California Gov. Jerry Brown has canceled construction of a $356-million death row at San Quentin prison, saying it would be “unconscionable” to spend so much on condemned inmates as the state is slashing budgets for education and other social services, reports the Los Angeles Times. Previous administrations spent about $20 million on planning and design for a two-building complex. The project was approved in 2003, before the global financial crisis opened a gaping hole in the state budget.
The new facility would have had room for 1,152 condemned inmates and housed visitor, medical, and mental health facilities to cut down on the cumbersome and costly need to escort death row prisoners around the wider institution. California now has 713 condemned inmates, 18 of whom are women housed at separate prisons. Conditions on the existing death row are “just dismal,” said Donald Specter of the Prison Law Office, which advocates for inmates’ rights. The cells are cramped, old and dilapidated, he said, and don’t offer prisoners enough room to exercise.