Friday, April 29, 2011

Hey Gov. Brown, Can You Hear Us Now?

By James Clark, originally published at Huffington Post, April 28, 2011.

Imagine you're strolling down the scenic route in downtown Sacramento, wondering "what the hell is California going to do about that whole money thing?" You turn the corner onto J Street, and BAM! The answer is right in front of you: cut the death penalty and save $1 billion without releasing a single prisoner. You're immediately faced with an important question: are you the current governor of California?

IF YES: Immediately convert the sentences of all those awaiting execution to life without the possibility of parole. Congratulations, you have saved California $1 billion over the next five years.

IF NO: Ok, you're not Jerry Brown, but you can ask him to do all of the above! You immediately go online to Change.org and sign the petition asking Jerry Brown to CUT THIS.

Those are the scenarios envisioned by California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who've placed a billboard on J Street with the CUT THIS message. You see, no one can really figure out why Jerry Brown hasn't cut the death penalty already since it's such an obvious budget solution that provides real accountability, real justice, and real savings. I mean, there have been thousands of people from all over the state who've mailed and emailed and faxed telling Jerry to CUT THIS... but we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he just never noticed how much of the budget was spent on the death penalty, and maybe he just doesn't check his mailbox and email and fax machine.

But, he's bound to go for a walk once in a while -- the Governor's buddy Sutter is a smart dog, but I doubt he's mastered the human art of indoor plumbing. So with the message plastered across J Street, hopefully the Governor will finally realize that cutting California's death penalty is the best way to provide justice for victims of crime in California and save $1 billion at the same time.

California Crime Victims are sending Jerry the CUT THIS message because they know the death penalty is a hollow promise for those who've lost a loved one to violence. Instead of providing justice for victims' families, death sentences drag them through decades of appeals and hearings during which they never know if the sentence will be imposed (and most of the time in California, it's not). Meanwhile, the families who seek help from California's Victims Compensation Fund are denied help because the fund is nearing bankruptcy.

Jerry Brown said, "It's all on the table." If that's true, why is he prioritizing death row over real help -- like counseling -- for victims' families? Why take the risk of executing an innocent person when the alternative is both safer and cheaper? Yeah, I don't know either... Seriously Governor, these are real questions. Unless you've got real answers, CUT THIS.

And hey, if you don't happen to be the current Governor of California, do the next best thing and send him a message.

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