san quentin state prison

San Quentin State Prison - In 2008, overcrowding in California prisons was so severe that inmates were housed in three-level bunks in every available space, excluding the chapel. This image is of a gymnasium, where inmates spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no privacy. Toilets and showers were installed in plain view, (upper right corner) and temperatures soared in summer months due to a lack of ventilation. After several major lawsuits, California was found to be in violation of constitutional law regarding cruel and unusual punishment because of overcrowding, and was forced to make changes in its sentencing and parole practices. In 2016, San Quentin was at 137% capacity. As of June 2017, it is at 129% capacity, placing it in the middle range for California prisons that are overpopulated.


Blood and Coca-Cola: The Story of Richard Trenton Chase, The Vampire of Sacrimento

Richard Chase believed that his heart would stop sometimes, that the bones in his skull shifted, that if he held two oranges against his head his brain would absorb the vitamin C.

He also claimed that someone stole his pulmonary artery. Chase believed that Nazis and extraterrestrials were poisoning him, causing the blood to dissolve from his veins.

Richard Chase believed that if he didn’t drink blood he would die.

Chase started out life with three characteristics said to be common among serial killers: he abused animals, was a bed wetter and liked to set fires. His father was described as violent and abusive.

During his adolescence, Chase abused alcohol and drugs. While Chase was attracted to women he found he was impotent and incapable of having an erection.

Chase was sent to counseling and was told his problem was suppressed anger.

After high school, Chase moved into an apartment with some friends but the arrangement didn’t last long. Chase was often drunk or high on LSD or weed. He also walked around the apartment naked even if his roommates had visitors.

When asked to leave, he refused. His roommates left instead, leaving Chase alone in the apartment.

Chase began to catch animals and eviscerate them. Sometimes he would eat their flesh raw.

Chase also concocted an interesting smoothie by putting their organs in a blender with Coca-Cola. He believed that drinking the Coca-Cola and animal organ mixture would prevent his heart from shrinking.

Chase was admitted to a mental institution in 1975. He became sick from injecting rabbit blood into his veins. His father had to take him to the emergency room and Chase was admitted to the mental institution from there.

Staff at the mental institution found Chase with his mouth covered in blood. He claimed he cut himself shaving. The staff found out that he was catching birds through the window of his room, drinking their blood and throwing their bodies out of the window. Chase earned the nickname “Dracula.”

Chase later said that he also fed his need for blood by injecting the blood of therapy dogs with syringes stolen from the doctors’ offices.

Chase was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, prescribed medication and released.

Back at home, Chases’ mother took him off his meds because she thought that they were turning her son into a “zombie.”

Chase’s ’ parents continued to support him and got him his own apartment. On his own, Chase’s thirst for blood resurfaced, shifting from zombie back to vampire.

He trapped, tortured, killed and ate dogs and cats. Chase made some phone calls to neighbors sometimes to let them know that he ate their pet.

Besides blood and guts, Chase was also obsessed with guns. He bought many handguns and practiced shooting on a regular basis.

Another obsession for Chase was the Hillside Strangler case that was current news at the time. Chase believed that the Hillside Strangler was also being poisoned by the Nazis and extraterrestrials.

Chase also had a disregard for personal hygiene. He became dirty and emaciated.

Chase went to his mother’s house with a dead cat. When she answered the door, he shoved the cat in her face. He then threw it down on the porch, tore it open with his bare hands and smeared the blood all over his face and hands. Chase’s mother didn’t report it.

Nevada state police found Chase near Pyramid Lake naked, screaming and covered in blood. The officers had seen Chase’s car, a Ford Ranchero, stuck in a sand drift.

Inside the car, they found a pile of clothes, two rifles and a bucket of blood with a liver inside. The liver was later determined to be a cow’s liver.

When asked where the blood came from, Chase claimed it leaked out of his body.

In December 1977, Richard Chase also started to go shooting - in residential neighborhoods. His first time out he shot into a random home of a Sacramento woman. No one was harmed and police found the slug.

But … Chase was just warming up. Two days later, on December 29, 1977, Chase would commit his first murder by drive-by shooting.

Ambrose Griffin, age 51, was shot and killed by Chase as he was bringing groceries into his house.

It was determined that the bullet came from a .22 caliber rifle. The bullet matched the one found in the Sacramento woman’s house.

