Prison is a Prison

Op-Ed: Here in San Quentin, I see why solitary confinement must end

By Paul Gootenberg

I am standing on the steps of the main guard tower at San Quentin State Prison in California. A large, bright yellow sign announces that I am to present my picture at the front desk. I do so and step back.

“There’s a camera waiting to take your picture,” an officer tells me and offers his hand to take a picture of his own arm with his own hand. I take the pictures, which I will later take to the warden and the state attorney general, and then I move away.

I am on the edge of being incarcerated for something I did not do. There is no trial, no jury, no evidence to prove my guilt. Yet, I was arrested, shackled and placed in solitary confinement for a crime whose only evidence is my word against that of six other prisoners. The warden, three of his employees and one of his aides have all made up their minds I am innocent.

When you are arrested, you are not asked if you have ever done anything wrong. It is as if you can only be guilty of something wrong by being arrested yourself. I do not need to be innocent to be guilty, and it’s a fact that I am innocent. Yet, I was arrested.

This is the problem. This is the point of the story.

I am not afraid. I am not angry. I am not sad. I am not resigned. I am not resigned to prison. Instead, I am filled with rage. This is why I am in prison. It’s not a matter of if I will get convicted. It’s a matter of when.

There is much to say about the prison guards, the prison officers, the warden and his aides, the prison officials and the state attorney general. They all owe

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