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San Quentin’s death row will be replaced with a ‘positive, healing environment.

San Quentin’s death row will be replaced with a ‘positive, healing environment.

San Quentin's death row to be replaced by 'positive, healing environment'

Gov. Newsom plans to close San Quentin’s death cell and move the condemned to other prisons. He previously placed a moratorium upon executions. (Photo by Melina Matra/The Washington Post via Getty Images). (Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who placed a moratorium three years ago on executions, is now moving to dismantle America’s largest death row by moving all of the condemned inmates to other prisons in two years.

The goal is to transform the San Quentin State Prison section into a “positive, healing atmosphere.”

Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman for the corrections department, told The Associated Press that they are beginning the process of closing death row. She explained that this will allow them to repurpose and transform existing housing units into something new and anchored in rehabilitation.

According to the, California, which was the last state to execute in 2006, is one among 28 states that have death rows. Death Penalty Information Center.California is merging its condemned prisoners into the general prison population. While Illinois and other states have abolished executions in some cases, there is no expectation that any California inmates will face execution in the near future.

Oregon also transferred its less vulnerable population to other inmate accommodation two years ago.

Newsom, a Democrat, imposed a moratorium on executions in 2019 and shut down the state’s execution chamber at San Quentin, north of San Francisco. His administration is now turning its back on a 2016 voter-approved initiative to speed up executions. It capitalized on one provision that allowed death row inmates to be moved to another.

Corrections officials started a voluntary two-year pilot program in January 2020 that as of Friday had moved 116 of the state’s 673 condemned male inmates to one of seven other prisons that have maximum security facilities and are surrounded by lethal electrified fences.

Waters stated that they would submit permanent proposed regulations within weeks. These regulations would make transfers mandatory and allow for the “repurposing” of all death row housing units.

The Measure on the ballot approved six years ago also required condemned inmates to participate in prison jobs, with 70% of the money going for restitution to their victims, and corrections officials said that’s their goal with the transfers. The pilot program had already collected over $49,000 in restitution as of the end last year.

Newsom’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 seeks $1.5 millionTo find new uses for vacant condemned housing.

It also notes that death row and its support activities are located in the same area of facilities used for rehabilitation programs for medium security San Quentin inmates. The money would be used by a consultant to “develop options to (the) space that focus on creating a positive, healing atmosphere to increase rehabilitative, education, and health care opportunities.”

San Quentin’s never-used $853,000 execution chamber is in a separate area of the prison, and there are no plans to “repurpose” that area, Waters said.

California voters voted for the death penalty in 2012/2016, though legislative opponents say they plan to present the issue to voters again in the coming years. In November, the Committee on Revision of the Penal Code was the latest advisory panel to Newsom and lawmakers to recommend the repeal of the death sentence. “beyond repair.”

Under the state’s transfer program, condemned inmates moved to other prisons can be housed in Solitary or disciplinary confinementOfficials can decide that they cannot be safely housed together with others. However, they are expected to be interspersed among other inmates. Inmates on death row are housed one to a cell, but the transferred inmates can be housed with others if it’s deemed safe.

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Waters stated that there have been no safety concerns and that no major disciplinary issues occurred.

Condemned inmates on death row are treated the same way as inmates who are serving life sentences without parole when it comes to rehabilitation activities and jobs. According to prison officials this includes maintenance and administrative tasks.

Officials stated that the officials count the condemned inmates more often and supervise them during activities.

Current rules allow condemned inmates to be transferred, unless they are in restricted housing because of disciplinary reasons, have pending criminal charges, or have been convicted of certain disciplinary offenses within the last five years.

According to the department, they are also “carefully screened” to ensure that they can safely participate. That includes things like each inmate’s security level, medical, psychiatric and other needs, their behavior, safety concerns and notoriety.

Female condemned inmates are housed at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. They can transfer to less restrictive housing within one prison. Eighteen of the 21 have done this.

The men can be moved to California Correctional Institution or California Medical Facility; California State Prison Corcoran, California State Prison, Corcoran, Centinela State Prison and Kern Valley State Prison; Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility or Salinas Valley State Prison.

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