At San Quentin, the virus does what California wouldn’t do

When the Wuhan virus first appeared, death row at San Quentin, California, had 723 inmates, many of whom had been there for decades. The last time a death row inmate was executed was in 2006. It appears that the Wuhan virus is doing what the State of California has long refused to do: Killing those already condemned to death. However, this being California, the same policy decisions have caused the deaths of nine other inmates who had regular sentences and should, at some point, have walked out of prison as free men.

San Quentin has been a prison since 1852 and is the site of California’s gas chamber for men. It was last used in 2006 to execute Clarence Ray Allen, 76, who had murdered three people in 1974. Men grow old on San Quentin’s death row. In addition to garden-variety killers, the death row inmates are a rogues gallery of some of the most awful people in America.

The prison is located in Marin County, one of America’s wealthiest regions, on a beautiful spit of land sticking into the San Francisco Bay. (Developers would love to get their hands on the property because it has stunning water views.) The current prison was built in fits and starts, with most of the buildings dating to the 1880s, 1920s, and 1930s, so its old and shabby, with an outdated infrastructure. As of the end of April, the prison had 3,776 occupants, putting it at 122% of its design capacity.

The Wuhan virus is starting to make inroads on prison overpopulation. The trigger was another of California’s disastrous policy decisions once the virus entered the state: Two months ago, the prison system decided to send prisoners from Chino, where the virus was already making inroads into the prison population, to San Quentin.

Out of the prison’s 3,776 occupants, 2,181 (or two-thirds) agreed to be tested and proved to have the Wuhan virus. Another 258 guards and staff got sick as well. To date, twenty San Quentin inmates have died from the virus, a 0.9% mortality rate. (The percentage may actually be lower because some prisoners refused to be tested.)

With almost clinical accuracy, the virus has been picking off prisoners on death row. Thus, while the death row inmates constitute 19% of the prison population, they account for over 50% of the deaths. The most recent death row inmate to die, Orlando Romero, 48, killed at least three people. He’d been on death row for 24 years when the Grim Reaper finally chased him down.

Two weeks ago, Jeffrey Hawkins, 64, died from the Wuhan virus. Hawkins had been on death row for executing two people in cold blood in 1987. When the Chinese virus caught up with him, he’d been living on the taxpayer’s dime for 30 years.

A week ago, John Beames, 67, was another virus victim. He’d spent 25 years on death row after hitting a 15-month-old child so hard her liver almost split in half, causing her to bleed to death.

Richard Stitely, 71, died in his death row cell at the end of June. He’d been sent to San Quentin in 1992 after raping a woman and then strangling her to death.

Logic says that these men, and other death row inmates, died because they’d been allowed to grow old, rather than being executed. However, when logic backs off a little bit, it does seem as if the Angel of Death has decided to step in and do what the State of California, when controlled by Democrat governors, refuses to do.

Of course, the same mismanagement that ended long-delayed justice for a small number of cold-blooded killers is also catching up with people who, no matter how bad their crime, were supposed to leave the prison one day. To date, nine non-death row inmates have died from the virus. Guards are also bringing the virus home to their frightened families.

Leftists are seizing on this mismanagement to close a prison they’ve long despised or, at the very least, to end the death penalty by shutting down death row. On Sunday, 1,000 people marched down Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (a name that is being challenged) to demand that San Quentin release all its prisoners:

The grassroots organization No State Execution by COVID-19 and a coalition of prison reform advocates marched Sunday afternoon in Larkspur to denounce what they called the lack of action from Gov. Gavin Newsom and state policymakers as prisoners have suffered the deadly consequence of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Their mishandling of the pandemic at a time when they shut down the state but didn’t care to mitigate the pandemic within the prison system is a crime,” said Courtney Morris, one of the event organizers.

Demonstrators on Sunday marched about a mile from the Larkspur ferry landing down Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the West Gate of San Quentin prison, where they chanted, “Let them go.”

The events at San Quentin reveal yet again how poorly Democrats manage California (for California is, and has been for a long time now, a one-party state). Their prisons are a disaster, their death row is an old age home, their virus policies have led to California being one of the world’s virus hot spots, and their citizens want to release the San Quentin residents into the world. As you ponder California’s damaging policies, remember that leftists see its ideological choices as the ideal future for America.

Image: Wikimedia

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