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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Prop 34 to Replace Death Penalty with Lifetime in Jail

Supporters say the death penalty is broken beyond repair.

If Proposition 34 passes in November, it will eliminate the death penalty. This will commute 725 inmates’ sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"Life in prison without the possibility of parole is real accountability, and it’s justice that works," said Yes on Prop 34 Southern California Regional Coordinator James Clark.

Prop 34 will set aside $100 M for law enforcement to help close the cases of unsolved rapes and murders. 

Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee says this money isn’t as much as people think.

"If you look at the statewide budget for all law enforcement agencies, that amounts to an increase of less than one percent of their annual budget," said Hanisee.  "So they might be lucky if they can afford a new Xerox machine."

Supporters say Prop 34 will save California tax payers $130 M. However, opponents say if you get rid of the death penalty, there will still be trials, investigations and appeals, which all cost money.

"Pretending these costs are going to go away is ridiculous. They’re not. Some of them are fixed costs, and they’re still going to be there," said Hanisee.

Opponents also say mend it. Don’t end it. They want to keep in mind the thousands of victims whose lives were taken and honor their families’ hope for justice. 

Brent Tonick’s brother was murdered, but he supports Prop 34 because he says it saves the murderers' families from heartache. 

"If you take someone’s life, you don’t just affect that person. Obviously I know that having had that happen to me and my family," said Tonick. "It doesn’t just affect my brother that he was murdered. It destroyed all of us."

Proponents are also concerned about the possibility of executing an innocent person.

"The death penalty risks innocent lives, and as long as we have the death penalty, that’s always a possibility. So, Prop 34 means we will never execute an innocent person," said Clark.

If Prop 34 passes, California will join seventeen other states that do not have the death penalty.

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