By a vote of 5-2, the Public Safety Committee passed SB 490 last Thursday, which, if approved by voters, would replace the death penalty with a life sentence in state prison without the possibility of parole. It would include all those sentenced to the death penalty prior to the measure's approval -- currently a total of 741 inmates.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, since 1978 only 13 people on Death Row have been executed in California -- but 78 have died from "natural causes, suicide and prison violence." State Sen. Loni Hancock (D), who authored the measure, also argues that it costs California $184 million a year to keep all of those inmates on Death Row.
She has called the death penalty "an expensive failure" that "is not helping to protect our state. It is helping to bankrupt us."
"The death penalty is not the swift and certain punishment that experts tell us most effectively deters crime,'' Hancock said in the Committee hearing.