Death Penalty

729 of CA’s Death Row Inmates Will Soon Eligible for Transfer to Other Prisons With Rehabilitative Programs

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

When Prop. 66, the ballot initiative designed to overhaul the state’s death penalty system, was passed by California voters in November 2016, one of the lesser-known elements of the measure necessitates that many of the 700 plus men on the state’s death row who had traditionally been housed at San Quentin, must be rehoused at certain other prisons throughout in the state.

(This applies to only condemned men. California women who are on death row are housed at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, and are not eligible to be rehoused under Prop. 66, because Chowchilla is the most secure of the state’s women’s prisons.)

Part of the purpose of this rehousing was the concept that, if the condemned men were moved to other appropriately secure prisons, which have more extensive programming than San Quentin’s death row, the men would be required to work, and at least 70 percent of their earnings would be passed along to the families of their victims.

The rehousing will also potentially save money for the state.

Back when the measure was being written, one of its best-known authors, Kent Scheidegger, who is also the director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a right-wing think tank that rigorously opposes most criminal justice reform, was reportedly enthusiastic about the relocation idea, because he felt it would defeat one argument coming from anti-death penalty activists about the high price of continuing to send more and more people to San Quentin’s aging and expensive-to-run death row.

“Our response was, well, they don’t need to be housed there,” Scheidegger told the AP. “It was more to defuse one of the contrary arguments.”

Now the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has confirmed that they are going to begin enforcing the rehousing part of the law in around 60 days.

“Historically, state law mandated that male prisoners on condemned status be housed at San Quentin State Prison and women condemned inmates be housed at Central California Women’s Facility,” the CDCR explained in an online statement. “Proposition 66, a ballot measure passed by California voters in 2016, allows prison officials to transfer condemned inmates to any state prison that provides the necessary level of security.”

First of all, the inmate must request the transfer. But for those condemned inmates who are approved as suitable for the move, in addition to being able to work, most reportedly will also be able to engage in whatever rehabilitative programs that their new prison home offers, as long as security concerns can be accommodated.

(The only prisons that are eligible to rehouse the men who now live on death row are surrounded by lethal electrified fences. Chowchilla is the state’s only women’s prison that is similarly fenced, which is why none of the women of death row are permitted to be similarly relocated.)


For and against

Justice advocates, while against the death penalty, are generally for the new program.

Interestingly, however, conservative pro-death penalty advocates are not at all happy with the soon-to-begin transfers of death row men to more rehabilitative environs.

Michael D. Rushford, who, like Scheidegger, is with the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, wrote Thursday on the think tank’s blog, Crime & Consequences, that the upcoming moves will make life more dangerous for “corrections officers and other inmates.”

Former San Bernardino District Attorney Mike Ramos, co-chairman of the Proposition 66 committee that worked to get the measure passed, which means he presumably read the text of the ballot proposition, told the AP that the planned moves were a “slap in the face for victims.”

Similar critical messages exploded on Twitter when the news broke.

After ordering the dismantling of the state’s newly built $853,000 execution chamber Gov. @GavinNewsom wants to transfer death row inmates into rehabilitation and work programs,” tweeted the CA Senate GOP Caucus on Friday, nevermind that it was the authors of the ballot measure, not the Governor, who precipitated the rehousing plan, which is now codified in law and thus requires the CDCR to follow through.

(Newsom did, of course, sign an indefinite moratorium on executions in California on March 13 of last year which he said will remain in force until he leaves office.)


The actual program

According to CDCR Press Secretary, Dana Simas, what they are calling the Condemned Inmate Transfer Pilot Program (CITPP), will first be done — as the name suggests — as a pilot endeavor, and the screening for the new initiative will be careful and rigorous.

“A designated classification committee will review’ the volunteer inmates’ case factors to determine their security, medical, psychiatric and program needs and consequently, their appropriate housing,” Simas said.

Among the case factors that will be taken into account are the inmate’s medical and mental health needs, their past behavior in prison, along with other issues such as “special housing needs, safety concerns, location to court proceedings, and notoriety.”

And, yes, there will be a variety of rehabilitative programs on offer to those who wind-up in the pilot.

What those programs might be will depend upon the prison. For instance, said Simas, the CITPP men will only be sent to certain Level 4 and Level 3 facilities. (Level 4 is the highest security category. Level 3 is the next highest.)

“Level 3 facilities have more programs than Level 4, she said.

