California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has given the go-ahead for construction of a new death row at San Quentin State Prison by vetoing legislative restrictions, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Legislators approved $356 million last year for a 768-cell unit for condemned prisoners, scheduled to open in late 2011. It would replace a section of the 150-year-old prison that now holds nearly 670 inmates, the nation’s largest death row.
The budget that legislators sent to Schwarzenegger would have prohibited construction of the new Death Row until the state determined, in a court ruling or a formal opinion from the attorney general, that it would be allowed to double-cell death row inmates. Another budget provision would have blocked the project until the state resolved a lawsuit over prison overcrowding. The suit is pending before a panel of three federal judges, who have ruled that overcrowding is the chief cause of poor health care in state prisons.