Letters to the Editor: Why did California cling to its inhumane prison policies for so long?

Inmates walk around the exercise yard at San Quentin State Prison on April 12, 2022.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

To the editor: I was in law school in the late 1970s when the California Penal Code was amended to declare that the sole purpose of imprisonment is punishment — broadly, and I suggest not very thoughtfully, abandoning any thought of rehabilitation. (“California to transform infamous San Quentin prison with Scandinavian ideas, rehab focus,” column, March 16)

Why has it taken nearly 50 years for someone to figure out that abandoning all hope of rehabilitating incarcerated people is equivalent to dumping those human beings in the trash? Where has the “pro-life” outrage been on that?

Where is the hard-headed realization that money spent wisely on rehabilitating prisoners who are suited to it is money well spent, compared to the costs associated with recidivism?


Jack Quirk, Porter Ranch


To the editor: Anita Chabria’s column from the “Little Scandinavia” unit of a Pennsylvania prison convinces me more than ever that introducing love-starved dogs and cats into love-starved prisoner populations is a brilliant idea.

Animals from our overrun shelters should be placed into the welcoming arms of adult and juvenile inmates who would obviously benefit from these relationships on many levels.

Should they be awarded to those who demonstrate high achievement and personal prison progress? Or should they be assigned based on the potential improvement in an individual’s emotional state?

That needs to be decided by animal shelter personnel as well as the behavioral staff from each participating institution.

Linda Finn, Marina del Rey



To the editor: This is an excellent idea that’s been around for decades but never implemented here. I hope it is used to help prisoners as intended, and not dumped in a year or two.

Hire social workers or counselors to work alongside retrained guards. Really study how the Scandinavian prisons accomplish what they do.

The next piece is making sure there is employment available when inmates are released. Give these people a break.

Suzanne Brugman, La Habra Heights