Virtual tour inside San Quentin’s death row

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Take a look inside San Quentin’s death row with Los Angeles Times reporter Paige St.John.

California’s crowded death row is as defined by architecture as it is the legal battles that have blocked executions since 2006. The original men’s death row, the fourth floor of the north cell block at San Quentin State Prison, filled up shortly after the death penalty was restored in 1978.

Since then, more than 900 people have been sentenced to death but only 13 have been executed by the state. The majority of the 699 condemned men currently housed at San Quentin are in what started as overflow housing in East Block. They live, eat and sleep in two rows of open-front cells, stacked five stories high like containers in the hold of a cargo ship.

The granite structure is straight out of 1930, the year it was built. The cavern is filled with sound: metal echoing off stone, the drone of large air circulation systems, and random shouts drifting down from above.
The average death penalty appeal in California takes 25 years or more.

There is currently no court-sanctioned execution protocol, though a single-drug method is proposed for public comment. The process of regulatory review and then legal challenge is expected to take years.

In November, Californians will be asked to vote on competing ballot measures– to throw out the death penalty or to speed up appeals. Both measures would ease the confinement restrictions on the condemned.

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