Despite the estimated $400 million price tag for expanding California’s death row, death-penalty opponents want it to stay at San Quentin State Prison because its location next to San Francisco provides easier access to lawyers, family members, and activists, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Local politicians see things differently. They’re pushing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to move at least some of the death-row prisoners away, perhaps to desert prisons that are hours from the state’s largest cities.
The debate is pitting liberals against liberals and shining a light on California’s hundreds of death-row inmates, who are more likely to die of natural causes than face the gas chamber or lethal injection. San Quentin Prison, built in 1852, sits on the water just north of San Francisco, about 20 minutes by car from the Golden Gate Bridge. Currently, 635 men await execution. Other states execute dozens of prisoners each year, but California has executed only 13 people since the US Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976. Thirty-six states use the death penalty. Nearly all those with condemned prisoners house them far from major cities, often making it difficult for attorneys and relatives to visit.