Home Sweet Home

Daniel Wozniak has been at San Quentin State Prison for over a month now and I know many of my readers have questions about how he’s settling in on death row.

For the first couple of weeks, Daniel was in the SHU. That’s the Special Handling Unit, where prisoners are sent when they have gotten into some type of behavior trouble in their regular housing unit. Apparently, San Quentin also uses the SHU as a holding unit for incoming prisoners.

When I read about that in Daniel’s first letter from DR (death row), I was concerned for his welfare. San Quentin seemed intimidating enough without being placed in the most dangerous “time-out” area in California.

It turned out this only meant Daniel would be unable to make phone calls or have visits until he’d been processed into one of the regular DR housing units.

I can imagine that taking away a prisoner’s phone and visiting privileges would be a genuine punishment, but I had imagined something scarier. Think Daryl on The Walking Dead being held prisoner by Negan and the Saviors.

The truth is, the living conditions at the Orange County Jail are a lot worse than even the SHU at San Quentin. I think that is the case with most prisons in California. They are all better living environments than county jails because they are designed for long term stays.

Daniel was in the OC Jail for six and a half years. That place was designed for people to stay months, not years. So for him, SQ is a big improvement. He’s been institutionalized for so long that within a week he was making a makeshift clothes drying line for his cell (using melted and re-shaped bar soap to stick homemade thread to a flat cement wall).

Jail MacGyver?

Living Conditions On Death Row

Daniel wrote me that the food in SQ is miles above and beyond the cuisine available at the Orange County Jail. It is higher quality and the portions are plentiful. The expression “three hots and a cot” is fairly accurate. He’s brought a hot breakfast and the fixings for his lunch in the morning. Then there is another hot meal served at dinner. So two “hots,” and a cold.

As far as the “cot” goes, Daniel is a lot happier with his bed now, too. It’s no Posturepedic, but compared to the “yoga mat” thin mattresses at the county jail, it’s an improvement.

For the first time in years, now that he’s in prison Daniel gets to enjoy the “great outdoors.” He got sunburned during the first week because he hadn’t been in the sun for so long. He also told me about still choosing to take his yard time one day, even though it was pouring rain. He thought he’d be the only prisoner willing to stand in the rain for hours (once they go out, they have to stay out the entire duration of yard time), but many inmates still chose getting soaked to being a cell.

I can’t say I blame them.

Daniel was moved to his assigned cell early in November and he was able to use the telephone again. He sounded the same as always. Chatty, funny, and filled with interesting stories. He’s pleased because he has access to both the extensive law library and the well-stocked regular library.

Today we talked about a “Critical Thinking” class he attended.  The topic of discussion was the Dunning-Kruger Effect  , which is basically when people think they are a lot smarter than they actually are.

He told me about working out in the yard while “Highway to the Danger Zone” and other 80s classics were played over a loud speaker. He played Chinese checkers with another inmate and a psychiatrist. Since arriving at San Quentin, he got a physical and visited the dentist. He’s also been to therapy.

Does all this mean that it’s a treat to be sentenced to death row in California? No. Of course not. But Daniel Wozniak was already institutionalized long before he arrived on DR.

There is no way I would trade my life for Daniel’s. Sure, I don’t like traffic on the freeway. I’m not a fan of waiting in line at the grocery store. Paying bills is no treat, and my email box is always filled with junk.

But if facing the day to day minutiae is what makes it possible to be with my family and have control over my own life, I’ll choose that over being kept in a cage any day.

The meditation and focused breathing class he attended this afternoon sounded kind of cool,  though.

Daniel wishes he could go back in time and undo the horrible things he did. However, it isn’t because he feels sorry for himself in any way. So many people’s lives have been destroyed because of his selfishness and stupidity, and he does live with that guilt every day.

Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi don’t get to eat three meals a day. They don’t get a good night’s sleep. They don’t get to read books or listen to music. They can’t take classes or work out or play Chinese checkers. They’ll never feel the sun or rain again. Sam and Julie can’t send letters to their family and friends. They won’t get any phone calls or visits.

Sam Herr and Julie Kibuishi had their lives stolen from them, and the two of them were stolen from their loved ones.

