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Proposition 34: Death Penalty Repeal

Oct 11, 2012

Our series on the initiatives Californians will be voting on next month continues with a look at Proposition 34, which would repeal the death penalty.

Both sides of the capital punishment debate actually see eye to eye on one thing – the current system isn’t working.

“We haven’t put somebody to death in six years. It is simply a broken system that’s wasted $4 billion or $5 billion," says Steve Smith with the Yes on 34 campaign. 

Anne Marie Schubert with the No on 34 campaign agrees on that point. "Yeah it’s broken. But the individuals that are behind this initiative don’t want it fixed because they don’t want us to implement it." 

Prop 34 would repeal California’s death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Supporters of the proposition like Steve Smith say right now the state is wasting money on special housing and taxpayer-financed appeals.

“What happens now is, if somebody’s condemned to death row they generally die of old age. They’re single-celled in cells that are actually nicer. Anytime they move around the prison they require more guards. And they have endless amounts of appeals in court,” says Smith.

He says besides keeping inmates behind bars for the rest of their lives, Prop 34 would also force those inmates to work and pay restitution.

Anne Marie Schubert is a Prop 34 opponent. She says the work and restitution claims are just that. “They say they’re going to make killers work in prison. They’re not going to work. They’re the most dangerous people in the prison system.”

She points out that current state law already requires inmates, including murderers, to work; the exception is for inmates who pose too great a security risk. She argues that Prop 34 will cost taxpayers more by guaranteeing murderers lifetime housing and healthcare.

“We’re talking about cop killers, serial killers, baby killers, mass murderers. There are crimes in California that are so horrific. It’s important for the victims, it’s important for public safety, it’s important for us as a society to maintain this system," says Schubert.

California’s San Quentin State Prison currently has more than 700 inmates on death row.