This editorial appeared in The Fresno Bee.
For the past several years, Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, has pushed to move California's death row somewhere less expensive than San Quentin Prison in Marin County. His idea has gotten little support, but the response could be different this legislative session with the state mired in money woes.
Denham already has introduced Senate Bill 28, which would require the decommissioning and sale of the San Quentin property.
Selling off San Quentin remains a radical idea, and it isn't clear that this bill will advance. But the senator has gained an ally on a less dramatic proposal. Denham and Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-Marin, have announced a bipartisan effort to stop the expansion of death row at San Quentin.
The expansion project has been in the works for several years and is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2009. But it's grown to almost $400 million – more than $500,000 per death row bed. Even at this cost, it would reach capacity within a few years. Inevitably, there would be a push to expand it again – raising the cost even more.
The state auditor's office issued a report last spring that put the spotlight on the high costs of the project at San Quentin. Why is this site so expensive?
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