By Carolyn Zellander
This November, Californians will their first opportunity in more than 30 years to abolish the death penalty. Last April, Proposition 34, also known as the Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act (SAFE California), qualified for the November Ballot. If approved by voters, the new law will convert sentences of death row inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The death penalty debate has been argued from several different perspectives:
“…Death sentences are imposed in a criminal justice system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty, than if you’re poor and innocent. The legacy of racial apartheid, racial bias, and ethnic discrimination is unavoidably evident in the administration of Capital punishment in America.” — Bryan Stevenson JD, Professor Of Law at New York University
Many opponents of the death penalty argue that it is cruel and unusual punishment, thus prohibited by the Constitution.
“The death penalty has no deterrent effect. Claims that each execution deters a certain number of murders have been thoroughly discredited by social science research.” — American Civil Liberties Union
It is better that many guilty go free than one innocent suffer a death punishment.
“Retribution is just another word for revenge, and the desire for revenge is one of the lowest human emotions – perhaps sometimes understandable, but not really a rational response to a critical situation.
To kill the person who has killed someone close to you is simply to continue the cycle of violence which ultimately destroys the avenger as well as the offender. That this execution somehow give ‘closure’ to a tragedy is a myth. Expressing one’s violence simply reinforces the desire to express it.
Just as expressing anger simply makes us more angry. It does not drain away. It contaminates the otherwise good will which any human being needs to progress in love and understanding.” –
— Raymond A, Schroth, SJ Jesuit Priest and Community Professors of the Humanities, St. Peter’s College
Cost of Death vs. Life in Prison
Many people are surprised to learn that the death penalty is far more expensive than life without parole. Death row inmates live in special housing (individual cells), and have special lawyers, exercise and visitor privileges and tax-payer funded appeals that last for decades.
California reinstated the death penalty in 1978 and has spent $4 billion to execute only 13 of the 125 inmates condemned to death; 60 inmates died from natural causes.
According to an impartial study, Proposition 34 would save $1 billion in five years without releasing a single prisoner – funds that could be invested in our kids schools, services for elderly and disabled, and crime-solving technology like DNA analysis to keep our communities safe.*
A shocking 46% of murders and 56% of reported rapes go unsolved in California each year. While we waste $130 billion dollars every year on the death penalty, death row inmates sit in private cells doing nothing.*
We need to use our scarce law enforcement resources to bring more killers to justice and to protect our families. Prop 34 sets aside $100 million to solve more murder and rape cases, from the hundreds of millions saved from replacing the death penalty with life in prison without parole. Instead of wasting millions of dollars on a system that’s broken beyond repair, let’s use our limited taxpayer funds to protect our families and our kids’ schools.
California is ready to replace the death penalty. The lead campaigner for the death penalty in 1978(Ron Briggs), the author of California’s death penalty law(Don Heller), and a former warden at San Quentin State Prison(Jeanne Woodford), all support Proposition 34. Vote YES on Proposition 34
*From “Executing the Will of The Voters” by Judge Arthur Alarcon and Loyola Law Professor Paula Mitchell, Loyola Law Review, 2011: The California Legislative Analyst for the official voter guide estimates the savings will be $130 million dollars per year.
This article originally appeared at San Diego Free Press.