California Death Row Inmates Weigh In On Vote, Most Conflicted Over To Keep Or Abolish Death Penalty

Voters in California are facing a decision in regards to two separate paths the state could take on capital punishment. Either the death penalty will be abolished entirely, or the process will be made speedier to get inmates to the point of execution.

Within the prisons, death row inmates themselves are conflicted with the decision that offers either a one-shot appeal system, mandated lawyer assignments, and a simplified process to execution as a means to rework the system in California that has not seen an execution in a decade, or to simply throw the death penalty out altogether. In the place of the death penalty, the sentence for crimes which would have warranted the sentence, would instead be life without parole.

When the Los Angeles Times interviewed inmates, the response on the issue was, as aforementioned, a conflicted one. Scott Pinholster shares that he is “ready to go.” He is one out of 12 inmates who has used up all his legal appeals. It was 34 years ago that he stabbed two men to death who had arrived on the scene of a burglary in a drug house. His hopes to be set free on legal appeals faded decades ago, and Pinholster shares that he doubts the view on the death penalty has changed since the previous vote in 2012, when the death penalty was upheld by voters.

The publication shares the words of the now-57-year-old inmate, who has been closed off in solitary confinement for over three decades.

“If they start up executions, I’ll be in line, but it doesn’t matter. After 30 years, you don’t care one way or the other.”

At San Quentin, the San Francisco Bay Area prison which is historic and houses the state’s condemned men, the opinion on the issue is varied. During phone interviews and rare tours by the LA Times, inmates both accepted and seemed for the repeal of the death penalty and favored faster appeals process, despite the fact that this would bring quicker executions. Some also shared about their fears should they be lumped in with the regular prison population.

The publication reminds readers of the laws set to be passed which will then result in a vote for a final decision as to the law that stands.

“Two measures on the November ballot propose to fix what proponents contend is a broken capital punishment system. Proposition 62 would convert death sentences to life without parole. Proposition 66 would set time limits on appeals, limit challenges to execution methods and allow the state to house condemned men outside San Quentin. If both measures pass, the one with more votes would become law.”

It was as recently as 2012 that voters of California took to the polls to make a decision about Proposition 34, which would have replaced the death penalty with life without parole. The tensions on death row were so high that inmates were put on suicide watch. This time around, the facility workers will also be sure to “address the mental needs” of the condemned as the November vote approaches.

Inmate Clifton Perry, 47, who was condemned in 1995 for shooting a store clerk during a robbery, shared about the anxiety and tension over the issue among inmates.

“There’s a lot of anxiety building up. Some of them are scared. Me, I don’t know if I can handle a bunkie after 20 years of living by myself.”

Many feel that life in prison is worse, as was the case back in 2010 when an inmate hanged himself following a judge converting his death sentence to life.

There are rarely any newcomers and even less departures at San Quentin, with only 16 executions taking place since 1978 and none since 2006.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

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