For me, a trip to Folsom Prison to interview Warden Rick Hill was one of the most intense afternoons in recent memory. The pre-process involved a list of what I could and could not wear, a description of everything I was bringing with me, sharing my social security number, license, DOB, and what type of car I would be driving. I was searched and my belongings were gone through then put into a locker. I was escorted by a guard to Warden Hill's office. After the podcast interview (attached below) I looked out the warden's window onto a yard full of inmates and said something like, "Wow. That's quite a view." Warden Hill asked, "Would you like to go down there?"
So we went out into the Folsom Prison yard. No fences, just Warden Hill, Public Information Officer Lieutenant Ernie Valencia, and me. My heart was pounding - it was surreal. Inmates everywhere, many of them respectfully greeting Warden Hill and some politely acknowledging me. What followed was a private, detailed tour of the prison - cells, classrooms, mess halls, the chapel, and the former death row, where unbeknownst to me I was standing where convicted men stood to be hanged - 93 in all.
Folsom Prison opened in 1880 . It's the 2nd oldest prison in California after San Quentin. It was the first prison in the U.S. to have electricity. License plates are still made there, and yes, Johnny Cash played there in 1968.
Listen as Warden Hill explains why he got into corrections, his relationships with inmates, his thoughts on restorative justice - when offenders and victims meet - and what it's like for inmates when they leave Folsom Prison.