The Condemned: Transferring Out of San Quentin

The Condemned: Transferring Out of San Quentin
Death row inmate Donald Ray Young at San Quentin. Photo courtesy of Donald Ray Young

By Donald Ray Young

So now we can get off the row, but the death sentence remains? The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has taken the first steps in removing the death row population from San Quentin State Prison. At this time, the Condemned Inmate Transfer Pilot Program (CITPP) is asking death row inmates to voluntarily transfer out of San Quentin.

Once a prisoner is put into the CITPP, he can’t opt out. Soon, the CITPP will end and transfers will become mandatory. The death chamber will stay at San Quentin as prisoners leave death row.

Women on death row at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) will be able to relocate to various units within that prison. One way the state plans to save money is by double caging transferred death row prisoners, who are currently single celled. There are seven prisons designated for the people on San Quentin’s death row:

  • California Correctional Institutions
  • California Medical Facility
  • California State Prison–Corcoran
  • Centinela State Prison
  • Kern Valley State Prison
  • Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility
  • Salinas Valley State Prison

It’s true, death row prisoners have been segregated and isolated for far too long. This is change, but is it progress? I’m wrongfully convicted, I’ll just keep pushing forward, and create progress.

This move produces slave labor for the Prison Industrial Complex. The inmates will not be recognized for their work, “Participants are ineligible to receive credits, including, but not limited to Good Conduct Credit, Milestone Completion Credit, Rehabilitative Achievement Credit, Educational Merit Credit, and Extraordinary Conduct Credit.”

Work until death or, “as many hours of faithful labor each day as he or she is so held.” This is designed to exploit an untapped free labor market.

Restitution is set at 77% solely for death prisoners. That’s 77 cents seized of the dollar, “CITPP institutions are to ensure appropriate withdrawals for restitutions are made from participants’ trust accounts as applicable.” The maximum restitution for the rest of the prison population is 55%. Doing the math, a 46% overpriced prison item costs my friends and family a $200 sacrifice—who can afford this?

Californians chose Proposition 66 (a flawed measure to speed up executions, cut appellate funding, limit new evidence and raise restitution) over Proposition 62 (a measure to abolish capital punishment in California) on Nov. 8, 2016. This allows death row prisoners at San Quentin to be housed at other prisons within the state. Your vote matters—this is the aftermath of people being on the wrong side of history.

If the death penalty is overturned, many death row prisoners will already be in the prison general population. Wrongfully convicted, along this twisted journey, I’m struggling to be the next exonerated. I believe that’s the good news in the middle of this chaos.

Although a prison is just a prison, I can’t justify staying on death row when given the opportunity to leave. I’m presently being chained, in addition to a hands-on escorting guard during all movements outside of the cell. I’ll transfer if it keeps the daily chains off my body, I’ve already removed the chains from my mind. And I’ll still be behind walls and razor wire.

Don’t be deceived, death is definitely different than any other sentence. After all the work and restitution is drained from our bodies, we return to San Quentin for execution.

(Editor’s note: On March 12, 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a moratorium on capital punishment, granting a temporary reprieve for the 737 inmates on the state’s death row. The last execution in California was in 2006. However, this moratorium doesn’t mean the death penalty is abolished.

The moratorium does three things: grants reprieves to the inmates currently on death row (they will still be under a death sentence but not at risk of execution); closes the execution chamber at San Quentin prison and withdraws the state’s lethal injection protocol, the formally approved procedure for carrying out executions.)


Donald Ray Young is an inmate at San Quentin on California’s death row. 



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    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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