A former warden of San Quentin State Prison and former California Corrections Department director has become the new chief of an anti-death-penalty group.

The selection of Jeanne Woodford, 56, of Benicia, as executive director was announced today by Death Penalty Focus, a San Francisco-based national organization that opposes capital punishment.

Woodford had a nearly 30-year career in corrections, starting as a cellblock officer at San Quentin after her graduation from Sonoma State University with a degree in criminal justice in 1978.

She was appointed warden of San Quentin, which houses the state’s execution chamber, by Gov. Gray Davis in 1999.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named her as director of the state Department of Corrections in 2004 and then as undersecretary of the reorganized Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in 2005. She resigned in 2006.

As San Quentin warden, Woodford oversaw four executions.

Woodford said in a statement today, “After each execution, I faced
the reality that I had not made the world any safer.

“The death penalty is a failed public policy and I am committed to spending the rest of my career working to end this costly and ineffective practice,” Woodford said.

Actor Mike Farrell, the board president of Death Penalty Focus, said, “Jeanne Woodford will lead the death penalty abolition movement at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.”
Farrell said he believes public support for capital punishment in the United States is eroding.

There are now more than 700 inmates on California’s death row, with cases in various stages of appeal.

Executions in the state have been put on hold while a federal judge in San Jose considers a challenge by several inmates to California’s lethal injection procedure.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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