Opinion: Life-and-death ballot measures

BY GORDON CLANTON

         Yes on 62.  The death penalty is on the ballot again.  Proposition 62 would replace the death penalty in California with life imprisonment without possibility of parole.  It also would increase the portion of life inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution. 

         Here is why I favor abolition of the death penalty.  Capital punishment is cruel, unusual, and arbitrary, yet it does not deter violent crime.  States with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without it.  And capital punishment falls disproportionately on the poor and people of color. 

         When the state executes an innocent person, there is no redress – a concern made more acute as DNA evidence exonerates more of the wrongfully convicted.

         And, ironically, when the state executes murderers, the state models the very behavior it is attempting to prevent.  We must stop killing people to demonstrate that killing people is wrong.

         Support for abolishing the death penalty has grown in recent years as fiscal conservatives have come to appreciate how enormously expensive capital punishment is, mostly because of the mandatory appeals.  Apart from the moral case for abolition, getting rid of the death penalty would save California $150 million each year.

         No on 66.  Meanwhile proponents of the death penalty have launched a counter-measure that would speed up the appeals process, thus increasing the number of state-sanctioned executions.  In other words: Reduce costs by “streamlining” the appeals process and killing the condemned more quickly. 

         Other state ballot measures . . .

          Yes on 55.  This measure would extend for 12 years the temporary personal income tax increases enacted in 2012 on incomes above $250,000 to support K-12 schools and community colleges.

         Yes on 56.  Increasing the cigarette tax by $2.00 a pack would discourage smoking while generating more than $1 billion per year to fund anti-smoking campaigns and health care for low-income Californians.  Big Tobacco will spend Big Bucks to defeat this measure, arguing that higher taxes on their deadly products will hurt poor people.

         Yes on 57.  Reflecting Governor Brown’s incarceration reforms, this measure allows parole consideration for non-violent offenders and authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education.

         Yes on 58.  This initiative would allow school districts to decide which methods work best for students with limited English proficiency, thus undoing the worst of Prop 227, the “English only” initiative that passed with 61 percent voter support in 1998.

         Copyright, Del Mar Times, September 15, 2016.

Gordon Clanton teaches Sociology at San Diego State University.  He welcomes comments at <gclanton@mail.sdsu.edu>.  Previous columns available at: www.delmartimes.net/staff/gordon-clanton

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