Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's Official! The Initiative To Replace California's Death Penalty Qualifies For The November Ballot

The SAFE California Act, the initiative to replace California's multi-billion dollar death penalty with life in prison with no possibility of parole, has qualified for the November ballot.  This is epic.

With a death row population over 720, it is undisputed that California's death penalty system is broken beyond repair.  Despite over 30 years of sentencing more and more people to death, only about 1% of them have actually been executed –  a total of 13 executions since 1978, and none since 2006. It is a costly (an exhaustive study concluded that "California taxpayers have spent roughly $4 billion), time-consuming, unreliable and unworkable system that serves no useful purpose. Meanwhile, it drains judicial resources and diverts much-needed funds from truly effective public safety programs.

When it passes, SAFE California will require those convicted of murder to work and pay restitution to victim families through the victim compensation fund. And it sets aside $100 million in budget savings for local law enforcement for the investigation of unsolved rape and murder cases. Because while we spend time and resources on those already tried and convicted, in an average year, 46% of murders cases in California remain unsolved and 56% of reported rapes.

Recent polls show California voters are ready to replace the death penalty, and join a nationwide trend.  (Connecticut is on the verge of becoming the fifth state in five years to replace the death penalty, following Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York.)  Both the Public Policy Institute of California and Field Poll have found that when given the option, more California voters opted for life in prison without the possibility of parole over the death penalty.

As Jeanne Woodford the former Warden at San Quentin State Prison, and current Executive Director at Death Penalty Focus, put it, this is a "game-changer of massive proportions."
SAFE California is a historic campaign that will change California forever – for the better. Once we replace the death penalty in November, we will save millions in public safety dollars and California will never again risk executing an innocent person. We’ll soon have the opportunity to use  hundreds of millions of dollars in budget savings to improve personal safety for families across our state.

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