After nearly 35 controversial years of capital punishment, Californians will once again put the death penalty on trial.
After supporters gathered more than 504,000 signatures, the Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement for California Act will be on the November ballot in California, state Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced yesterday.
If it passes, the SAFE California Act will replace California's death penalty with life in prison with no chance of parole. According to the SAFE California campaign, "convicted killers will remain in high security prisons until they die--with no risk of executing an innocent person."
Additionally, the 725 prisoners currently on death row in the state would have their sentences converted to life. Prisoners convicted of murder would be required under the law to work and pay restitution into a victim's compensation fundthat money would be put toward investigating unsolved rape and murder cases.
SAFE California also requires persons convicted of murder to work and pay restitution into a victim's compensation fund and creates the SAFE California Fund, which takes $30 million a year for three years in budget savings and puts it into the investigation of unsolved rape and murder cases.
California has executed 13 inmates since reinstituting the death penalty in 1978; the state has put to death no one since 2006 when a federal judge suspended executions, ruling that the state's lethal injection protocol constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
Jeanne Woodford, former warden at San Quentin state prison and an outspoken proponent of the proposition, says the "system is broken, expensive and it always will carry the grave risk of a mistake."
"In November, voters will have the first opportunity ever to decide between the death penalty and a sentence of life in prison with absolutely no chance of parole," says Woodford. "Back in 1978, we did not have an alternative sentence that would keep convicted killers behind bars forever."
The state has spent $4 billion on the 13 executions, says Woodford, "at a time when we're laying off teachers and cutting vital services."