Simas also said that the CDCR is mindful of the impact that this new program may have on some victims, but she added that the department’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services “is dedicated to giving crime victims and their families a voice,” on this and other issues.


PostScript  

When discussing the death penalty, pro and con, it seems relevant to mention that, since 1978, the year in which California’s voters reinstated the death penalty, five people on the state’s death row have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a national non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment.


Top photo of the dismantlement of the state’s death chamber is via Governor Gavin Newsom’s Facebook.

17 Comments

  • OH MY GOD! FIVE people exonerated in 42 years! Strangely, I couldn’t find ONE case of an innocent person being executed in the COUNTRY. Lot’s of doubt in some cases (usually fomented by attorneys), but no confirmed innocent people.

    Really Celeste? You think someone like THIS deserves to live? Deserves rehabilitation? Jessica (9 yrs) was raped repeatedly, then buried alive clutching her stuffed dolphin, by a convicted sex offender. She poked two holes through the garbage bag to try to breath:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Jessica_Lunsford

    Or Charles Ng who had a torture chamber where he raped and dismembered his victims (including two babies). Rehabilitate-able?

    I could go on and on.

    I’ve never thought execution was a deterrent to future monsters. Monsters will be monsters. It IS, however, UNDENIABLY, an EXCELLENT deterrent for the monster being put down.

    I don’t hunt and I hate killing things (I even take bugs outside rather than kill them), but I’d have NO problem putting these monsters down.

    • “I’ve never thought execution was a deterrent …”

      It’s not; it’s a punishment, and that is the light in which it should be seen.

      The death benefit to the family of a soldier killed on the battlefield is, I think, somewhere around $100,000; we should give a similar benefit to the family of a wrongly executed person rather than enact laws/policies that will exempt egregious murderers from rightful punishment.

    • We have no sympathy for those who actually committed the truly heinous crimes. It is also heinous when innocent people are executed. R.I.P. Todd Willingham and Carlos DeLuna and an unknown number of other innocent people killed by their state.

  • Sadly, the inmates now run California and have for some time. No news here. In actuality we do not have Capital Punishment in California thanks to fecal stained shoes of Newsom(Nancy’s nephew.) A totally bad person doesn’t think they did anything wrong and this is totally wrong! The so-called exonerations are not connected to the discussion. Had the exonerated person been executed then exonerated(that has not happened in California history) then an argument could be made that the system made a huge error.
    Crimes are no longer crimes so we don’t know if crime is up or down. What never seems to get reported correctly is the number of criminals that get released and commit crimes again. Not in the current socialist strategy. The fix is in and it’s Fake News! I will throw out a thread of life to Celeste, with a question. If we are not going to execute the most violent and dangerous of our society then what are we going to do with them? The people elgible will be the likes of; The Menendez boys who murdered their parents and let’s not forget the future mayor of SF, the Night-stalker Richard Ramirez!

  • Screw the will of the people who not only voted to keep the death penalty, but also to speed the process. One man, Newsom, who is so far left that even outgoing Gov. Moonbeam warned us about, interjects his singular opinion to overrule us. Wow.

    Somebody, for God’s sake, please explain this dystopian democrat mindset that kills innocent, unborn babies, yet bends over backwards to save convicted murderers.

    • Sure.

      There are 744 inmates on California’s death row.

      The National Academy of Sciences, in a 2014 report, found that four percent of people executed were innocent; this report can be Googled.

      744X.04=30.

      Newsom just doesn’t want to execute 30 innocent people.

  • LASD Apostle, surely you jest my friend. You bitch about 5 uniformed porcine even being investigated for anything, but you have no issue with 5 innocent people sitting on death row? Unbelievable. Five is five too many. And, that is California. Let us go to redneck country, like Texas and Florida and the numbers climb. I do not no the numbers, but I am sure one you Google University graduates with chime in, but I suspect we are getting close to 200 people exonerated from death row in this country. And, you couldn’t find one innocent person exonerated? Are you kidding. They are dead and that went to the grave with them. And, all we need to look at is Southern Redneck Justice and I will bet the bodies are there.

    Cognistator – Really? Again, as with LASD Apostle, surely you jest. How much would a wrongfully convicted porcine demand? How much would it take to put you on death row for 5, 10 or 20 years. Name your price. And, $100,000.00? Really? If you volunteer to get your ass in prison, and don’t give us that BS that you have never done anything wrong, I will put up the $100,000.00. Or, better yet, sign some your porcine brethren and I will start a Go Fund Me. We may raise enough to put the entire farm away.

