California has a whole list of very interesting measures on the ballot this year, but two in particular will be very formative for California: Propositions 62 and 66.
Proposition 62 could end death penalty in California once and for all, converting sentences to a life sentence without parole, but Proposition 66 would expedite executions. While they aren't literally opposites, they might as while be. So which way should you vote?
Yes on 62. I literally only have one hesitation of voting yes on Proposition 66, and it's not a particularly strong one. Some inmates on death row are more scared of facing a life sentence in prison than they are of the death penalty, with reasons given in this LA Times article. While this concern is valid and should be addressed, this problem stems from prison needing reform.
Any other reason? Vote to end death penalty. There is no valid reason to vote to keep it. There are many reasons - particularly moral ones - to oppose death penalty, but I'd rather focus on debunking myths of the death penalty supporters. When people tell me they're supporters of death penalty, usually the first thing they cite is either to keep people from committing crime or because it's cheaper. Both are literally untrue, especially the latter.
There has never been evidence that death penalty discourages crime. Experts on criminology have searched hard for connection, but nothing. So what exactly is the point of death penalty?
And lets look at the facts on the cost of a life sentence versus death penalty.
Cost of life sentence: < $50,000
Different estimates have this number varying by a few thousand, but usually estimating under $50,000. While this may sounds like a lot, it's nothing compared to:
Cost of death penalty: $308,000,000
It's possible the numbers may be slightly off. But there is no arguable way that life sentences are anywhere near the cost of death penalty. Every year an inmate spends on death row costs taxpayers an extra $184 million. Using two extremes, the most costly life-without-parole case was still over a million dollars cheaper than the cheapest death penalty case.
I could go on with more reasons to vote against death penalty, the overtly (and less overt for some) racism being one of the most obvious, particularly with Buck facing the Supreme Court to talk about his case where he was giving a death sentence because a defense expert witness said the Buck being black made him more likely to commit future crimes.
Or I could talk about the other moral implications, although with my Catholic background, it's obvious I'm going to support life as the more moral option. I brought up the two I did because that is what death penalty supporters tend to like the most. And both are ridiculously untrue. And if no sort of moral reasoning makes you - or someone you are trying to convince - want to vote against death penalty, there's no one out there who wants to pay in taxes the forecasted $9 billion cost of death penalty by 2030.
Returning briefly to the inmates' reasons for wanting death penalty, part of this is because we have a broken system. With the literal hundreds of millions of dollars cutting death penalty would save, this money could pour back into prisons to work on fixing the system. While this is not the topic of this article, if you have an interest in this topic or being even more radical than simple prison reform, I highly recommend Angela Davis' Are Prisons Obsolete?
Our entire justice system, from cops shooting innocents before asking questions to racism being cited in a death penalty conviction to the sheer cost of our system, is in desperate need of change. With the propositions on the ballot in California, we could take the first step by eliminating an absurdly costly, racist, and immoral institution.