More than 700 inmates on California’s death row in San Quentin will soon have the opportunity to transfer to eight other prisons in the state, where they could mingle with the general population and access rehabilitation and work programs.

The change is the unintended result of a 2016 ballot initiative that sought to speed executions, a plan that came to naught when Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom issued a death penalty moratorium soon after taking office, Despite the voters wanting the death penalty.

The pending transfer of death row inmates from notorious San Quentin has outraged victim’s rights advocates, with one former district attorney calling it a ‘slap to the face.’

Currently, 728 male inmates are housed on San Quentin’s (above) death row and another 22 women condemned to die are housed at the Central California Women’s Facility California has the largest death row in the country, with at least 750 condemned inmates, but has not carried out an execution since 2006.

Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 82 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 27 have committed suicide, only 13 have been executed.

Despite the state’s reluctance to execute condemned inmates, California voters have consistently supported the death penalty.

In 2016, California voters rejected Proposition 62, a measure to eliminate the death penalty, with 46.9 per cent voting to end executions and 53 per cent voting to keep it.

The same year, voters narrowly approved Proposition 66, a separate measure to speed up executions.

But in addition to speeding the rules for appeals and other measures to hasten executions, Proposition 66 also included a provision allowing condemned inmates to be housed at other prisons than San Quentin until their execution date is set.

‘One of the arguments made against the death penalty was it cost too much to house them at San Quentin, which is an antique facility. Our response was, well, they don’t need to be housed there,’ said Criminal Justice Legal Foundation legal director Kent Scheidegger, who helped write Proposition 66.

‘It was more to defuse one of the contrary arguments,’ he said, that to offer any perks to condemned inmates.

The witness gallery inside the lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in a file photoNow, the change introduced by Proposition 66 will be used to allow condemned inmates to move to prisons with rehabilitation and work programs — something Scheidegger says the authors never intended.

‘Unless they get pardoned, they’re not going to be seeing the outside of the prison walls anyway,’ he said.

Former San Bernardino District Attorney Mike Ramos, co-chairman of the committee that backed Proposition 66, expressed fury at Newsom’s plan.

Victims’ families ‘suffer every day,’ Ramos said. ‘Now to say that this murderer is going to be allowed to go to a rehabilitation program and be treated like any other low-grade inmate is a slap to the face.’

More than 700 condemned inmates on the nation’s largest death row will soon have a chance to voluntary transfer from San Quentin to one of eight other state prisonRamos also expressed worries about the security implications of allowing inmates facing execution into general prison populations.

Death row inmates are locked in solitary cells, and are handcuffed and escorted by at least two corrections officers whenever they are moved from their cell.

Security precautions in general population are typically much laxer.

‘These killers have nothing to lose!’ Ramos said in a tweet, saying that corrections officers ‘will face another danger.’

Crime Victims Alliance director Christine Ward accused Newsom of breaking what she said was his promise to crime victims after his moratorium to ‘take no further action regarding the status of condemned inmates.’

She said the move endangers prison employees, other inmates and the public because ‘condemned inmates have nothing to lose if they commit acts of violence.’

The Corrections Department hopes to start the program within 60 days, but can’t say when the first inmate will move or how many will participate, because it’s voluntary, a spokeswoman said.

America’s oldest prison: 166 years of incarcerations in San Quentin

The history of the infamous correctional facility goes back to the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, sparking the California Gold Rush.

The gold meant a great influx of new people to the region, among them some unsavoury characters who would eventually require incarceration.

Before a permanent facility was erected, convicts were housed aboard prison ships such as the 268-ton wooden vessel named The Waban, anchored in San Francisco Bay and outfitted to hold 30 inmates.

Due to overcrowding and frequent escapes, however, state officials decided to create a more permanent facility. For that purpose, they chose Point San Quentin.

Construction on what was to become the nation’s oldest prison began in 1852 using convicts and ended in 1854.

The first 60 inmates moved into the new facility on July 14 of that year.

Today, San Quentin occupies 275 acres of prime waterfront real estate overlooking the north side of San Francisco Bay, valued in a 2001 study at between $129million and $664million.

Until 1932, the prison housed both male and female inmates, but since then it has been male-only.



  1. No Dawg, it isn’t just about money. Control! The pols are drunk on the juice they get controlling peoples lives.

    1. Author

      Now that inmates are being allowed to vote there’s a lot of potential there

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