Monday, August 29, 2011

California Voters Can Abolish The Death Penalty

California's death penalty needs to be abolished.  Putting aside the philosophical and spiritual questions about the immorality of the death penalty, it is costly, arbitrary, discriminatory, and unworkable.  It serves no useful purpose while diverting needed resources from true public safety programs.  (See, e.g., Death Rattle For California, California's Unusually Cruel Death Penalty, California's Dysfunctional Death Penalty, Just Say No; State of Barbarism.) 

A study released in June by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Arthur L. Alarcon found that California's death penalty system is currently costing the state about $184 million per year.  Further, "since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, California taxpayers have spent roughly $4 billion to fund a dysfunctional death penalty system that has carried out no more than 13 executions."

Abolishing capital punishment in California can only be done by popular referendum.  To put a referendum on the ballot requires legislation or a petition signed by the  voters. Given the dysfunction and inherent conservatism on criminal justice issues of California's legislature, a petition drive, while expensive, seemed like the only realistic route to go.  Loni Hancock, the well-meaning but misguided state senator from Berkeley, instead authored a bill for a ballot measure to repeal the death penalty.  Hancock finally realized last week what should have been obvious earlier.  The votes weren't there in the legislature and she withdrew the bill.

The California Taxpayers for Justice, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to the death penalty, including over 100 law enforcement professionals, as well as crime victim advocates and individuals exonerated from wrongful convictions, announced today its push for a petition drive to get SAFE California Act on the ballot for the November 2012 general election.  If it passed, this ballot initiative would "replace California's multi-billion dollar death penalty with life imprisonment without parole."

SAFE, an acronym for "Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement," would also "draw $100 million from the state's General Fund over the next four fiscal years -- the projected savings from ditching death row -- for a special fund that the Attorney General would disburse to local police to help solve more homicides and rapes."

According to the organizers, more than 500,000 valid signatures are needed to get the matter on the November 2012 ballot and the initiative will cost up to $1.5 million.  Let's get to work.  Click here to help, join, support.


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