San Quentin Prison Remade Into a Scandinavian Rehab Center…As Part of Newsom’s Presidential Bid?
Based on the ongoing drumbeat in the regional as well as national media, California Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s run for the United States presidency is a foregone conclusion — which explains the litany of headline-grabbing, ultra-liberal — woke — policies he’s pushed in his first and now start of his second term at the Golden State helm.
Take the case of the state’s notorious San Quentin prison, which overlooks San Francisco Bay and has been home to the largest death row population in the U.S.
California’s oldest prison has housed high-profile criminals such as cult leader Charles Manson, a host of other convicted murderers and serial killers and was plagued by violent uprisings in the 1960s and 1970s.
Now, through an initiative announced by Newsom earlier this month — but apparently in the planning stages for many month before — San Quentin the prison will essentially be transformed into a Scandinavian-style rehabilitation center where less-dangerous prisoners receive education, training and rehabilitation services.
Going forward, the San Quentin Rehabilitation Center will ship out to other sites in the California penitentiary system inmates serving long-term prison sentences, including the 668 prisoners facing death sentences. About 100 of the death row inmates have already been moved, according to state prison officials.
“Today, we take the next step in our pursuit of true rehabilitation, justice, and safer communities through this evidenced-backed investment, creating a new model for safety and justice — the California Model — that will lead the nation,” Newsom said about the impending changes in a recent statement.
San Quentin’s conversion follows Newsom’s 2019 moratorium on executions and dismantling of the prison’s gas chamber, despite the fact Californians had voted in 2016 to uphold the death penalty and speed up executions. Newsom’s decision to do away with the death penalty, one of his first major acts as governor, was decried by constituents and a number of district attorneys, who accused the governor of ignoring the wishes of voters.
Although prisons officials indicate the facility will concentrate on “education, rehabilitation and breaking cycles of crime,” full details of the plan have not been released.,
Newsom’s office notes San Quentin’s new operational model is based on Norway’s approach to incarceration, which focuses on preparing inmates for their return to society. Oregon and North Dakota have already developed their state incarceration programs after the Scandinavian country’s approaches.
In maximum-security Norwegian prisons, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times, holding cells often look more like dorm rooms with furniture including chairs, desks and TVs and prisoners are allowed to use kitchen facilities and have access to activities like basketball. The Scandinavian nation has a low recidivism rate.
At the overhauled San Quentin, vocational training programs will presumably set inmates on the path to land good-paying jobs as plumbers, electricians or truck drivers after they’re released, Newsom told the Times.
A group made up public safety experts, crime victims and the formerly incarcerated will advise the state on the transformation. Newsom is allocating $20 million to launch the plan.
However, there’s been no public discussion so far on the cultural difference between Norway and America — which could represent significant differences in how inmates there and here respond to such programmatic approaches.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Norway had a murder rate in 2018 of 0.53 per 100,000 population, or, a total of 25 murders. The California secretary of state’s office reported 1,739 homicides across the state in 2018
California GOP Assemblymember Tom Lackey criticized Newsom’s criminal justice priorities, saying the governor and state Democratic lawmakers should spend more time supporting the victims of crime instead of focusing on the comfort of criminals
Said Lackey: “Communities win when we have rehabilitative efforts, but yet, how about victims? Have we rehabilitated them?”
On the other hand, Taina Vargas, executive director of Initiate Justice Action, an advocacy group based in Los Angeles, said she’s pleased the state is moving toward enhanced rehabilitation of inmates, but more drastic changes are needed to transform the criminal justice system that imprisons so many people.
Robert Weisberg, a law professor and co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, told political columnist George Skelton that Newson’s description of the new and improved San Quentin as a “positive, healing environment” sounds “a little too California.
“The irony is that prison reformers might gag at that. Because they don’t think of such a thing as a ‘healing environment’ in prisons. We don’t think it’s healing and are not even sure it’s rehabilitative. We think it mitigates the harm of prisons,” Weisberg continued.
“I think it’s possible there won’t be an execution in California for decades,” Weisberg added.
And if a majority of Californians have their way, there won’t be a presidential candidate named Newsom either.
According to a pair of polls released early this month, Newsom’s approval ratings are hovering between 40-55 percent, while 7 in 10 voters say he shouldn’t run for President.
A Quinnipiac University survey found Newsom holds a an overall 44 percent approval rating, with 43 percent disapproving and 13 percent not offering an opinion.
The poll also revealed 70 of the voters surveyed don’t want to see Newsom run for President in 2024. Only 22 percent were in favor of that scenario.
“A resounding thumbs down from the home team as California voters tell the Governor: if you have designs on the big job beyond Sacramento, we’re not on board,” Quinnipiac University Polling analyst Tim Malloy told the California Globe..
Another poll released by the University of California Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found slightly different numbers, with 55 percent of voters approving of Newsom’s job and 39 percent disapproving.
So, if Newsom is trying with his ultra-woke initiatives to rally support for a future run for the White House, is seems his efforts may need to go through some rehab.