San Quentin

What ending the death penalty means for inmates

Oct 30, 2012

California Proposition 34, on the ballot this November, would abolish the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole. The Attorney Donald Heller originally wrote the ballot measure that reinstated the death penalty in California in 1978. Heller now supports Proposition 34.  

San Quentin inmate Troy Williams interviewed Heller by phone about his change of heart.

In 1851, the government of the new state of California legalized executions. But it wasn’t until 1891 that the state legislature required all executions take place within the walls of one of the state’s prisons.

The state’s first legal execution by hanging took place March 3, 1893 at San Quentin State Prison. Sixty-year-old José Gabriel was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a farming couple near San Diego.

In California, there are hundreds if not thousands of people practicing criminal law, though they’ve never passed a bar exam. They don’t wear suits. They don’t have secretaries. And they can’t bill for their time. They’re called Jailhouse Lawyers. They’re inmates who pursue the equivalent of a lawyer’s education and who work as lawyers from within prison walls.

California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation

Richard Gilliam is incarcerated at the California Men's Colony (CMC).

August 8, 2012

On the next Your Call, we’ll have a conversation with Nancy Mullane, author of Life After Murder: Five Men in Search of Redemption.  We’ll also speak with Jesse Reed, one of the men she profiles in her book.  The California state parole board only approved parole for 10 percent of murder cases last year.  Governor Jerry Brown then approved 80% of those.  So what does it take to be released?  And how should those who have killed re-integrate in society? Join us at 10 or email feedback@yourcallradio.org.  It’s Your Call with Holly Kern

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