More than 700 prisoners in California’s death row in San Quentin will soon have the opportunity to switch to eight other prisons in the state, where they can mingle with the general population and have access to rehabilitation and work programs.
The change is the unintended result of a 2016 voting round aimed at speeding up executions, a plan that failed when Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium on the death penalty shortly after taking office.
The upcoming transfer of prisoners from the death row of the notorious San Quentin has made the victim’s lawyers furious, with a former prosecutor calling it a “slap in the face.”
California has the largest death row in the country, with at least 750 convicted prisoners, but has not executed since 2006.
Governor-Democrat Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium on the death penalty in March 2019 and prisoners in death row can soon be transferred from San Quentin
728 male prisoners are currently housed in the San Quentin death row (above) and another 22 women sentenced to die are housed in the Central California Women’s Facility
Police officers stand behind the gates of the San Quentin prison in a file photo
Since 1978, when California restored the death penalty, 82 convicted prisoners have died of natural causes, 27 have committed suicide, only 13 have been executed.
Currently, 728 male prisoners are housed in the San Quentin death row and another 22 women sentenced to die are housed in the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
Despite the state’s reluctance to execute convicted prisoners, Californian voters have consistently supported the death penalty.
In 2016, California voters rejected Proposition 62, a measure to eliminate the death penalty, with 46.9 percent to end the executions and 53 percent to hold it.
In the same year, voters approved scary proposal 66, a separate measure to speed up executions.
But in addition to speeding up the rules of appeal and other measures to speed up executions, Proposition 66 also included a provision that can hold convicted prisoners in prisons other than San Quentin until their execution date is set.
The witness gallery in the deadly injection facility in San Quentin State Prison in a file photo
California has the largest death row in the country, with at least 750 convicted prisoners, but has not executed since 2006
“One of the arguments against the death penalty was that it took too much to accommodate them in San Quentin, an antique facility. Our response was, well, they don’t have to be housed there, “said Criminal Justice Legal Foundation legal director Kent Scheidegger, who helped write Proposition 66.
“It was more like defusing one of the opposing arguments,” he said, offering extras to convicted prisoners.
Now the change introduced by Proposition 66 will be used to allow convicted prisoners to go to prisons with rehabilitation and work programs – something Scheidegger says the authors never intended.
“Unless they get favored, they won’t see the outside walls of the prison,” he said.
Former San Bernardino district attorney Mike Ramos, co-chair of the committee who supported Proposition 66, expressed anger about Newsom’s plan.
The families of victims suffer every day, Ramos said. “Now say that this killer can go to a rehabilitation program and be treated like any other low grade prisoner is a slap in the face.”
A convicted prisoner is led from his Eastern bloc cell to the death row in the San Quentin State Prison. More than 700 convicted prisoners in the country’s largest death row will soon have the opportunity to voluntarily transfer from San Quentin to one of eight other prisons
Ramos also expressed concerns about the security implications of allowing prisoners to be executed in general prison populations.
Prisoners in the death cell are locked up in solitary cells and are handcuffed and accompanied by at least two correction officers when they are removed from their cells.
Security measures for the general population are usually much looser.
“These killers have nothing to lose!” Ramos said in a tweet and said correction officers “will be in another danger.”
Director Christine Ward, Crime Victims, accused Newsom of breaking what she said was his promise to crime victims after his moratorium to “not take further action regarding the status of convicted prisoners.”
She said the move endangers prison workers, other prisoners, and the public because “convicted prisoners have nothing to lose if they commit violence.”
The Corrections Department hopes to launch the program within 60 days, but cannot say when the first prisoner will move or how much will participate because it is voluntary, a spokeswoman said.
The oldest prison in America: 166 years in San Quentin
The history of the infamous correction facility goes back to the discovery of gold in Sutter’s Mill in 1848, which led to the California Gold Rush.
The gold meant a large influx of new people to the region, including some unsavory characters who eventually needed confinement.
Before a permanent facility was established, convicts were housed aboard prison ships such as the 268-tonne wooden ship called The Waban, anchored in San Francisco Bay and equipped for 30 prisoners.
View of the San Quentin State Prison looking southeast, Marin County, California, April 20, 1910
Prison guard on his horse near San Quentin State Prison, circa 1913
However, due to overcrowding and frequent escapes, government officials decided to create a more permanent facility. They chose Point San Quentin for this.
