Getting into Prison: Reporting from California's most restricted cellblocks

Over the past five years, KALW’s Nancy Mullane has had unprecedented access to California’s prisons and the inmates living inside them. While she was reporting on criminal justice issues, Mullane noticed there were entire cellblocks and areas within the state’s prisons where no press were allowed to go.

Last October, Mullane interviewed Scott Kernan, then Undersecretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (full disclosure: Scott Kernan is Crosscurrents host Holly Kernan’s cousin) and confronted him about her concern.

Kernan offered to try to arrange for Mullane to have access to some of the most restricted areas in the state prison system. Over the next five months, Mullane followed up on Undersecretary Kernan’s promise and produced these stories in this series, Getting into Prison: Reporting from California's most restricted cellblocks. 


Mon April 29, 2013
Cops & Courts

Walking death row at San Quentin State Prison

East Block of San Quentin State Prison, where death row inmates are housed
Nancy Mullane

San Quentin State Prison has four massive cell blocks, each identified by their cardinal direction: north, south, east, and west. Of the four, only one houses inmates sentenced to death. None of the cell blocks have been visited by a reporter since 2007.

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Tue April 23, 2013
Cops & Courts

Telling the stories of California’s prisons

CDCR's Terry Thornton & KALW's Nancy Mullane

KALW's Nancy Mullane spent the last year touring the most secure prisons in California, including death row at San Quentin, the Protective Housing Unit at Corcoran, and Pelican Bay State Prison. 

She sat down with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) deputy secretary Terry Thornton to discuss why these stories aren’t told more often.

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Mon April 22, 2013
Cops & Courts

Behind the walls of California's most restricted cells

SHU hallway to cell pod.
Nancy Mullane

This story was the first of a six-part series following Nancy Mullane in her efforts to increase media access to prisons. It first aired in October 2012. It begins seven hours north of San Francisco in Crescent City and Pelican Bay State Prison. That’s where more than 1,100 of the inmates considered the most dangerous and influential in the state are locked up in the state’s Security Housing Unit also known as the SHU.

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Mon November 5, 2012
Cops & Courts

San Quentin's North Segregation – the 'Penthouse' of death row

The elevator to San Quentin's North Segregation
Nancy Mullane

California has the largest death row population in the United States, with 727 men and women living in four condemned housing units. All 20 women sentenced to death are housed at the Central California Women’s Facility south of Fresno. All 707 men are housed in three separate death row units inside San Quentin State Prison, just north of San Francisco.

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Mon October 22, 2012
Cops & Courts

The Adjustment Center: Where no one wants to go

Outside San Quentin State Prison

In 1851, the government of the new state of California legalized executions. But it wasn’t until 1891 that the state legislature required all executions take place within the walls of one of the state’s prisons.

The state’s first legal execution by hanging took place March 3, 1893 at San Quentin State Prison. Sixty-year-old José Gabriel was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a farming couple near San Diego.

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