Here’s how I plan to vote on the initiatives on the California ballot that involve criminal justice.
Prop 34 – Abolition of death penalty
A wide range of voters will support this proposition to abolish the death penalty in California and replace it with life without the possibility of parole. Some will support it from a moral perspective (those who believe that murder is wrong). Some will support it because they know from DNA exonerations that some people who’ve been sentenced to death are innocent. Still others will support it less out of compassion for the convicted than out of fiscal conservatism. Although 900 people have been sentenced to death by the State of California since 1978, only 14 have been executed. The cost of administering the death penalty has been $4 billion. My vote on Prop 34 is YES.
Prop 35 – Human trafficking
As I have written about in my last blog, this ballot initiative is unnecessary and ill advised. Its proponents presumably have good intentions, but a ballot initiative will not solve the problem of human trafficking. My vote on Prop 35: NO.
Proposition 38 – Three strikes law
Under current law, an ex-felony offender whose days of serious and violent crime is behind him but who commits a less serious offense, like passing a bad check or selling dope, will be sentenced to life in prison if he has two prior convictions of serious or violent felonies. That is because under the Three Strikes Law that was passed into law by voters in California in 1994: if you have one prior serious/violent felony conviction, the punishment for a second serious/violent felony is doubled; if you have two serious/violent felony convictions, the punishment for a third felony conviction – and any felony conviction – is life in prison. Under Prop 36, the third felony conviction would have to also be a serious/violent felony. My vote: YES on Prop. 36.
Proposition 32 – Political contributions by payroll deduction
OK, this has nothing to do with criminal law, not directly anyway, but if passed it would warp the fabric of our democracy by giving the rich even more disproportionate influence on politics. If you want to know why, consider that labor unions get all of their revenue from payroll deductions, and corporations do not get any. So saying that unions AND corporations are banned from making political contributions from payroll deductions will stop political activity by unions but have no effect on corporations. My vote on Prop 32 is NO.