West Block is one of the largest housing units in California’s San Quentin State Prison, and it’s still not big enough. Prisoners are bunked wherever there is room. Walking the wide passageway along the ground-floor cellblock, I can see a hundred double-decker, rusty-spring beds. An inmate in an orange jumpsuit sits on the edge of his bunk smoking a cigarette; another lies stretched out reading a tattered paperback; a third stares into...
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Dennis Burke is the author of Doing Time: Finding Hope at San Quentin, to be published by Paulist Press. This article was adapted from that book. He is also the author of the novel Clerical Affairs (Xlibris).