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California's Death Row, The Nation's Largest, Runs Out Of Room

The country's largest death row has run out of room.

As NPR member station KCRW reports, that's because a legal fight has meant that the state has not put an inmate to death in nearly a decade, leaving more than 750 of them on death row in the state.

KCRW reports:

"Gov. Jerry Brown is asking the Legislature for more than $3 million to open 100 new cells for condemned men at San Quentin Prison. The request is included in Brown's $113 billion budget proposal.

"The governor says prison officials should use cells that are opening up as lower level inmates are released under a new law passed by state voters last year. The majority of the money would go to increase staff, since condemned inmates require more security.

"The capital punishment system has been in limbo since a court invalidated the state's three-drug lethal injection system nearly a decade ago. No new protocolshave been developed."

The Los Angeles Times reports that San Quentin's death row, which can accommodate 715 inmates, is currently just below capacity. But at the moment, 23 other death row inmates are scattered across the California prison system.

The Times adds:

"The governor's budget proposal anticipates an average of 20 new arrivals on death row yearly. He proposes putting them in 97 cells on the first two tiers of the five-tier South Block. A small portion of the funding would go to beef up security, including modifying showers so condemned inmates can be shackled as they bathe. The majority of the money would be spent to increase staff, and the expansion would begin in July.

" 'Based on the critical nature of the bed shortage, it is not feasible to delay the approval and implementation of this proposal,' the governor's budget document states. If expansion is delayed, 'San Quentin would not have beds to accommodate the condemned should any return from court, outside medical facilities, or if SQ receives any newly condemned inmates.' "

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.