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Former San Quentin Warden Pushes to End Death Penalty

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San Quentin

Imagine working day in and day out to uphold punishment you find morally repugnant. Now that is commitment to your career. And that is what Jeanne Woodford endured for the 26 years she worked at San Quentin State Prison in Marin Country, California, 5 of those as the notorious institution’s warden.

Woodford oversaw four executions during her tenure at San Quentin and now is working to make a such sentences a thing of the past. She is advocating a state-wide initiative that would banish the death penalty, instead replacing it with life prison sentences without the possibility of parole.

After leaving San Quentin, Woodford began to work as the Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that seeks to abolish the death penalty.

Says Woodford, “I’ve killed four people for the state of California, and it didn’t make anything better for anyone.”

The Safe California Act that Woodford advocates would, according to The Marin Independent Journal,

In addition to instituting life-without-parole as the maximum penalty, would require murderers to work to pay victim restitution, and set aside $100 million to help solve murder and rape cases.

Whether or not individuals are morally opposed to the death penalty, Woodford argues that it doesn’t serve as an effective deterrent, is less punishing than a lifetime in prison, and doesn’t make financial sense.

At a talk of Marin Country bar association members, Gary Klien of the Journal states that Woodford outlined several reasons the death penalty should be outlawed, as

life-without-parole is less expensive than capital punishment; more punishing to killers; offers clear legal closure for victims’ families; does not subject prison employees to the emotional trauma of executions; and can be ended if a convict if exonerated later.

Woodford noted the lack of evidence of any decrease in crime in states that use the death penalty, such as Texas. Conversely, New York, which does not have the death penalty, has seen a drop in levels of serious crime by investing in increased drug rehabilitation and law enforcement efforts.

In order for the Act to make it to California’s ballot in November of 2012, 300,000 signatures must be collected and submitted by mid-March. As of early December, 210,000 signatures had been collected.

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