California will dismantle death row; prison transfers will be “permanent and involuntary”

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The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is moving ahead with its plan to dismantle its death row in San Quentin State Prison and move the 671 individuals to various prisons throughout the state.

CDCR made its announcement on the two-year anniversary of the launch of its pilot program in which the transfer of those on death row was on a voluntary basis. Approximately 160 people volunteered in that period. The new regulations, once approved, mean the 650 men housed at San Quentin in Marin County and the 21 women held at the Central California Women’s Facility in Madera County will be “mainstreamed into appropriate facilities following the same security-level requirements as those serving life without the possibility of parole,” CDCR said. The statement noted that, “Nobody will be resentenced as a result of these regulations.”

Corrections officials described the plan as a “move toward behavior-based housing. Where someone is housed in state prison should depend on their behavior, risks, needs, security, and other individual factors.” And they pointed out that this means many of them will be permitted to work and pay restitution to victims, a provision of Proposition 66, a death penalty bill passed by California voters in 2016. 

A public comment period will begin on January 20 and run through March 8, 2023. And CDCR has scheduled a public (in-person) hearing on March 8 at a location not yet determined. 

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