In her time as warden of , Jeanne Woodford oversaw four death row executions at the infamous California prison.
On Sept. 7 as part of the 's , Woodford will talk about her background in the criminal justice system and explain why she's been working to pass Prop. 34, a ballot measure that seeks to replace the death penalty in California with life in prison without possibility of parole.
Woodford started her work at San Quentin in 1978 as a correctional officer during a time when female officers were somewhat of a rarity. She rose through the ranks to become the prison's first female warden in 2000, gaining respect from colleagues and inmates alike.
In early 2011, Woodford became executive director of Death Penalty Focus and is also currently a senior fellow at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice. Woodford is the official proponent of "Yes on 34", the SAFE California Act of 2012.
We asked Woodford why she supports Prop. 34 and what she's doing about it.
Mill Valley Patch: Was there a particular moment in your career that solidified your opposition to the death penalty?
Jeanne Woodford: I've always been morally opposed to the death penalty, but I'm in public policy now so for me it's about the policy. In 1978, there were six inmates on death row at San Quentin. Today there are 723 inmates, which is the largest number in the country. We've spent billions of dollars and have had 13 executions. It's clear that the death penalty is a failed public policy.
MVP: Is there a perception that the death penalty makes us safer?
JW: I know that what makes us safer is solving crimes, so spending money to solve the 46 percent of unsolved homicides and 5 percent of unsolved reported rapes makes much more sense than spending the money on guys in prison that are going to die of old age anyway. There are rape kits sitting on shelves because local jurisdictions don't have the funds to use them.
MVP: What sort of reception have you gotten so far to this campaign?
JW: The reception has been really good, audiences have been very appreciative. However, I wish we would have more pro-death penalty people show up. I think the facts speak for themselves. I would like people who support the death penalty to see the facts and then make a decision for themselves. Hopefully the facts will convince them that they need to vote yes on Prop 34.
MVP: What are the major points you will be touching on in your talk here in Mill Valley?
JW: I'll be explaining how a portion of the savings ($100 million dollars in total) from passing Prop. 34 will be used for solving the unsolved rapes and homicides that happen in California. I'll talk about what it means to me to be the official proponent of Prop, 34, and what really makes us safer.
The 411: Former warden Jeanne Woodford speaks about the death penalty and Prop. 34, a ballot measure to eliminate it in California. A wine reception begin at 6:30 p.m. and the program begin at 7 p.m. The event is free but registration is recommended. To register, call the Library Reference Desk or sign up online
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