California to vote to abolish death penaltyFriday, April 27th, 2012
Over half a million people (555,236) signed a petition in California to trigger an initiative proposing the abolition of the death penalty that will be put before the people in November's elections.
The announcement was made on Monday (April 23) by Debra Bowen, California Secretary of State, when the threshold required to bring an initiative was exceeded. The statute, which will now be put before the people of California, proposes to repeal the death penalty as a maximum punishment for people found guilty of murder, and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It will apply retroactively to people already sentenced to death.
While in prison, people found guilty of murder will be required to work, and their wages will be applied to victim restitution fines. This will create a $100 million (€75m) fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more murder and rape cases.
Jeanne Woodford, former warden at San Quentin state prison and the official proponent of the Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement for California Act (the SAFE California Act), said that with this move, California is joining, “a nationwide trend.”
On Wednesday (April 25), Connecticut became the fifth state in five years to replace the death penalty, and in all, 18 US States have abolished it.
Ms Woodward, who oversaw four executions at San Quentin, said that the executions, “did not make any one of us safer. What they did do was consume millions of dollars in resources that would be better spent on solving crime.”
“People are realising that justice, safety and the needs of victims are better served with life in prison without possibility of parole,” said Representative Gary Holder-Winfield, the lead proponent of the Connecticut bill to replace the death penalty.
Data from the Death Penalty Information Centre shows that at the start of the year, California had 723 inmates on death row. The US as a whole had 3,189. If the November measure passes, the sentences of these 723 prisoners will be commuted to life in prison without possibility of parole.
No inmate has been put to death in California since 2006, and a study in 2009 noted that the State was spending some €140m each year to keep death row and the death penalty infrastructure up and running, and that California's 13 executions cost taxpayers €3bn. The additional expense includes legal costs for expanded trials and appeals, and for housing inmates in single cells.
Across the US, the number of executions dropped to 43 last year from a peak of 98 in 1999, according to the Washington- based Death Penalty Information Centre. This year there have been 16 executions so far in the US, the most recent being Wednesday this week, when Thomas Kemp was executed by lethal injection in Arizona.
by Susan Gately