of a chapter of the Black Panther Party inside San Quentin, of a Chicano prisoners’ organization, also at San Quentin, of prisoners’ unions at the Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo and Folsom Prison in California, attest to the politicalization of thousands of prisoners. Indeed, during all of the rebellions across the country, the prisoners have indicated that their oppression is not simply a matter of overcrowded prisons, filthy conditions and guard brutality: but that it is centered in the institutionalized racism and class discrimination of the judicial system itself. Behind their concrete

demands for relief there is a radical political consciousness.[2] [xlv]

It bears noting that black Californians were among the newest and most dispossessed demographics in the country, and that they had been targeted by the legal system virtually upon arrival. The black community in Los Angeles and the Bay Area had grown significantly in the 1940s, as wartime labour on the West Coast flourished. Prior to World War II, black people constituted only 2 percent of the Californian population. By 1944, the black communities in San Francisco and LA had grown to 65,000 and 200,000 respectively[xlvi] – close to 10 percent of each city. The dynamics of this migration led to the establishment of predominantly black neighbourhoods where hardly any had existed beforehand. In the Los Angeles of 1930, only 25.6 percent of black people lived in a predominantly black neighbourhood; by 1970 that number had grown to 73.9 percent. The corresponding statistic for San Francisco was 1.7 percent in 1930 and 56.1 percent in 1970.[xlvii] Blacks were disproportionately targeted by the justice system following the Great Migration, accounting for 19.9 percent of Californian inmates in 1951, when they represented only 4.4 percent of the general population; and 35.4 percent in 1980, when they represented only 7.5 percent of the state’s populace.[xlviii]

It was this system of racial discrimination that the new movement sought to destroy. The effect of this discourse of collective oppression was in many ways to alienate the white mainstream whilst galvanizing a small portion of blacks and radical whites across the country. (The Weather Underground, for instance, had bombed three state buildings by August 1970, including the CDC headquarters.[xlix]) The prison movement was alive and well, but its focus was no longer the prison so much as the state’s treatment of the black community. Growing manifestations of black anger and frustration, like the 1965 Watts Riots, elicited further state oppression of black activism. Between May 1967 and November 1969, for instance, over 1,000 Panthers were arrested, and 19 killed, including some of their political leaders like Fred Hampton.[l] “Anyone who seeks to overthrow oppressive institutions,” wrote Angela Davis[3] from her own prison cell in the Marin County Jail in 1971, “whether or not he has engaged in an overt illegal act, is a priori a criminal who must be buried away in one of America’s dungeons.”[li]

The movement to save the life of George Jackson saw him in exactly that light: a political prisoner who had been sentenced to death because of his political activity. Like Chessman, Jackson had grown up outside of California (he was originally from Chicago); committed a number of petty crimes during his youth; was thrown into prison as a teen for an armed robbery; escaped; was recaptured; locked behind bars indefinitely; and began writing. In January 1970, a fight between black and white inmates broke out in the yard of Soledad. One of the prison guards shot into the fray, killing three of the black prisoners.[lii] Three days later, just after it was announced over the prison radio broadcast that a jury had ruled the killings “justifiable homicides”,[liii] another guard was found, having been beaten and thrown off a three-storey balcony to his death. Prison administrators immediately singled out John Clutchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and George Jackson as responsible for the murder.[liv] Though all three of them had already caught administrators’ eyes due to their political activity, the stakes were particularly high for Jackson, who was serving an indeterminate sentence. This meant that he was subject to section 4500 of the California Penal Code, which mandates the death penalty for any inmate serving a life sentence who is convicted of murdering a non-inmate.[lv] “The death of the guard,” wrote Davis, “was seized upon as a convenient opportunity to kill them because of the enormous contributions they had made in heightening and intensifying political consciousness in California’s prisons.”[lvi] Jackson suddenly came to the public’s attention: a symbol both of black victimhood and revolutionary empowerment. A campaign to pressure the courts into an acquittal was hastily organized by the Panthers, who also encouraged him to finally join their organization officially. (Jackson had previously been the leader of the Black Guerrilla Family, a Marxist-Leninist prison gang that shared much in common with the Panthers ideologically, but was unaffiliated.[lvii])

Like Davis, Jackson criticized America’s prison system not topically, but within the broader context of an oppressive fascist state. In his letters, he wrote paeans to Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, and “Uncle Ho”; he called for public figures like J. Edgar Hoover and Ronald Reagan to be “dealt with” by means of violent arms; he called for the destruction of capitalism.[lviii] His revolutionary rhetoric (and connections to the Panthers) located him precisely in the radical black left – something the mainstream press was intrigued by, but would not valorize as they had with Chessman. Jackson’s face never appeared on the cover of Time magazine. In his letters, Jackson appears more desperate than desperado. Where Chessman played the cavalier gun-slinging Hollywood bandit, Jackson was the brooding revolutionary. Another aspect of his literary persona, however, was his emotional tenderness, his honesty and frustration, and his frequent reflections throughout Soledad Brother[4] that he thinks he’ll get out “soon”. Writing in June 1970, just before the publication of the book, Jackson reflected on his entrance into the prison system:

