Some California legislators want to sell San Quentin State Prison — which houses more than 5,300 inmates on prime land with stunning views of San Francisco Bay — to developers who might pay as much as $2 billion, says the Wall Street Journal. State Sen. Jeff Denham, who has sponsored a bill to sell the historic prison complex for private development, thinks the proceeds could help replenish California’s recession-depleted coffers. “I believe maximum-security inmates shouldn’t have waterfront property,” said Denham. “They could build a new facility somewhere else in the state and it could be done at a fraction of the cost.”
To accomplish that, legislators would have to block Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to spend $356 million as early as May to expand San Quentin’s famous death row, a previously approved project meant to alleviate overcrowding. California’s deep recession has rekindled a debate over the use of San Quentin, a 432-acre peninsula in Marin County. The debate highlights long-running questions about the viability of the state’s capital-punishment system, in which nearly 650 death-row inmates are more likely to die of natural causes than by execution as they wait for appeals.