VANGUARD INCARCERATED PRESS: Father’s Day Weekend on Death Row – San Quentin’s East Block Condemned Unit without Running Water Since Early Saturday Morning

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By Richard Valdez

(Editor’s note: the water was back on finally on Wednesday)

The East Block Condemned Unit at San Quentin lost all functioning water usage inside the building at around 6 AM. It was announced over the unit’s public address system that “this is throughout the entire institution due to work being done on the local water tower.” However, this announcement turned out to be a false assessment of what was taking place, as is usually the case when trying to get a straight answer regarding something here in San Quentin. Although, from what little information has made its way to the condemned population through differing sources, the disruption of water in the prison did affect some staff office bungalows, and possibly one other unit. But the complete loss of water usage mainly affected the Condemned East Block Unit by itself, save for the water still being functioning on the condemneds’ exercise yards.

The response to this occurrence, because of it being a weekend when this took place, was slow. It appears that it could also be due to there being no actionable emergency plan in place for such an event, being that it affects the condemned population and that the condemned are often dehumanized anyway in their treatment. Either way one views it or sees it: this caught San Quentin off guard. And it has now left the condemned with no functioning water in their unit working on its third day.

Being that the toilets don’t function without water and that the condemned are confined to their cells for most of the day save for when they are allowed yard, they have been forced now to eat their meals in a confined space that reeks of human waste. They have been provided some water through porters and staff filling up coolers with water, then bringing it down the tiers for limited distribution, due to the volume of inmates in need. But this only occurred because inmates had to keep asking for it and were starting to get agitated by the lack of answers and action. On Sunday, inroads were beginning to be made in seeing that the population received limited showers. Some were allowed to go one at a time to the empty exercise yards and wash up via “bird bath”, while later, others were sent over to Carson Section or the Adjustment Center, to take a five-minute shower. But this too wasn’t without its own difficulties, due to staff having to strip out each inmate prior to their leaving the unit or their cell. Staff are also now taking inmates over to these units to use the restroom facilities, for those who ask, as a measure to not further increase or add to the stench of human waste that is permeating the unit’s air.

Suffice it to say, the condemned population are now living under conditions that are in direct conflict with the 8th Amendment’s protections against Cruel and Unusual conditions of confinement. More needs to be done. It is now day three of this, and, still, there is no functioning water in the unit.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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