California 2016 Death Penalty Propositions

On November 9, California voted on two death penalty related propositions:

Proposition 62 was to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. It lost with 54% of the vote.

Proposition 66 was to change procedures governing state court challenges to death sentences.

It won by 51% of the vote.

Daniel Wozniak’s life won’t be changed much with these election results…at least not for now. It does show that California isn’t quite ready to give up the option of capital punishment.

I don’t agree with the death penalty, but I understand why someone might feel that Daniel’s current living environment isn’t quite enough of a punishment for what he did.

8 thoughts on “Home Sweet Home”

  1. Hello – I wrote to Daniel using the address you provided. Now that he has not responded – I worry that I may have broached topics or asked questions that might interfere with any appeals that might be forthcoming. It’s OK if Daniel chooses not to answer my letter but I just didn’t want to intrude. Tell him that I am glad to hear that he is OK at San Quentin and that I wish him well. I won’t write again unless you send the address again.

    Have you any further information about Rachel’s trial? I’m still interested and I don’t trust her at all. She influenced Daniel in some way before or after the events.

    Let us know about any further court proceedings in Daniel’s case. It’s not over til it’s over. Best to you…..

    1. The mail is a little slow at San Quentin. He did get your letter (told me on the phone), and he appreciated that you wrote. He told me he was going to reply to you when he had the time.

      I can’t find any dates set for Rachel’s trial right now. That leaves me to believe it is scheduled for after the new year. The online court site only goes to December 27th.

      I know that the appeals process has already started in Daniel’s case. But I don’t have anything specific to report yet.

      Thank you for reading and writing your comment.

  2. Hey, you make it sound as if San Quentin is a summer resort. I’m sure that it’s anything but that. Let’s just keep in mind that even if San Quentin were a gilded cage, the mere fact that a person is incarcerated, without the possibility of deciding for himself when to wake up, when to go to sleep, when to eat, what to eat etc. etc. is surely punishment enough, even if the bed is more comfortable than in Orange County. Besides, a young healthy man like Daniel, must surely crave the presence of a female partner to “keep him warm”. How can he live without a bed-mate?! Have you discussed this topic with him? Or, to put it more crudely, has this subject ever arisen during your years of following Daniel’s life?

    1. Zvi, there is no chance I’d ever want to be in Daniel’s shoes. But for him, he thinks this current life is better than the six years he spent in County. Also, Daniel is just so positive and hopeful. He is a glass half full guy. To tell you the truth, he’s made me more appreciative of the little nice things in life.
      As far as missing female companionship, ummm great question. I’m going check in with him on that one before reply.

      It has come up (Giggity – couldn’t resist) The conversation that is.
      Thanks for commenting Zvi.

      1. He’s a deluded psychopath more like it. I wouldn’t want to be his friend let alone admit it. I’ve seen what he does to them.

        1. I’m intrigued. You have actually “seen what he does?” Do you know the people involved? Were you a witness to the crime? Did you testify in court? I don’t remember there being any actual eye witness called, but you say that you’ve seen it, so I must have missed your testimony.

  3. CA Prison conditions are better than OC jail conditions any day. Remember as a whole, the state of California is collectively very liberal where the county of Orange is more conservative. CJX is crappy and it always amazed me how someone in Daniel’s position could take 6 1/2 years in PC @CJX. However, I doubt Death Row is as soft as you or Daniel makes it sound. To have to live out the rest of your existence on Death Row has to be mentally challenging. I am sure Daniel or yourself romanticize about San Quentin a bit. Would Daniel really admit to you that things are shitty and his life is a shittier on Death Row? I am disappointed in Prop 62 and 66 results. For how liberal this state and where the death penalty is, I thought they had a chance to be YES and NO. However, the elections results, have to piss off a lot of Orange County Republican establishment with Trump, prop 57 and prop 64.

    1. Well, I can promise that I’m not romanticizing. I’m reporting what Daniel tells me. He suggested I point my readers toward the San Quentin Newsletter. I found an article about recent death row poetry slam:


      Yes, the election results were surprising. It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes will come about in San Quentin as a result.

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