Ex-San Quentin Warden Talks Death Penalty at First Friday Library Event

Jeanne Woodford will talk about her fight to abolish the death penalty and pass Prop. 34 at the Mill Valley Public Library on September 7 at 7 p.m.

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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Frank Z. Leidman September 05, 2012 at 09:27 PM
I am a Patch subscriber, and live in Mill Valley. California is ready to replace the death penalty. It’s ridiculous that we spend millions of dollars on criminals who are already locked up for the rest of their lives, when our schools are strapped for cash and police officers are being taken off the streets. We should also remember that innocent people have been convicted of crimes and wrongfully sent to Death Row and later determined to be innocent. If we give murderers life in prison without parole, they will die there and we won’t run the risk of executing an innocent person. That’s something we can’t take back. I’d rather have cops on the street and teachers in the classroom than waste money on this flawed system. This is justice that works for everyone for California. I will be voting Yes on Proposition 34. - Frank Z. Leidman
Jim Welte September 05, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Thanks Frank. Great points.
Chris Bernstien September 06, 2012 at 08:49 AM
The arguments in support of the ballot measure to abolish the death penalty are exaggerated at best and, in most cases, misleading and erroneous. Proposition 34 is being funded primarily by a wealthy company out of Chicago, the ACLU, and similarly-oriented trust funds. It includes provisions that would only make our prisons less safe for both other prisoners and prison officials and significantly increase the costs to taxpayers due to life-time medical costs, the increased security required to coerce former death-row inmates to work, etc. The amount “saved” in order to help fund law enforcement is negligible and only for a short period of time. Bottom line, the “SAFE” Act is an attempt by those who are responsible for the high costs and lack of executions to now persuade voters to abandon it on those grounds. Obviously, these arguments would disappear if the death penalty was carried forth in accordance with the law. Get the facts at and supporting evidence at http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com and http://waiting4justice.org/.
Chris Bernstien September 06, 2012 at 08:53 AM
The money allegedly "saved" is less than 1% of the budget for the L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. The value of the death penalty, if used, is much greater. In reality, the cost of housing, medical costs, etc., is far greater than that of the death penalty. Also, can you name one innocent person executed in CA? Can you name one person whose appeals have been finalized in CA that has a reasonable argument of actual innocence? Didn't think so. Again, another sham argument. Don't believe the lies and get the facts at http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com and http://waiting4justice.org.
Dudley Sharp September 08, 2012 at 12:19 PM
1) Cost Studies Totally Unreliable There is zero credible evidence that ending the death penalty will save $130 million per year or that such ending will make available an additional $100 million to help investigations of murder or rape cases. So far, the cost studies have been a horrendous and misleading joke, easily uncovered by fact checking, which few seem to be interested in. Response to Absurd California Death Penalty Cost “Study” http://goo.gl/RbQDU 2) 95% of Murder Victim Survivors Support Death Penalty "US Death Penalty Support at 80%: World Support Remains High" http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/04/us-death-penalty-support-at-80-world.html 3) Innocents Better Protected with Death Penalty Of all endeavors that put innocents at risk, is there one with a better record of sparing innocent lives than the US death penalty? Unlikely. The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/03/death-penalty-saving-more-innocent.html Innocents More At Risk Without Death Penalty http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/03/innocents-more-at-risk-without-death.html


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