NEW VOICES: Current and Former California Law Enforcement Officials Question Future of Death Penalty

Current and former law enforcement officials in California recently discussed their views on the future of the death penalty during a conference in San Francisco. Jeanne Woodford (pictured left), former Warden of San Quentin prison, said that the time has come to end executions in the United States: “I have had the opportunity to view this issue from every point of view. I absolutely am passionate about the position that it’s time to end the death penalty in the United States.” She recommended life in prison without possibility of parole as an alternative to the death penalty, saying that it “is a real sentence,” but one that “gives inmates opportunity to change, to work, to give back to state, and to make restitution to the victims’ families.” George Gascon (pictured right), San Francisco’s District Attorney, said the death penalty “is an imperfect tool.” He cited the possibility of wrongful convictions, the high costs of executions, and the lack of closure for victims’ families.

Also on the panel were John Thompson, a Louisiana man who was on death row for 14 years before being exonerated by evidence that was originally hidden by prosecutors, and Natasha Minsker, the death penalty policy coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Ms. Woodford recently became the Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, which opposes the death penalty.

(“DA Gascon Speaks For, Former San Quentin Warden Against The Death Penalty,” San Francisco Appeal, May 18, 2011). Read more New Voices on the death penalty.