Say goodbye to the death penalty in California if this proposition gets a majority yes-vote from voters. And not only would it apply to future murder convictions, but also past ones, meaning those serving on death row will shift to life in prison without possibility of parole term. These and future inmates will be put to work with earnings going to "any victim restitution fines or orders against them," according to the official state summary. Additionally, a one-time $100-million fund will help law enforcement agencies solve more homicide and rape cases. If the prop succeeds, it will become effective the day after the election.
MoreFollow the Money: Interactive database lets you look at who's funding both sides of the SAFE California Act
Read the Full Text: Read the proposed law as published in the state's Voter Information Guide
Who & What it Affects
It the proposition succeeds, the law will go into effect the day after the election, making California the 18th state without the death penalty, and the 725 people on death row would avoid its punishment and instead serve a life term without the possibility of parole.
There are arguments on both sides of the issues regarding this. Does the death penalty really stop someone from committing murder? "I've always said that I cannot envision that somebody contemplating murder sits at the kitchen table and says 'I'm not going to commit a murder because I could face the death penalty', but I will if I only face life imprisonment without parole," retired U.S. Circuit Court justice H. Lee Sarokin told NBC Los Angeles.
The official analysis by the state's Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance say savings to state and local government "could" be in the high tens of millions of dollars each year, but proponents say it's more.
Who's Behind It?
The proposition is an initiative statute, which means it was initiated by someone in the public, in this case, Jeanne Woodford, the former warden of San Quentin Prison in Northern California. Her coalition, SAFE California (named after their title of the act, the "Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act"), includes Don Heller, who helped write the ballot initiative that reinstated California's death penalty back in 1978 ("I made a terrible mistake 33 years ago," he says), Ron Briggs, who worked with Heller on the '78 proposition, former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, and numerous others, including a police office, family members with loved ones lost to murder, and two who faced the death penalty before exoneration.
Money for this prop swelled early on. As of July 9, funding in support of repealing the death penalty was close to $3 million. Top donors include Nicholas Pritzker ($500,000) of Hyatt hotel chain legacy, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings ($250,000), and Quinn Delaney ($250,000) of the Akonadi Foundation, which focuses on social justice issues. Other donations of note include nearly $325,000 from the ACLU, split between five California chapters; five Google employees have given over $180,000 total; and Stanford electrical engineering professor Nick McKeown has donated over $185,000. All this and more can be seen in our Prop 34 campaign finance database.
Who's Against It?
Unlike financial support, opposition as of July 9 was not as strong with nearly $40,000 in donations. Most -- $25,000 -- came from the Peace Officers Research Association of California Political Issues Committee. The full list of contributors can be found in our Prop 34 funding database.
Top Photo: California State Prison at San Quentin | Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images