    Dose of Reality – Unborn babies? Are you referring to abortion? If so, maybe you should make your high holy roller ass back down to the South. Those hangers aren’t coming back out. And, Celeste told you the people passed the proposition. Is that not the will of the people.

    I love this group. It’s like my little piece of the South.

    • CF:

      Point well taken.

      $100,000 is, I think, the death benefit to the family of a soldier killed on the battlefield, but for somebody wrongly executed I believe the figure should be much, much higher inasmuch as the person executed has probably been in prison for a good long time prior to execution.

      Wrongs must be righted, no matter what, and a substantial death benefit to the family of a wrongly executed person is, I admit, just a very small step in that direction.

    • Now now gj, pretending to stand up for the simian, while at the same time (using your real name) you suck up to everything law enforcement. Why do you people, who fancy yourselves as great social justice champions, feel its ok to treat the south in such a condescending manner? The language you use to denigrate the south is the same language you people used to denigrate black people 50 years ago. You really are a piece of work gj, btw you never got back to me regarding your thoughts on law enforcement reserves.

  • This is just a slap in the face of the victims families who struggle with their loss and are forced to endure years of legal wrangling to convict these individuals who made the decision to murder. The death penalty process is extremely cumbersome and seems to favor the defendant more than the victim. In many cases the defendant is given two appointed defense lawyers who only have to handle that case only, whereas the prosecution is handling a full case load in addition to the death penalty case.

    In California the only thing the victims families can take away from a successful death penalty prosecution is the knowledge that the murder will be housed on death row, not having the freedom given to general population inmates. Death row inmates don’t get school, they don’t get a job, they can get married and have contact visits. It’s as close to hell on earth as possible and just a small payback for their bad deeds. Now this is being stripped from the victims families. We as a state have lost our sense of justice. Where do we go from here.

  • Charles Manson proved that life-without works and it ensures that never again will an innocent person be executed by the state.
    We have no sympathy for those who actually committed the truly heinous crimes.

  • It takes a lot to bring me out of posting retirement. So before we slam me for my point, lets have respect for my opinion that the death penalty is necessary AND I dont like the policy implications of decentralizing condemned men.

    Our system is not perfect and it depends on the collective efforts of numerous people. This inherently allows for flaws.

    We convict and sentence factual innocent people all the time so why is death row different?

    There are several studies about the statistical probability it has happened and why society/Justice System doesnt want to look into the matter any further. Why would they as these cases are exhausting.

    This group is experienced and seasoned enough to know the impossible can always happen.

    An example of an innocent man being executed was not found because it wasnt sought with an earnest effort. I do not believe people are naive and/or ignorant enough to believe it has not happened given the expansive opportunity across the Nation for the last 30 years.

    Facts and process matters, let try to get it right and evolve on the matter. Anecdotes are scary when it is a matter of life and death.

  • Casting aside the argument that mistakes and mis-carriages of justice past/present and future will occur. And not negating the fact a large dis-proportionate number of African-Americans were and still are not afforded equal treatment under the law. This is a greater, multi-faceted social program in itself.

    The reality is that some people are so depraved, commit crimes that “shock the senses” and represent such a danger to civil society they should be permanently removed. The concept of life imprisonment seems to give some a degree of easing their conscientious and allowing them to sleep at night. However, what about the dangers posed to those that are still exposed to these “justice involved” sociopaths and homicidal killers? Solitary confinement being deemed cruel and unusual punishment leaves these murders, killers with life sentences absolutely nothing to loose if they fancy is to kill, harm and prey upon those around them again and again and again. Would you have felt Adolf Hilter, Sadam Hussein, Josef Mengele, Osama Bin Ladin and Pol Pot to name a few should have been simply been imprisoned for life? Would this have been a fitting punishment for their crimes? Should Jeffery Dahmer (prison justice), Ted Buddy and JohnnWayne Gacey still be alive?

    The law is not black and white so why is the argument used by anti-death penalty activist always the extreme case of a total breakdown in the criminal justice system with their being a concerted intent of railroading an innocent person? If the preponderance of evidence is so damning (literally a smoking gun, confession, video, etc.) showing the guilt of a killer they should be sentenced to death. Ultimate redemption can be found in the afterlife if the person truly wants it. On the other hand, if the evidence is not overwhelmingly convincing of the persons guilt, life imprisonment may be a more appropriate sentence.

    A solution is there, the problem is that anti-death penalty advocates have a stronger lobby in positions of power.

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