Friday, April 08, 2005

San Quentin

Sean, your mention of San Quentin reminds me of my visit to the prison a year ago. One of my law school professors (for a class called “Mental Health and the Law”) took us on a tour of the place.

When I set off it was a nice day and I was wearing shorts. Upon arrival at San Quentin however, I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed into the prison wearing short trousers because it would cause the prisoners to whistle and “make sexy comments.” A guard found a white painter's suit for me to wear for the tour.

When we were led to the room where prisoners are executed the warden told us the story of the building of the gas chamber. When California decided to build the chamber at San Quentin there was an inmate at the prison with experience in welding. Rather than hire some contractor they got this guy to do it on the cheap. When the prisoner’s sentence was served he went back to San Francisco and . . . he murdered someone. He was convicted, sentenced to death, and ultimately gassed in his own chamber.

I’m pretty sure that as the little iron room filled with gas he wished he hadn’t done such high quality work. I’ll bet that at that moment he believed he had been given the worst job in the world.

By the way, painter’s suit or not, I could tell that every convict in San Quentin wished I was his prom date.

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