California governor halts executions statewide, granting temporary reprieve to 737 death row inmates

Gov. Gavin Newsom

Stunning news in California: newly installed Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, will on Wednesday order an immediate suspension of the death penalty in the state for the duration of his term. According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people,” Newsom said in a statement accompanying an executive order, to be issued Wednesday, declaring a moratorium on capital punishment in the state. “The death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.”

The move will close the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison and grant reprieves to 737 death row inmates. It will not end the death penalty in the state, but will suspend it for the duration of Newsom’s term. The state came close to repealing the death penalty at via statewide initiative twice in the last decade, but Newsom has no power to himself overturn current law.

While Newsom’s move is sure to spark outrage among supporters of the death penalty, both in California and elsewhere, it is a sound move both socially and financially: The costs of imposing the death penalty have repeatedly been show to be larger than life imprisonment for violent offenders and the penalty continues to be disproportionately targeted towards non-white offenders.

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