California to vote on ending death penalty

Tuesday 24 April 2012 19.53
An anti-death penalty activists sits near a sign at the entrance of San Quentin State Prison in 2005
An anti-death penalty activists sits near a sign at the entrance of San Quentin State Prison in 2005

Voters in California will have the chance to cast ballots on a referendum on ending the death penalty in November.

The "Savings, Accountability and Full Enforcement for California Act," or SAFE California Act, garnered enough support signatures.

It will be considered on 6 November, when Americans head to the polls for general elections, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said.

If the measure is approved, the 725 inmates on death row in the most populous US state would see their sentences commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

If the resolution passes, California would become the 18th US state to eliminate the death penalty.

When the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, "we did not have an alternative sentence that would keep convicted killers behind bars forever. We certainly did not know that we would spend $4bn on 13 executions," the measure's official sponsor Jeanne Woodford said in a statement.

"Our system is broken, expensive and it always will carry the grave risk of a mistake. SAFE California offers a solution with savings at a time when we're laying off teachers and cutting vital services," added Ms Woodford, a former warden at San Quentin State Prison.

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