Inside San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin State Prison

A tattoo of Adolph Hitler is seen on the arm of an inmate as he sits in his cell at San Quentin State Prison’s death row (Photos: Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images)

Photos of California’s inmates on death row

San Quentin State Prison is California’s oldest penitentiary, and is the state’s only death row facility for men. Opened in 1852, the prison is the largest in the United States and is located north of San Francisco, in the town of San Quentin, Marin County. Any man condemned to death in the California state must be held at San Quentin, with some exceptions, while women are held at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. Currently, San Quentin is housing over 700 condemned inmates.

Yet despite high numbers, those on death row are more likely to die from old age than be put to death. This is due to a ‘backlog’ of prisoners who have been given such a penalty, which occurred since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978. More than 900 people were sentenced to death in the last 38 years but only 13 executions were carried out. Los Angeles has not put any criminals to death for 10 years, and currently has more than 740 people awaiting execution on death row. During an interview with ABC News, one inmate Jamar Tucker, who is on death row for killing three men, highlighted the issues with the imprisonment system “Man, I’m wrong and this what I got coming to me. Give it to me. Don’t sit me, have me sitting on the shelf 20 and 30 years. You told me you’re were going to kill me. Kill me already.”

A condemned inmate stands in a cell in the yard outside of San Quentin State Prison's death row adjustment centreJustin Sullivan/ Getty Images

A condemned inmate stands in a cell in the yard outside of San Quentin State Prison’s death row adjustment centre

Inmates wait in line to buy items at the canteenJustin Sullivan/ Getty Images

Inmates wait in line to buy items at the canteen

San Quentin has housed many notorious inmates who were sentenced to the death penalty such as William Bonin, Edward Hickman and Caryl Chessman. Bonin was convicted of 14 murders, and the first person to be killed by lethal injection in 1996. Chessman was the last man executed in California for a sexual offence that did not also involve murder. However, on 8 November 2016 Californian’s will be able to vote to repeal or alter the death penalty ruling. If voters choose to repeal the penalty, it would be replaced the maximum punishment for murder with life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole. Voting to ‘alter’ would change the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences.

Getty Images photographer Justin Sullivan has documented life inside the walls of San Quentin and the inmates who have been sentenced:

A Mickey Mouse clock with the words 'happiest place on earth' written underneath it hangs on the wall inside San Quentin State Prison's death rowJustin Sullivan/ Getty Images

A Mickey Mouse clock with the words ‘happiest place on earth’ written underneath it hangs on the wall inside San Quentin State Prison’s death row

An armed California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officer escorts a condemned inamte at San Quentin State Prison's death rowJustin Sullivan/ Getty Images

An armed California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officer escorts a condemned inamte at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officer opens the gate for a condemned inmate who is leaving the exercise yard at San Quentin State Prison's death rowJustin Sullivan/ Getty Images

A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officer opens the gate for a condemned inmate who is leaving the exercise yard at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

A condemned inmate stands with handcuffs on as he preapres to be released from the exercise yard back to his cell at San Quentin State Prison's death row Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images

A condemned inmate stands with handcuffs on as he prepares to be released from the exercise yard back to his cell at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

An armed California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officer is seen reflected in the window of a cell at San Quentin State Prison's death row adjustment centreJustin Sullivan/ Getty Images

An armed California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officer is seen reflected in the window of a cell at San Quentin State Prison’s death row adjustment centre

Condemned inmates stand in an exercise yard at San Quentin State Prison's death row Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images

Condemned inmates stand in an exercise yard at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

A condemned inmate plays guitar in his cell at San Quentin State Prison's death rowJustin Sullivan/ Getty Images

A condemned inmate plays guitar in his cell at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

A note asking for 'TP' hangs from the door of a cell at San Quentin State Prison's death rowJustin Sullivan/ Getty Images

A note asking for ‘TP’ hangs from the door of a cell at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

A television reporter interviews a condemned inmate at San Quentin State Prison's death row Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images

A television reporter interviews a condemned inmate at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

Inmates at San Quentin State Prison return to their housing block Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images

Inmates at San Quentin State Prison return to their housing block

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officers stand guard at San Quentin State Prison's death rowJustin Sullivan/ Getty Images

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officers stand guard at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

San Quentin State Prison warden Ronald Davis looks on at San Quentin State Prison's death row

San Quentin State Prison warden Ronald Davis looks on at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

A chair sits in a cage at San Quentin State Prison's death row

A chair sits in a cage at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

An inmate stands with handcuffs on at San Quentin State Prison's death row

An inmate stands with handcuffs on at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

Condemned inmates are seen through black mesh as they stand in an exercise yard at San Quentin State Prison's death row

Condemned inmates are seen through black mesh as they stand in an exercise yard at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

Inmates wait in line

Inmates wait in line

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officers talk with a condemned inmate as he stands in a cell in the yard outside of San Quentin State Prison's death row adjustment centre

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officers talk with a condemned inmate as he stands in a cell in the yard outside of San Quentin State Prison’s death row adjustment centre

An inmate sits in his cell at San Quentin State Prison's death row

An inmate sits in his cell at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

An inmate sits in his cell at San Quentin State Prison's death row

An inmate sits in his cell at San Quentin State Prison’s death row

Alex Wheeler
International Business Times