Less than three weeks before the Nov. 6 general election, 42.9 percent of likely voters in California remain opposed to a law that would end the death penalty, according to a recent poll conducted by the California Business Round Table and Pepperdine University.
If passed by 50 percent of voters, the Death Penalty Initiative Statute, or Proposition 34, would end the death penalty in California and replace it with life sentences without the possibility of parole. This would apply retroactively to convicts currently on death row who were “found guilty of murder,” according to the official analysis of California’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris.
In addition, death row inmates could be required to work while in prison and pay any court ordered reparations to their victims. Current law “generally requires” inmates to work while in prison. Yet, “inmates who pose too great of a security risk to participate in work programs” are given exceptions, said Harris.
The proposition would also shift $100 million from the state’s general fund into a new program – the SAFE California Fund – over a period of four years, “for the purpose of increasing the rate at which homicide and rapes are solved,” accoring to Harris.
“The death penalty right now in California is broken beyond repair,” said Courtney Minick, Yes on Prop 34 campaign spokesperson. “We have death 729 row inmates now, we’ve actually only executed 13 since 1978, so we’re not really using it.”
Minick also claims it will save Californians “$130 million each year without releasing a single prisoner.”
Ron Cottingham, president of the Peace Research Association of California, argues that the most dangerous people in our society are contained in death row and that incorperating those inmates into the general prison population will increase prison violence.
“These are very dangerous people,” said Cottingham. “And they will be taken out of single cell arrangements on death row and put into the general population. They increase the danger level for everybody in prison, including the guards.”
In 1972, the “California Supreme Court declared death penalty unconstitutional” and repealed 107 death row sentences, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Within the year, Proposition 17 was passed by California Voters, finding the “death penalty is not cruel or unusual punishment.”
It took California Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature to overturn the statute in 1978, thus allowing the death penalty to resume in California.
Only 14 prisoners have been sentenced to death in California since 1978. There are currently 725 inmates on death row. California has granted 6 of 900 prisoners a chance in which their sentence was exonerated from capital punishment.
Gov. Jerry Brown has declined to state if he would sign the bill into law.
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 at 12:38 pm.