The above photo from the LA Times depicts the aftermath of race riots at a prison unit in Chino, CA:
It was the kind of explosive violence threatened throughout the state's 33 prisons, which are packed with nearly twice as many inmates as they were built to hold. The destruction wreaked here has served to intensify pressures throughout the penal system as at least 1,100 Chino inmates have been moved to other prisons.California and Texas run the two largest prison systems among states, but thanks (in retrospect) largely to the legacy of federal judicial intervention in the 1970s and '80s, we've done a better job with many of the problems that give California the most trouble - particularly overcrowding and racial integration.
A case in point arises from the Chino riots, apparently sparked because the state threatened to breach longstanding racial segregation among prisoners. In Texas, by contrast, that practice ended nearly three decades ago, as aptly noted by Diane Jennings in the Dallas News Crime Blog. Quoting UT-Dallas criminologist James Marquart, the author of a forthcoming book on the topic titled, "First Available Cell," she writes:
Though the Texas system experienced a few confrontations when integration began, Texas did it right, Marquart says, by having enough space to house gang members and troublemakers in single cells. The rest of the population is screened by their tolerance level and their size--height and weight--to prevent serious injury if problems do erupt.
The desegregation process actually began in the mid 1960s, Marquart says, when then prison director George Beto saw the changes taking place in the outside world. First prison farms, which had been run separately for black, white and Hispanic inmates, were integrated, then prison units, then cell blocks and eventually individual cells.
Marquart, who worked as a correctional officer before entering academia, witnesed the process while researching the subject and says Texas should be proud of how it was handled. "They did a great job," he says. "I have maximum pride in how it went." But the process took a long time, he says, and he expects it to take equally long in California.
"California is today where TDC was in 1980," Marquart says. "It's going to take decades to get it done."