- Pros & Cons -
Should the death penalty be repealed and replaced with life imprisonment without possibility of parole when someone is convicted of murder with specified special circumstances?
Current law makes first degree murder punishable either by death or life without possibility of parole when special circumstances of the crime are charged and proven. Special circumstances include murder carried out for financial gain, one that was especially cruel, or one committed during other specified criminal activities. Death penalty cases are automatically appealed and often involve extensive challenges in state and federal courts, so that such proceedings can take several decades to complete for each prisoner. According to the California Legislative Analyst's Office, 900 individuals have received death sentences since the current death penalty statute was enacted in 1978; of those, 14 have been executed, 75 have had their sentences reduced, and 83 have died in prison. Inmates under death sentence are generally handcuffed and escorted at all times when outside their cells, and are required to be placed in separate cells, whereas other prisoners share cells.
Prop 34 would repeal the death penalty and specify that offenders currently under a sentence of death would be resentenced to prison terms of life without possibility of parole. Prop 34 would require convicted murderers to work while in prison and have their pay deducted for any debts owed to the victims’ compensation fund. It would also establish a $100 million “Safe California Fund” to support grants to police departments, sheriff’s departments and district attorneys’ offices to increase the rate at which homicides and rapes are solved. This fund would be in effect from 2012-13 through 2015-16, and would consist of transfers from the state General Fund.
State and county court costs and county jail costs would be reduced because court proceedings regarding sentencing would be shorter, resulting in savings of several million dollars a year. The state would also save $50 million a year as a result of the Supreme Court and state agencies not having to participate in death penalty appeals, and there would be savings in the low tens of millions a year in state prison costs of housing death penalty prisoners. Additional future costs of prison construction would be avoided. All in all, it is estimated that these savings would amount to $100 million annually in the first few years, growing to about $130 million annually thereafter. Revenue produced by these savings would go into the state General Fund, and would be offset during the first four years by the $100 million transferred out of the General Fund and into the “SAFE” fund.
No offenders could be sentenced to death under state law. Offenders who are currently under a sentence of death would be resentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The state would provide a total of $100 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies over the next four years.
Certain offenders convicted for murder could continue to be sentenced to death. The status of offenders currently under a sentence of death would not change. The state would not be required to provide local law enforcement agencies with additional grant funding.
- Evidence shows that more than 100 innocent people have been sentenced to death in the United States, and some have been executed.
- California will save hundreds of millions of dollars if we replace the death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole.
- Prop 34 takes $100 million from the General Fund over the next four years and will result in many millions more in the future in long-term costs for housing and health care of convicted killers.
- Prop 34 lets murderers who commit heinous crimes escape justice.