A Rare Look Inside California’s Lonely, Crowded Death Row


It's both a lonely and crowded world inside the nation’s largest death row, where hundreds of condemned inmates, stripped of nearly every freedom, wait around to die. For the more than 700 of the most notorious killers warehoused alone in cells in San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco, death likely won't come at the end of a needle in the facility's lethal-injection chamber. That's because nearly a decade ago, a federal judge placed a moratorium on capital punishment in California. bringing to a halt all executions, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. For the first time since the death penalty was put on pause in the state, the media yesterday were given an in-depth look at the cold concrete corridors, locked cells and shackled inmates on California's ever-growing death row.

“I don't think I'll ever live long enough to get out of here,” said 67-year-old Douglas Clark, who's been in San Quentin since 1983. “But you get by. I've always been a very Zen person.” Raymond Lewis, 41, said, “To me, this is worse than death.” He was sentenced to die for beating a woman to death with a 2-by-4 in 1988. In the yard yesterday, inmates worked out in 8-by-10-foot, chain-link corrals while armed guards kept a watchful eye from above. Many of the prisoners spoke openly about their cases and have closely followed the state's unresolved laws on capital punishment. In recent weeks, supporters of two competing ballot initiatives — one to scrap executions, the other to fast-track them — were cleared to gather signatures in hopes of changing the state's laws.

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