'Tragedy into triumph': Murder victim's mother supports Gov. Newsom's San Quentin rehab program

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Monday, March 20, 2023
Murder victim's mother supports Newsom's San Quentin rehab program
The mother of a murder victim says she supports Gov. Gavin Newsom's San Quentin rehabilitation program.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Jill Harrison's daughter, Ciara, was murdered in southern California in 2019 by a man she had known for only a month. Her body was found 11 days later.

"He had been up for days on drugs. And just delirious, out of his mind, and they were fighting. And he said, 'I just pulled the gun and shot her,'" Harrison said.

Her daughter's killer is at San Quentin. And Harrison says she supports the chance for convicts, like him, to be rehabilitated under Gov. Gavin Newsom's new proposal.

"So, do we want them to just sit in there and play dominoes? Do we want them rehabilitated? Or do we want them to come out and reoffend and go back to prison again?" Harrison said.

RELATED: Newsom plans to transform San Quentin, home to death row, into rehabilitation center

California Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to transform San Quentin State Prison, home to death row, into rehabilitation center.

Newsom's $20 million plan is to transformed San Quentin from a maximum-security prison into one focused on rehabilitation and education, which he believes will lead to improved public safety and reduce recidivism.

"We want to ultimately reduce incarceration by keeping our community safe, and we want to make sure that when people come out, (they) come out as fully engaged, committed members of our community and society," Newsom said on Friday at San Quentin, where he made the announcement.

According to 2019 report by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the state's recidivism rate is, "stubbornly high," averaging around 50% over the past decade. It also admits to "poor administrative practices," that inmates are not prioritized according to need, and that current programs are not "consistent or effective."

RELATED: Former San Quentin inmate weighs in on Gov. Newsom's plan to transform the max security prison

Harrison hopes the new proposals will produce better results.

"If they don't have resources -- to take classes, to learn and grow, and heal forward -- what else are they going to do? Nobody ever got rehabilitated by playing cards all day, or basketball," Harrison said.

Harrison says she is not blind to the fact that some inmates may be trying to do good just to make parole. But she makes an important distinction. Her daughter's killer is looking at a sentence of 50 years to life. She is not asking for an early release.

"He doesn't need to be out. He needs to be in there. I am super happy that you are working on things. However, my daughter is still not here. I can forgive you, but that doesn't mean I think you are ready to be released," Harrison said.

RELATED: Crime victims, advocates criticize Newsom's plan to make San Quentin State Prison a rehab facility

Harrison does believe that Ciara would be proud that she is focused on the bigger picture.

"I know everybody doesn't understand, but Ciara is gone. I can't get her back. So what I can do, is turn this tragedy into a triumph. Use her life to seed this plant that brings a harvest. So, I had to decide to honor her by healing forward and trying to bring effective change," Harrison said.

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