On Monday, the California secretary of state announced a measure to abolish the state’s death penalty qualified for the November ballot. If California voters approve the measure, 725 inmates on Death Row will have their sentences converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The measure, dubbed The SAFE California Act, far exceeded the half-million signatures required by the state to qualify and is one of the first initiatives the state cleared for the November ballot.
“Since 1978 we’ve built up the nation’s largest death penalty system, housing a full 20% of the nation’s entire death row population in the most expensive incarceration facility the state has to offer,” Jeanne Woodford, former Warden at San Quentin State Prison and Executive Director at Death Penalty Focus wrote on the SAFE California Act blog.
Woodford says California’s death penalty is a hollow promise. According to her, the state has been sentencing men and women to the death penalty for over 30 years, only about 1% of them have actually been executed — a total of 13 executions since 1978.
Campaign organizers say California taxpayers could save over $100 million every year without releasing any prisoners if the measure passes by closing three state agencies that currently handle “expensive and extensive appeals” for death penalty cases.
There are currently 17 states without the death penalty including the District of Columbia. Illinois was the last state to abolish capital punishment in 2011 and this week the governor of Connecticut is expected to signs a bill into law that would replace the death penalty.