As of Fiscal Year 2006/2007, the prison had 1,718 staff and an annual budget of $210 million.

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The prison has been featured on film, video, and television; is the subject of many books; has hosted concerts; and has housed many notorious inmates.

It is bordered by San Francisco Bay to the south and west and by Interstate 580 to the north and east, near the northern terminus of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

As of October 30, 2013 the prison had a design capacity of 3,082 but a total institution population of 4,223, for an occupancy rate of 137 percent.

It has Level I ("Open dormitories without a secure perimeter") housing; Level II ("Open dormitories with secure perimeter fences and armed coverage") housing; a Reception Center (RC) which "provides short term housing to process, classify and evaluate incoming inmates"; and a Condemned unit.

San Quentin State Prison (SQ) is a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation state prison for men, located north of San Francisco in the unincorporated town of San Quentin in Marin County.

Opened in July 1852, it is the oldest prison in California.

The state's only death row for male inmates, the largest in the United States, is located at the prison.

It has a gas chamber, but since 1996, executions at the prison have been carried out by lethal injection.

A converted shower bay in the East Block hosts religious services.