Posted on March 11, 2005

Why Prisons Can’t Integrate

Joshua Englehart, Los Angeles Times, Mar. 11

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that California’s policy of segregating incoming inmates by race should be scrutinized closely because otherwise it could “undermine our unceasing efforts to eradicate racial prejudice from our criminal justice system.”

But I’m a white man who served 37 months at San Quentin (for the manufacture of methamphetamine) and eight months more (on a parole violation) at the Sierra Conservation Center in Jamestown, and I think that the court is well intentioned but misguided.

California prisons separate blacks, whites, Latinos and “others” because the truth is that mixing races and ethnic groups in cells would be extremely dangerous for inmates.


If a black inmate attacks a white inmate in prison, it is considered the responsibility of other white inmates to respond. This provides some measure of protection for those inmates who are not members of any gang but who do not wish to become prey for those who are. You and I may not like it, but that’s how it is.