When Californians head to their polling places to cast their big Obama vs. Romney votes this election season, they will also have the first opportunity, in over three decades, to abolish the practice of capital punishment in the state of California. Unlike previous efforts to eliminate state-sanctioned executions, Proposition 34, a.k.a. the SAFE California Act, aims to eliminate the death penalty and the financial burden that comes with it by converting death sentences to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Earlier efforts to repeal the death penalty in California focused on the morality of the practice, whether execution methods could be considered cruel and unusual punishment and the possibility of wrongfully executing an innocent person. Supporters of Prop 34, on the other hand, argue that the estimated $4 billion spent enforcing the death penalty since the practice resumed in 1978 would be better spent funding investigations of unsolved murders. If passed, Prop 34 would create a $100 million fund that will be distributed to law enforcement agencies statewide in order to help solve more homicide and rape cases. Those criminals convicted of murder would also be required to work while in prison in order to pay restitution to victim's families.
The state of California has executed 13 people since 1978, and currently has 725 people on death row. Seven of those are eligible for execution, having exhausted all of their appeal opportunities, but the state has not carried out capital punishment since 2006 when a federal judge ordered a moratorium while lethal injection practices could be investigated. Albert Greenwood Brown, who was scheduled to be executed at San Quentin in 2010 remains on death row.
So with a ban on executions effectively in place in California already, we put it to you, the morally sound readers, to weigh in today: Should the state of California eliminate the death penalty and divert the funds spent on capital punishment to local law enforcement agencies?