I confessed but when the time came for sentencing, they tossed me into the penitentiary with one to life. That was in 1960. I was eighteen years old. I’ve been here ever since. I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels, and Mao when I entered the prison and they redeemed me. … I met black guerrillas. … We attempted to transform the black criminal mentality into a black revolutionary mentality. As a result, each of us has been subjected to years of the most

vicious reactionary violence by the state.[lix]

Jackson died when he attempted to take control of a section of the Adjustment Center (a higher-security ward of the prison) using a pistol that had been smuggled into San Quentin in August 1971. His attorney, Fay Stender, had previously expressed her worry that he had only a very slim chance of winning the trial and escaping the gas chamber.[lx] Drumgo and Clutchette were both acquitted.[lxi]

Six years on, the CDC had found the beginnings of a solution to its chronic problems of having inmates and penitentiaries appear on the front page of the newspaper. The Determinate Sentencing Law of 1977 – one of the first mandatory-minimum legislations in the country – was an attempt on the state’s part to address right-wing concerns that indeterminate sentencing had been too soft, and liberal concerns that too much discretion had been left in the hands of the Adult Authority[5].[lxii] The result was a legislation that saw a subsequent explosion in the state’s prison population[lxiii]; judges convicted more felons and gave them longer sentences[6]. Significantly, the word “rehabilitation” was replaced with the word “punishment” in the state’s penal code. This in a state that only two decades before had been seen as the paragon of the “rehabilitative ideal”. In 1977, 19,600 Californians were in prison[lxiv]; today that figure is 167,000[lxv] Roughly half of them are illiterate.[lxvi]

By the time of Jackson’s uprising, Duffy had retired from his position as warden at San Quentin, and was replaced by Louis S. Nelson, who had worked as the associate warden of custody for several years beforehand. (He had also personally stormed the Adjustment Center with a machine gun during Jackson’s attempted takeover.[lxvii]) “If the prisons of California become known as ‘schools of violent revolution,’” said Nelson at one point during his tenure as warden, “the Adult Authority would be remiss in their duty not to keep inmates longer.”[lxviii] In fact this is exactly what the state’s response to the growing unrest in the CDC system would be. The public profiles of its inmates, moreover, had spun wildly out of control. Chessman, Jackson, Davis, Newton, Cleaver, several others had built relationships with the media that led the CDC to significantly roll back the pedagogical and rehabilitative reforms it had made in the 1950s.

References

Anonymous, “After Chessman Reprieve.” Life Magazine, February 29, 1960, 31.

Berkman ,Ronald. Opening the Gates: The Rise of the Prisoners’ Movement. 1 ed. Lexington: Lexington Books, 1979.

Cummins, Eric. The Rise and Fall of California’s Radical Prison Movement. 1 ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994.

Davis et al., Angela Y If They Come in the Morning. 1 ed. Angela Y. Davis. New York: The Third Press, 1971.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline & Punish: the Birth of the Prison. 2 ed. New York: Random House, 1995.

Glaser,Daniel . Preparing convicts law-abiding lives: The Pioneering Penology of Richard A. McGee. 1 ed. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Hamm,Theodore. Rebel and a Cause: Caryl Chessman and the Politics of the death penalty in postwar California. 1 ed. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001.

Jackson, George. Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson. 1 ed. Gregory Armstrong. New York: Bantam Books, 1970.

MacCormick, Austin. “Review: Cell 2455 – Death Row by Caryl Chessman.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 297, no. (1955): 144.

Massey, Douglas S. and Nancy A. Denton. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1993.

Oleson, J.C.. “The celebrity of infamy: A review essay of five autobiographies by three criminal geniuses.” Crime, Law & Social Change 40, no. (2003): 391–408.

Quinn, Michelle. “California Begins Its Prison Inmate Reduction Plan.” March 24,

2010.http://bayarea.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/24/sampler-california-begins-its-prison-inmate-reduction-plan-and-lone-pot-club-in-walnut-creek-closes/ (accessed May 4, 2010).

Schlosser, Eric. “The Prison-Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic (1998): 39-47.

Sterngold, James. “State prisons are crowded with inmates lacking a basic education — Their dismal job prospects mean they’re likely to land back behind bars.” December 27, 2006.http://articles.sfgate.com/2006-12-27/news/17325943_1_education-illiteracy-vocational-classes (accessed April 11, 2010).