Some interesting events occurred leading up to Chase’s second murder.

In January of 1978, Chase’s first recorded incident of the New Year was an assault on a neighbor. He asked her for a cigarette, then restrained her until she gave him a whole pack.

Chase continued prowling the quiet neighborhoods of Sacramento. On January 11, two weeks after the altercation with his neighbor, Chase attempted to break into a house. He later told police that he found the door locked. Chase interpreted a locked door as a sign that he wasn’t welcome and that an unlocked door was a sign that he was welcome.

He found an unlocked home to enter. Chase stole some of their valuables, urinated in a draw of baby clothes and defecated on a bed. The couple returned home from grocery shopping to see Chase coming from the back of the house. The husband tried to stop him but Chase got away.

Chase entered the home of Teresa and David Wallin on January 23, 1978. Wallin, age 22 and three months pregnant, was taking out the trash when she met Richard Chase at the door. Chase shot her three times, then dragged Wallin into the bedroom. Chase stabbed her multiple times with a butcher knife as he had sex with her corpse. Wallin was found by her husband in the bedroom with her pants around her ankles, legs spread and sweater pulled up over her breasts. Her left nipple was cut off and her intestines were pulled out of her abdomen. An empty yogurt container was found near the body with some blood at the bottom of it. Dog feces was shoved down her throat.

Chase committed his last murders on Jan. 27. Evelyn Miroth, age 38, had been babysitting her 20-month-old nephew David Ferrara. A friend, Danny Meredith, age 51, was also visiting and Miroth’s son Jason, age 6, was also home.

The group was found dead by a concerned neighbor when Jason Miroth failed to show up for a play date with her daughter. Danny Meredith had been shot in the head with a .22 caliber handgun, Evelyn Miroth was found in her bedroom eviscerated like Teresa Wallin. Chase had sodomized her corpse. Her son Jason was found on the other side of the bed shot to death. David Ferrara was missing.

Chase left behind hand prints and a bloody shoe print.

Chase drank Miroth’s blood. He took David Ferrara into the bathroom, opening up his head and spilling pieces of brain into the tub. It may have been a knock at the door that caused Chase to run out of the house with the body. Chase took the baby’s body home with him and decapitated it. He then ate little David Ferrara’s organs.

Police were closing in on Chase. Eyewitnesses provided a description and the FBI had developed a profile.

Chase recognized and approached an old classmate, Nancy Holden, at a local shopping center. Holden didn’t recognize the filthy disheveled stranger until he asked, “Were you on the motorcycle when Kurt was killed?” Holden had dated a boy named Kurt who was killed in a motorcycle accident. She asked Chase who he was and was shocked when he replied, “Rick Chase.”

The person standing in front of her bore no resemblance to the Rick Chase she knew from high school. Holden spoke to Chase briefly looking for a way to get away from him. She described him as behaving agitated and nervous. Chase followed Holden into the store parking lot but she managed to jump in her car and drive away.

Holden had read about the crimes in the newspaper. She recognized Chase from the description of a dirty, disheveled, tall, skinny man in an orange parka who had been seen in the neighborhoods where the crimes were committed. Chase fit the description right down to the orange parka he had been wearing when he approached her in the store. Holden reported Chase to the police.

When detectives looked into Chase’s background, they found that a .22 caliber semiautomatic handgun had been registered to a Richard Chase, his history of mental illness, a concealed weapons charge, some minor drug busts and his arrest in Nevada. Detectives found out his address and went to the apartment complex on Watt Avenue, apartment number 15.

When Chase didn’t answer the door, detectives pretended to leave but waited for Chase outside. Chase came out of the building holding a large box and detectives closed in. Chase put up a struggle but they managed to arrest him. They noted dark stains on Chase’s orange parka and that his shoes were bloody. Dan Meredith’s wallet was also found in Chase’s back pocket along with a pair of latex gloves. The box contained, bloody rags and paper.

At the station, Chase wouldn’t talk about the murders He would only admit to killing several dogs. Police went to Chase’s apartment to search it.

Detectives were horrified at what they found. The apartment had a horrible smell and there was blood everywhere. There were dishes in the kitchen with body parts in them, one with human brain tissue in it. There was also a calendar with the word “today” scrawled over the dates of the Wallin and Miroth murders as well as 44 more dates.

