Largest death row in US to be shut down and turned into a ‘positive, healing environment’

America’s largest death row, which is home to around 700 condemned prisoners, is to be dismantled and turned into a “positive, healing environment”.

Gavin Newsom, the Democrat governor of California, said the decision was based on his belief that capital punishment is a deeply flawed system which “gets my blood boiling”.

Mr Newsom said: “The prospect of your ending up on death row has more to do with your wealth and race than it does your guilt or innocence.

“We talk about justice, we preach justice, but as a nation, we don’t practice it on death row.”

California is one of 28 US states that have death rows, but it last carried out an execution in 2006.

Over the next two years the condemned prisoners will be moved out of the state’s death row at San Quentin prison, about 20 miles north of San Francisco, to seven other jails.

The death row is a section of a larger jail at San Quentin and will be renovated into facilities for the remaining non-condemned prisoners.

A California prisons spokeswoman said: “We are starting the process of closing death row to repurpose and transform the current housing units into something innovative and anchored in rehabilitation.”

In a referendum in 2016 the people of California supported the death penalty by 53 per cent to 46 per cent.

Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, has blocked executions in the state Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Three years later Mr Newsom imposed a moratorium on executions and shut down the execution chamber at San Quentin.

In his latest budget proposal he allocated $1.5 million to pay a consultant to find other ways to use death row.

The proposal said the aim was to “create a positive, healing environment to provide increased rehabilitative, educational and health care opportunities.”

The move was criticised by some victims groups.

Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said: “They’re moving condemned murderers into facilities that are going to make their lives better and offer them more amenities, while the victims still mourn the death of their family member.”

Nina Salarno, president of Crime Victims United, accused the governor of “pouring more salt on the wounds of the victims” and “usurping the law”.

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