California: Governor Newsom dissolves U.S. death row at San Quentin

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who enacted a moratorium on executions three years ago, now wants to dismantle the nation’s largest death row by moving all condemned inmates to other prisons within two years. The goal, he said, is to transform the unit at San Quentin State Prison into a “positive, healing environment.”

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the state of California, which last carried out an execution in 2006, is one of 28 states that still maintain death panels in addition to the U.S. government.

So while other states like Illinois have abolished the death penalty, California now transfers those sentenced to death to the general prison system, with no executions expected in the near future. Oregon also moved its much smaller number of convicts to other prisons two years ago.

Newsom, a Democrat, imposed a moratorium on executions in 2019 and closed the state’s execution chamber in San Quentin, north of San Francisco. Now his administration is further upending a 2016 voter-approved initiative aimed at speeding executions.

Corrections officials launched a voluntary two-year pilot program in January 2020, moving 116 of the 673 male inmates sentenced to death to one of seven other prisons that have high-security facilities and are surrounded by lethal electric fences.