Thanks Doc Berman for the h/t on this story from CNN:
In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents and producers share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events. CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Stan Wilson visited San Quentin for "CNN Presents: Black in America" which airs July 23 and 24, at 9 p.m. ET.
SAN QUENTIN, California (CNN) -- San Quentin Prison sits like a fortress along the bay just north of San Francisco. It is bordered by some of the most expensive residential real estate in the country. But at the edge of this scenic peninsula, 5,400 inmates are locked up.
San Quentin has California's only death chamber, with 656 inmates waiting to be executed.
On death row, each prisoner is confined to a cell just large enough for a bed and toilet.
Walking along these multitiered cells, where each inmate is closely monitored or escorted in shackles, reminded me of all the pain and grief endured by relatives and friends of victims like Laci Peterson, Polly Klaas or Christine Orciuch, a mother of three who was shot to death by gang member Marcus Adams in front of her 10-year-old son during a bank robbery in Santa Barbara.
Less than a few hundred yards from death row, the climate is vastly different.
We found makeshift classroom bungalows and an exercise yard where inmate Larry Faison was performing the tunes of Miles Davis with his vintage trumpet. This environment looked and felt more like a community college setting.
This is where low- and midlevel convicts are able to get out once a day. There is a tennis court, a punching bag, a baseball stadium donated by the San Francisco Giants, a library and visiting instructors from prestigious universities.
Lt. Sam Robinson, a 27-year veteran of San Quentin, gave a tour of 27 vocational programs run by about 3,000 volunteers as part of the Prison University Project, a nonprofit education program that offers many black men an opportunity to earn an associate of arts degree. It helps give those eligible for parole the intellectual tools to compete in a vastly changing job market. Inmate: It took coming to prison to see someone in school »