Jeanne Woodford is the former warden of San Quentin State Prison, director and undersecretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and executive director of Death Penalty Focus. She is currently a senior fellow at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice. Before participating in a Zócalo Public Square panel on why so many Americans and Californians are in prison, she talked about her favorite prison break movie, her guilty pleasure, and what crime she would legalize if she had to choose in the Zócalo green room.
What’s your favorite plant or flower?
Probably sunflowers, but I like irises too, so that’s hard.
What dessert do you find impossible to refuse?
Ice cream. Especially gelato. And chocolate chip mint. I cannot resist it all. [Laughs.]
What year, past or future, would you time travel to if you could?
Probably 1978—that’s when I started working with the Department of Corrections.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Probably wine. Merlot.
What’s your favorite prison break movie?
The Shawshank Redemption. Isn’t that everybody’s favorite? In fact, I just got a T-shirt from the prison where it was filmed. On the back it says, “Get busy living or get busy dying,” the saying from the movie.
How are you different from who you were 10 years ago?
I’m much more thoughtful. I try to think of the bigger picture more than I did 10 years ago.
What’s your hidden talent?
I wish! I’m still trying to find them.
If you could legalize one crime, which would you choose?
What’s hanging on your living room walls?
Lots. A metal tree that’s over the piano—it’s done in sheet metal. And a painting of a tree. And then on one wall are graduation pictures of my five kids. Another corner is a family corner, with at least one picture of each of my children and my grandchildren. And there’s a star hanging up above the door. And the first ballot after apartheid is framed and hanging up on one wall.
Where do you get your news?
Most of it I get from MSNBC, CNN. I stopped reading the newspaper like six months ago; I just needed a break. Before that I would read the Contra Costa Times and my local paper, the Benicia Times-Herald.