The construction of the oldest prison in the country began in 1852 with convicts and ended in 1854.
The first 60 prisoners moved to the new facility on July 14 of that year.
Today, San Quentin occupies 275 acres of waterfront property overlooking the north side of San Francisco Bay, valued in a 2001 study at between $ 129 million and $ 664 million.
Until 1932 the prison housed both male and female prisoners, but since then it is only for men.
A photo illustration from August 1, 1937 shows the newly installed gas chamber of San Quentin
Truman Capote interviews prisoners in San Quentin for a television special in 1973
This is an undated photo of the old death chamber of San Quention. The gas chamber was converted after 1996 for use in lethal injections
Over the course of its 160-year history, the prison has housed some of the country’s most notorious criminals, including the then stage coach robber Black Bart, serial killer Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan, who was sent to San Quentin death row for the murder of Robert F. Kennedy.
San Quentin is home to the California Men’s Death Cell and has an impressive gas chamber. However, since 1996 executions have only been carried out by lethal injection.
In March, after Newsom announced the death penalty, correction officers in San Quentin demonstrated the execution room used for lethal injection.
OUTSTANDING MEASURES ABOUT THE DEATH OF CALIFORNIA
California Gov Gavin Newsom sets a moratorium on executions in the state. Here are some notable prisoners from over 700 people in the country’s largest death row:
Rodney James Alcala
Prosecutors said Alcala, now 75, was chasing women as prey and taking earrings as trophies from some of his victims after their death. He was sentenced to death in 2010 for five murders in California between 1977 and 1979. In 2013, he was given another 25 years to live after being found guilty of two murders in New York. Researchers say that his true victims count that many will never be known.
Rodney James Alcala was sentenced to death in 2010 for five murders in California between 1977 and 1979
A former high school vice president, Brothers was convicted of murdering his wife, their three young children, and his mother in law. Prosecutors said he was trying to make an alibi by flying to Columbus, Ohio, on the pretext of visiting his brother. He then drove his rental car to Bakersfield, California, to carry out the murders and returned to Ohio. Now 57, he has been in the death row of San Quentin since 2007.
Vincent Brothers (above in 2003) was convicted of murdering his wife, their three young children, and his mother-in-law
Richard Allen Davis
Now 64, Davis has been in death row in the San Quentin State Prison since his conviction in 1996 in the kidnapping of 12-year-old Polly Klaas from Petaluma, California. The case helped gain support for the ‘three-strikes law’ in California for repeat offenders.
Richard Allen Davis (above in 1993) has been in death row in San Quentin State Prison since his conviction in 1996 in the abduction of 12-year-old Polly Klaas
Franklin, a serial killer nicknamed “Grim Sleeper,” was convicted in 2016 of killing nine women and a teenage girl in Los Angeles in the 1980s. He was linked to 14 murders during the trial, including four women to whom he had not been accused of murder. The police said that Franklin, now 66, may have had 25 victims.
Lonnie Franklin Jr. (above in 2016), a convicted serial killer known as the ‘Grim Sleeper’, was sentenced to death for 10 murders in Los Angeles that existed for decades
Ng was convicted along with an accomplice, Leonard Lake, of killing 11 people in a cabin in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the 1980s. Lake committed suicide in 1985. Ng’s persecution cost California about $ 20 million, then the most expensive process in the history of the state. Now 58, Ng is housed in San Quentin.
Charles Ng was convicted of killing 11 people in a cabin in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the 1980s
After missing his pregnant wife on Christmas Eve 2002, the police pursued nearly 10,000 tips and watched conditional release and convicted sex offenders as potential suspects. Scott Peterson was eventually arrested and convicted for the first-degree murder of Laci Peterson and the second-degree murder of their unborn son, Conner, in Modesto, California. Now 46, he is housed in San Quentin.
Scott Peterson (above in 2005) was sentenced to death for murdering his pregnant wife, Laci
Her husband’s death was initially indefinite, which meant that Angelina Rodriguez was not eligible for a benefit on his life insurance policy. After insisting on more tests, it was determined that Frank Rodriguez died of antifreeze poisoning. Angelina Rodriguez was arrested for his murder and convicted in 2004. She was also accused – but never convicted – of killing her daughter in 1993.
Angelina Rodriguez was convicted of murdering her husband in 2004
Reporting by The Associated Press