Jerry Brown cancels new death-row housing

Gov. Jerry Brown just announced he’s canceling plans to build new housing for condemned inmates at San Quentin State Prison.

“At a time when children, the disabled and seniors face painful cuts to essential programs, the State of California cannot justify a massive expenditure of public dollars for the worst criminals in our state,” he said in a news release. “California will have to find another way to address the housing needs of condemned inmates. It would be unconscionable to earmark $356 million for a new and improved death row while making severe cuts to education and programs that serve the most vulnerable among us.”

Planning for a new condemned inmate housing facility at San Quentin began in 2003 under Gov. Gray Davis and continued under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The facility was designed to hold 1,152 inmates, allowing for future growth in the condemned population; California currently has 713 condemned inmates, of whom 42 are from Alameda County and 18 are from Contra Costa County.

Brown’s office says the project would have added another $356 million to the state’s debt, at an annual cost of $28.5 million in debt service that would have come out of General Fund dollars.

UPDATE @ 3:08 P.M.: From state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco:

“Governor Brown should be praised for his thoughtful decision to reject the ill-conceived plan to build a new death row inmate complex at San Quentin, which would have cost the state more than $1.6 billion over the next decade,” said Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. “Given the severity of our budget crisis, it makes no sense to spend millions of General Fund dollars every year on this wasteful plan. We have known for a long time that the project has deep flaws, including inexcusably high construction and operating costs and the fact that the complex is likely to run out of space just three years after it opens.

“Working with the Senate Budget Committee, which I chair, we included budget bill language requiring the question of double bunking of death row inmates to be legally resolved before the project proceeded. Lacking this resolution, the Condemned Inmate Complex expansion would have reached capacity within three years of its completion, leaving taxpayers with a billion dollar hangover. I thank Assemblymember Jared Huffman for his commitment and partnership in stopping this mistake.”

From the Twitter feed of state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach:

Guv wants new way 2 address condemned inmate housing. Execute em. Problem solved

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • PatG

    Thank you Jerry.
    How about pardoning all the victimless inmates who were jailed solely for possessing small amounts of marijuana?
    Why should taxpayers subsidize assaults on our citizens?

  • Oakpundit

    Good for Jerry. But what about the high wages and pensions of California’s prison guard and law enforcement officers whose endorsement he received when he ran for AG and governor’s office? I bet that comes to another $365 million also when they can cash in all their sick pay and retire at obscenely high salaries?

  • John W

    Anybody know how much it costs to keep 713 people on death row rather than in prison general population? Almost all of them will die in prison rather than in the death chamber.

  • Josh Richman

    John W.: CDCR Deputy Press Secretary Terry Thornton says the average annual cost to house an inmate in state prison in FY 2010/11 is $44,563, but CDCR doesn’t track a separate cost for condemned inmates (which, given all the data crunching they do, seems amazing to me). A quick turn around the interwebs shows me that a bevy of anti-death-penalty groups claim it costs about $90,000 more for each condemned inmate.

  • rew

    This is great to see, we are spending far too much on Corrections in this state as it is. Dan Walters of Sacramento Bee reported California is spending %11.2 of state budget on prisons, even though national average is 7.2. We’ve got bloat in Corrections, we can save money here easily.

  • Elwood

    I’m with Tom!

  • John W

    Re: #4

    Thanks Josh.