The body of David Ferrara was found on March 24. Chase had left the child’s remains in a box beside a church where it was found by a janitor. David had suffered multiple stab wounds and a gun shot to the head.

Chase pled guilty by reason of insanity. But, believe it or not, was judged sane by the jury. He was sentenced to death and sent to San Quentin State Penitentiary.

FBI profiler Robert Ressler interviewed Richard Chase in prison. Chase told Ressler that he drank blood to sustain his life and that Nazis and extraterrestrials were poisoning him through his soap dish. Chase explained that if the soap is wet and gooey underneath, that this indicates the presence of the poison but if the dish underneath is dry there is no poison. It’s the poison that turns blood into powder, he said. The powder then depletes your energy and starts to eat away at your body. Chase took a handful of macaroni and cheese out of his pocket and told Ressler to have it analyzed for poison.

Richard Chase committed suicide. He died on December 26, 1980, having overdosed on his psychiatric meds which he had been storing up.

Odd Prisoner Lawsuits

-Lawrence Bittaker claimed he had been subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment” because he received a broken cookie on his lunch tray and his sandwich was soggy.

-Richard Burton sued the state of California because his stomach hurt after eating chili.

-Kevin Howard sued the state of California, claiming the department of corrections planted a device in his brain to control his thoughts and then his thoughts were broadcasted on prison loudspeakers.

-While on death row at San Quentin State Prison, Rodney Alcala sued the state claiming his civil rights were violated because his packages were sent via UPS instead of USPS.

-Joseph Gonzalez sued the state of New York after receiving a bad haircut at Sing Sing Prison. He claims he lost sleep and suffered headaches and chest pains after being given a “defective haircut.”

-Kenneth Parker was upset when he ordered two jars of chunky peanut butter at the Nevada State Prison canteen - and received one chunky and one creamy. He sued for “mental and emotional pain”, asking for $5,500 and the imprisonment of a prison official. (The case went on for two years before finally being dismissed).

-Frederick Woods and two accomplices kidnapped a bus driver and 26 school children and buried them underground. ABC aired a made for TV movie based on the case and Woods viewed it and was very offended. He sued the network, saying the show portrayed him as being, “callous, vicious, hardened and uncaring”.

-Scott Gomez tried to escape from the Pueblo County Jail in Colorado. He made a candle and melted the tiles on the ceiling of his cell and made it to the jail’s roof. When he climbed on the roof and tried to scale the wall, he fell down 40 ft. Gomez sued, saying the jail was responsible for his injuries because they “failed to provide ceiling tiles that could not be removed by melting them with a homemade candle” and “ignored his propensity to escape”, as he had done so on two different occasions.

-Robert Paul Rice sued Utah State Prison for violating his freedom of religion. Rice claimed his religion was “the Vampire Order” and he needed to have his religious needs met, including but not limited to a vampire diet–grains and vegetables, and a “vampress”, so she could join in the “vampiric sacrament”.

-James Higgason sued the state of Indiana, stating that prison officials violated his constitutional rights when they denied him access to pornography, “causing him pain, suffering, humiliation, mental anguish, emotional distress and financial loss.”

-While incarcerated at a Virginia prison, Robert Lee Brock sued himself. He claimed his civil rights as well as his religious beliefs were violated when he allowed himself to get drunk. He demanded $5 million from himself, but didn’t earn any wages in prison so he felt the state should pay on his behalf.


Folsom State Prison is located in the city of Folsom, California. It is located about 20 miles from Sacramento, and is the second oldest prison in the state of California, (after San Quentin). The prison was opened in 1880 and was the first prison in the US to have electricity. Folsom was also one of the first maximum security prisons in the US. As of 2012, Folsom’s inmate population was 2,912, which makes it at about 118% capacity.

Folsom Prison is most famous for hosting Johnny Cash during his recording of “Folsom Prison Blues” which he performed for inmates in January, 1968. Johnny Cash had struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and depression and his career was suffering, and he was looking to turn things around with this performance. Cash performed two shows, consisting of seventeen songs, which went on to become one of the most iconic live albums recorded in American history. “Folsom Prison Blues” dealt with themes of loss, drug abuse, murder, imprisonment, false imprisonment, and death row. The album later went on to be certified as triple-platinum and is a staple in modern American musical and pop culture. Cash went on to describe the inmate audience as being “Electric.” They responded to him, they were enthusiastic, and he was welcomed.