A recent article in the The Guardian described the reactions of some of the California prisoners who have been moved from San Quentin’s death row and transferred to other facilities around the state. The prisoners are still under a sentence of death, but in 2019 Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on executions and has dismantled the execution chamber.

For example, Ramon Rogers, 63, who has been on death row since 1997, jumped at the opportunity for a different facility: “I was itching to get out of there,” he said. “I knew there were going to be better and brighter things in store for me than what I had to look forward to in the last 24 years.”

He was amazed at the simple pleasure of feeling grass under his feet: “We just marveled at the softness and the smell of the grass and the earth. It was remarkable. The officer let us stand there and watch as we left our footprints in the grass. It’s just an amazing thing that people take for granted.”

Another prisoner, Correll Thomas, 49, who has been on death row since 1999, was grateful to leave his cell without handcuffs and without a full-body strip search: “For 22 years, I was handcuffed and escorted around like I was an animal. Now I don’t have to strip down naked when I’m called for a medical appointment any more. It’s a lot more freedom.”

Some prisoners were anxious about the effects of their transfer. Keith Doolin, a prisoner who has been on death-row for 27 years, expressed his concern about his upcoming move: “Being forcibly moved to another prison, it adds another 10,000 pounds of weight on my shoulders. What if I’m moved down south and am twice as far from my family and my lawyers?”

The Guardian reported that “California’s first execution was a hanging at San Quentin in 1893. Five hundred people were subsequently put to death until the state supreme court struck down the death penalty in 1972, deeming it ‘impermissibly cruel.’…[S]ince 1978, more than 1,000 people have been condemned to death, though only 13 have been executed…The most recent execution was in 2006 by lethal injection.”