San Quentin seeks to clear out death row inmates by July

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024
San Quentin seeks to clear out death row inmates by July
San Quentin will clear out death row inmates by July as the maximum security prison will be transformed into a rehabilitation center.

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (KGO) -- The five stories of concrete cells that make up what used to be called San Quentin Death Row is where Kevin Bernouby has lived since 2011.

"As you noticed, we are in a cage right now. I'm used to be escorted everywhere in handcuffs," says Bernoudy.

Bernouby committed murder. And he knows he will spend the rest of his life in prison. But change is on the way.

Governor Gavin Newsom's goal is to fully transform the once notorious San Quentin Prison from a maximum security prison into the San Quentin Rehabilitation Center. That means death row inmates, who are now called condemned inmates, are being moved out. In some cases, being moved to lower-level security prisons and integrated into the general prison population.

"I look forward to the aspect of being able to move around. Talk, do things on my own account. Don't got to worry about an officer being everywhere I go, everything I do. Maybe get a job," explains Bernoudy.

MORE: San Quentin State Prison could soon be transformed into a rehab space and eliminate death row

Lieutenant Guim'Mare Berry says two years ago, the state launched the Condemned Inmate Transfer Program to see if could produce positive results.

"So with little to no hiccups, that pilot program turned into new regulation in January 2024," says Lt. Berry.

The opportunity for inmates to work means money to pay restitution to their victims. Plus, Berry adds that the range of rehabilitation and educational services also will build trust between inmates and staff, which can create a safer environment inside the prison. And, she says it's working.

"We have several programs here that have a 0% recidivism rate, as far as the guys that are transferring out," Berry says.

Daniel Landry landed in prison in 1986 and has been on Death Row since 2001 for killing other inmates.

MORE: Here's a look at the transformation of San Quentin State Prison

He says being locked up in a small concrete cell for decades has been harsh. And that a chance for change won't just be to help rehabilitate, but also to serve as a rebirth.

"Mental illness is setting in (for some). People were having a lot of problems with paranoia. Suicidal behaviors, and things like that. Now with the cuffs off, freedom, a job, being self-sufficient, it really works. And people look forward to it," he explains. "Now that we are getting it, I'm not giving it up. And that's by making sure I do everything right. Just being a citizen in here."

The condemned inmates can't stay at San Quentin because it doesn't have an electrified fence. Also, moving inmates from San Quentin will also save the state money.

"You got to have some type of incentive for somebody, period. If nobody have any incentive, they have no point to grow. No reason to try," shares Bernoudy.

The goal is to remove all the condemned inmates by July.

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