At San Quentin, Reflections on Personal Space

Nov. 14, 2013 / By

by Pendarvis Harshaw

SAN QUENTIN — As I walk down the hill, beyond the blind curve, “the yard” reveals itself. I walk past groups of men congregated around tables. There are more inmates over on the running track, and about another dozen on the basketball courts. Men play catch on a baseball field in the distance, and three men surround a punching bag in the foreground.

“CDCR” (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) is written in yellow letters on the back of prisoner’s jean jackets. “Tennis Shoes Only – No Boots Allowed” is written on a sign near the tennis courts. The words “Lower Yard Shack” label a small building, smack in the center of the yard, and another sign reads, “No Toilet Paper Allowed On Lower Yard.” I wonder to myself why, without breaking stride.

There is racial division in the yard, with African American men near the basketball courts, and the majority of white inmates near or on the track and on the baseball field. Latino inmates are between the tennis courts and the punching bag. There are also a few Asian inmates, who sit amongst themselves. With so many people on the yard, I wonder: how many are in the cells?

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