For Immediate Release
NARROW LOSS ON PROP 34 DEATH PENALTY INITIATIVE
Californians Closely Divided on Maintaining Largest and Costliest Death Row in U.S.
SACRAMENTO – By a small margin California voters chose to keep in place the nation’s largest and costliest death row rather than replace it with a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. Votes for Proposition 34 were at 47% with 53% against — just 500,000 votes determined the final outcome.
“The mere fact that the state is evenly divided is nothing short of extraordinary. In 1978, 71% of the electorate supported the Briggs Death Penalty Initiative and now, after hearing the facts, voters are almost evenly split,” said Jeanne Woodford, the official proponent of the SAFE California Campaign and former Warden at San Quentin State Prison where she oversaw four executions. “This is a dramatic shift in public opinion. Millions of Californians now prefer the sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole to a wasteful and risky death penalty that has no benefit.”
California’s independent Legislative Analyst’s Office determined that Proposition 34 would have saved the state $130 million a year. A separate study by Federal Judge Arthur Alarcón and Loyola Law Professor Paula Mitchell estimated that California had spent $4 billion since 1978 on the death penalty and that the state will spend $5 to $7 billion more on the death penalty in the next 35 years.
“While we are disappointed by this narrow loss, the conversation on the death penalty in California has changed forever. For the first time ever, millions of voters know that the death penalty is exorbitantly costly, and that it costs far more than a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole,” said Woodford.
California has the largest and costliest death row in the United States. If Proposition 34 had passed, the death sentences of California’s 726 death row inmates would have been converted to a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. Convicted killers would also have been required to work and pay restitution into a victims’ compensation fund–right now, less than 1% of death row inmates work. They would have also lost special treatment which includes extra visiting hours, exercise time and private cells. With the defeat of Proposition 34, death row inmates will continue to be housed one per cell and will continue to get taxpayer-funded legal teams for life.
The initiative also would have established the “SAFE California Fund” to tackle the 46% of murders and 56% of reported rapes go unsolved every year in California.
“My lifelong goal as a corrections professional has been to protect public safety across California. We will continue to work towards that goal and to move forward with this powerful new alliance seeking justice that works for everyone in California.”