The Golden State will finally get a chance to kill the death penalty.
A measure to abolish capital punishment in California qualified for the November ballot, Secretary of State Debra Bowen confirmed yesterday evening. The measure -- dubbed the SAFE California Act -- calls for doing away with death row and instead replacing it with with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
What's more, if it passes, the 725 California inmates now on death row will have their sentences converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"Back in 1978, we did not have an alternative sentence that would keep convicted killers behind bars forever. We certainly did not know that we would spend $4 billion on 13 executions," said Jeanne Woodford, former warden at San Quentin state prison and the official proponent of the ballot measure. "Our system is broken, expensive, and it always will carry the grave risk of a mistake."
With the passage of the act, California would become the 18th state in the nation to strip away the death penalty; this week, Connecticut will be the fifth state in the nation to kick death row in the last five years.
This should offer you some comfort: Convicted killers will remain in high security prisons until they die. The trade-off is obvious -- there's absolutely no risk of executing an innocent person, proponents say. Murderers would be forced to work, and pay restitution into a victim's compensation fund and into a newly created SAFE California Fund, which would allocate $30 million annually for three years toward investigating unsolved rape and murder cases.
The public opinion surrounding death penalty is clear -- polls conducted last year by the Public Policy Institute of California and Field Poll showed California voters prefer life without parole to death penalty sentences.
Since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1978, it has executed 13 inmates; the last one was in 2006.
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