One cell block is popularly known to inmates as "Little Viet Nam." A particular outdoor passageway as "Death Alley." The latrines as "Okay Corral." Prisoners in other institutions call Quentin -- "THE ARENA." Every year dozens of men are involved in stabbing incidents... many resulting in death. There is no place to run from a threat or an enemy or from those whose tension, fear, and paranoia have become a way of life.There's an entirely different value system at San Quentin. The inmates feel that it's okay to kill someone under certain circumstances. Such as, if that person has killed a friend of yours, or a member of your gang, or if that person owes you a debt... you're supposed to retaliate by killing that person.
The exercise yard serves an important purpose. Lifting weights helps the men to work out their aggressions and pent-up hostility. Unfortunately, the convicts with "high violence potential" are allowed only one hour per week in the yard. In the visiting room couples talk, sitting at tables, but are allowed to embrace for a few minutes at the end of the visit. A guard is always nearby. Frustrated and restless, prisoners sometimes set mattresses on fire and then throw them off their tier.
There are two types of guards at Quentin. One mans the guard towers and entrances. The other is referred to as Special Security or "Goon squad." This swat like team is constantly searching for weapons which can be made of almost anything -- the wires from a bucket or bedspring... a steak bone... a light fixture, or even a window handle. Like cigarettes, Weapons are a prized commodity.
This view of the gas chamber is the first sight a condemned man sees when he enters from his final detention cell. An unknown convict laid out in the prison graveyard. While most dead inmates at least have their numbers placed on the gravestone, this unfortunate soul apparently had no records.
Click on boxcover above for THE ARENA FotoMovie two minute preview. This is a one of a kind collection of still photographs expertly married with dialogue by the inmates and guards. In their own words we experience the full spectrum of emotions these men face each day. Highlights include an exclusive and intimate revelation by Ulis Powell, the subject of the book "The Onion Field," and an unusually gruesome Gas Chamber story told by a guard. 15 minutes Color & B&W. DVD available for $25 plus postage & handling.
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