Sullivan, Larry E. The Prison Reform Movement: Forlorn Hope. 1 ed. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

Notes


[1] These laws were repealed in 1968, when an inmate bill of rights was signed into law by Governor Reagan. (Schlosser)

[2] Newton here is alluding, in part, to the strike at Folsom Prison that took place on November 3, 1970, and involved 2,100 of the prison’s 2,400 inmates. (Davis 54) Among the demands listed in the Folsom Prisoners Manifesto and Anti-Oppression Platform was the right to “subscribe to political papers, books, or any other educational and current media chronicles that are forwarded through the United States Mail.” The conclusion to the text also stated, “The program which we are committed to under the ridiculous title of rehabilitation is likened to the ancient stupidity of pouring water on the drowning man, in as much as our program administrators respond to our hostilities with their own.” (Davis 59, 63)

[3] On August 6, 1970, Jackson’s younger brother Jonathan entered the Marin County Courthouse with a number of firearms. He attempted to kidnap the judge, prosecutor, three jurors, as well as set free three of the convicts in the room. Police shot at his van as Jonathan tried to escape from the courthouse, killing him, the judge and two of the convicts. Davis was arrested and imprisoned after it was discovered that the firearms were registered in her name. (Cummins 179)

[4] While the CDC did not make any attempts to stifle the publication of Jackson’s book as they had done with Chessman, this would have been nearly impossible, as it was entirely comprised of letters he had already sent out of the prison. All of these letters did, however, pass through the prison censors. According to Jackson’s editor, Gregory Armstrong, “much of it was completely destroyed or mutilated.” (ft. Jackson 52) Additionally, CDC inmates were not permitted access to the book after its publication. (Cummins 137)

[5] The parole board of the CDC, which was notorious among inmates for its severity and its racism.

[6] In more recent years, the California three-strikes law has also contributed significantly to lengthier sentences and a larger inmate population.


[i] Glaser 1995, 21

[ii] Foucault 1995, 200

[iii] Sullivan 1990, 61

[iv] Cummins 1994, 34

[v] Glaser 1995, 7

[vi] Glaser 1995, 7; Cummins 1994, 10

[vii] Glaser 1995, 37

[viii] Ibid. 183

[ix] Cummins 1994, 10

[x] Ibid. 17

[xi] Glaser 1995, 31

[xii] Cummins 1994, 12

[xiii] Ibid. 14

[xiv] Glaser 1995, 53

[xv] Ibid. 53

[xvi] Cummins 1994, 38

[xvii] Ibid. 37

[xviii] Ibid 36

[xix] Ibid 37

[xx] Ibid. 15

[xxi] Ibid 38

[xxii] Ibid. 38-40

[xxiii] Ibid. 46

[xxiv] Ibid. 25

[xxv] Ibid. 40

[xxvi] Ibid. 48

[xxvii] MacCormick

[xxviii] Cummins 1994, 51

[xxix] Cummins 1994, 58; Oleson 397

[xxx] Cummins 1994, 56; Life magazine 1960, 31

[xxxi] Oleson 397

[xxxii] Life magazine 1960, 31

[xxxiii] Cummins 1994, 50–57

[xxxiv] Ibid. 56

[xxxv] Hamm 2001, 14

[xxxvi] Cummins 1994, 61

[xxxvii] Hamm 2001, 42

[xxxviii] Berkman 1979, 51

[xxxix] Cummins 1994, 65

[xl] Sullivan 1990, 87

[xli] Berkman 1979, 53

[xlii] Ibid. 55

[xliii] Ibid 43

[xliv] Cummins 1994, 78

[xlv] Davis et al. 1971, 54

[xlvi] Cummins 1994, 65

[xlvii] Massey & Denton, 1993, Table 2.4

[xlviii] Cummins 1994, 65

[xlix] Ibid. 179

[l] Davis et al. 1971, 68

[li] Ibid. 23

[lii] Ibid. 120

[liii] Cummins 1994, 165

[liv] Davis et al. 1971, 120-130

[lv] Ibid. 123

[lvi] Ibid. 131

[lvii] Cummins 1994, 136

[lviii] Jackson 1970, 169 – 202

[lix] Ibid. 21

[lx] Cummins 1994, 210

[lxi] Ibid. 220

[lxii] Schlosser 1998

[lxiii] Schlosser 1998; Quinn 2010

[lxiv] Schlosser 1998

[lxv] Quinn 2010

[lxvi] Sterngold 2010

[lxvii] Cummins 1994, 211

[lxviii] Davis et al. 1971, 30

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