California Voters To Decide Fate Of Death Penalty

Voters in California will have a chance to end the death penalty in that state come November. A ballot measure to repeal the penalty will be added now that it has received the 500,000 signatures necessary to be added. The move would be a huge step for California, a state that houses nearly 25 percent of America’s death row inmates.

If the bill passes the states most harsh penalty would become life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The bill would also be retroactive which would mean returning most death row inmates to the general prison population. Death row inmates would then be required to hold down prison jobs with all money earned going to the family’s of their victims.

California currently has 725 inmates on death row and thanks to a slow legal appeals system most of those inmates are already expected to die of old age instead of lethal injection. California despite its large number of inmates on death row has only carried out 13 executions since 1976.

Opponents of the death penalty say that removing the program would save the state $100 million in expenses by removing decades long appeals and other expenses from the system.

According to former San Quentin warden Jeanne Woodford:

“Our system is broken, expensive and it always will carry the grave risk of a mistake.”

While the bill has made it onto the ballot Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation tells the Los Angeles Times:

“The people of California have regularly voted for the death penalty by wide margins, but of course it has to be a matter of concern.”

In one study it was discovered that California spends as much as $184 million per year to keep the death penalty infrastructure up and running. The system has become so infused with added costs that even supports of the penalty generally agree that the way the system is run needs reform, particularly the inflated legal fees associated with death row inmate.

In the meantime a recent study has experts baffled over whether or not the death penalty actually deters crime, leading opponents of the penalty to further question the validity of the sentence.

Do you think California should abolish the death penalty?