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I know that this might be difficult for people to understand, but I am urging you not to vote for Prop 34, the Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act (SAFE California Act). Never would I believe that I would stand in the way of abolishing the death penalty, but as with many propositions, bills, and ballot measures brought to the people in the past, with promising names (i.e. the horrendous and misleading "Victim's Rights Bill", Prop 9 in 2008) or the appearance of good ideas, it is necessary to look deeper- WHO created the bill? WHO is advocating for it? WHO is against it? WHY? Propositions put in petitions and on our ballots are not always as simple or righteous as they sound.
I have been talking some with people who have worked with prisoners and have fought for years against the racist, classist, unjust, and cruel jail and prison system of the U.S.- which has about 2.3 million people captured in its cages, and many more under the constant scrutiny and control of the injustice system (run by some of the worst crooks/criminals on Earth). And this does not account for the U.S. immigration detention centers, holding thousands of captives. So, I sought out some opinions from people I trust, especially after speaking with a local woman who has been doing prisoner support and prison abolition work, and she was not excited about Prop 34. The large majority of people on death row in CA, apparently are not in favor either. That says a lot.
It is my strong opinion, now, that we should not allow Prop 34 to pass. And we should get busy creating a better ballot measure to end the death penalty, which puts funding in a just direction for those so harmed by the injustice system.
Below are four writings from prisoners on Death Row in San Quentin. One of the writers, Kevin Cooper is an outspoken artist, writer, prisoner who was framed (like many black men) years ago for murder and has been fighting to be freed from prison and from death row for many years. I think he raises important questions to examine... WHY were death row inmates never consulted by the proponents of this Act? Who are the proponents?
PLEASE READ the statement from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty as to why it "cannot add its name to the list of organizations endorsing the California SAFE Act." Here is the link:
by Jarvis Jay Masters (on San Quentin's Death Row)
Please DON’T vote in favor of “The SAFE California Act” to end California’s death penalty.
You need to know that your vote for this act would throw away the key for all the innocent men and women on death row and, instead, sentence all prisoners on death row to spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole and without effective legal representation.
The way I see it is, behind the scenes, the “Act” has been to cast Jeannie Woodford, former prison guard, former San Quentin warden, former director of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and current director of Death Penalty Focus, an organization striving to abolish the death penalty, to build support for this “Act” from, among others, the prison guards union.
Please DON’T vote in favor of “The SAFE California Act” to end California’s death penalty.
I am not the first to say how deeply troubling it is to see this initiative being advocated for by a woman who presided over state executions without ever offering an OPEN apology.
There is something even more troubling about depending on a flawed prison system and its employees to go ahead and make this decision, when the men and women at risk have never been asked for our two cents about matters that affect our life and death. PLEASE KEEP READING!
Despite what I have been told, I believe this “SAFE California Act” will remove the statutory appeals guaranteed under the present law. This new law will assume that all those on death row are uniformly guilty. Don’t I matter? What about the innocent men and women presently on death row, these same men and women who will no longer have the effective legal means to a genuine appeal?
Your vote for this act would throw away the key for all the innocent men and women on death row and, instead, sentence all prisoners on death row to spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole and without effective legal representation.
If having effective legal representation has anything to do with the state’s money crunch, then, make no mistake, innocent human beings will die in prison. If Californians really want to save the state money, here’s an idea: Why not eliminate the “vengeance sentencing” of the Three Strikes Law. Eliminating Three Strikes would close prisons and save millions of dollars every year.
Those supporting the SAFE California Act on economic grounds – that eliminating the death penalty will save money for a cash-strapped state – I have never heard them mention the moral and ethical issues of putting a fellow human being to death. You would not be casting a real vote to answer the prayers of prisoners by ending capital punishment. Let us first be human beings.
No! For myself and others here on San Quentin’s death row, the way we will eliminate the death penalty is to look at what other states have done and work to provide more effective legal representation to show and prove there are more and more innocent men and women on death row.
If having effective legal representation has anything to do with the state’s money crunch, then, make no mistake, innocent human beings will die in prison.
It is a fact that, again and again, the greater public and their legislators have changed their opinions about the death penalty after discovering innocent people who were condemned to death.
Why not start proving the cases of innocent people and free them to tell their truths, tell of their years of horror, and then let the state decide: Do you morally want to have a legal system that will put to death human beings, even the innocent ones?
Jarvis Jay Masters has been incarcerated for 32 years on San Quentin’s Death Row. He is the author of “Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row” and “That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row.”
The SAFE California Act to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole will be on the November ballot in California. Here are links and short blurbs from the perspectives of three men on San Quentin’s death row.
SAFE California Act: No thank you
by Kevin Cooper
I have been asked what I think about the “SAFE California Act,” which is being pushed as a real alternative to this state’s death penalty. [It would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP).] I have been asked by activists, death row inmates and certain family members of death row inmates. I have also asked myself this same question. After all, it is our future which is being voted on by the people of California in November 2012.
I must add this. At no time was I or, to my knowledge, any man or woman who resides on death row within this state asked our opinion about the SAFE California Act by the sponsors of this initiative, the people who bankrolled it or the people who collected signatures in support of it. I wonder why that is?
I am personally against this initiative, and I do not support it for a couple different reasons. First and foremost, this “act” is just another version of the death penalty. We who will be affected by it will still be living in inhumane conditions. read more... http://sfbayview.com/2012/death-row-debate-yes-or-no-on-the-safe-california-act/
Kevin Cooper was sentenced to death in 1985 and maintains his innocence. In 2008, five federal judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals signed an 82-page dissenting opinion that begins: “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man,” 565 F.3d 581. He has exhausted all his legal remedies and, should the lethal injection litigation settle in California, Kevin is one of the 14 currently in line for imminent execution barring the governor and California Supreme Court granting him a pardon or clemency.
Don’t miss the recently released true crime story, “Scapegoat: The Chino Hills Murders and the Framing of Kevin Cooper,” by J. Patrick O’Connor, editor and publisher of Crime Magazine. Available online through major booksellers.
SAFE California Act: Pine Box or Ballot Box
by Donald Ray Young
This is our time to abolish capital punishment in California via the ballot box. If we allow this killing machine to resuscitate, we can expect executions of the more than 725 death-row prisoners at a rate that will send shock waves throughout Texas. read more... http://sfbayview.com/2012/death-row-debate-yes-or-no-on-the-safe-california-act/
SAFE California Act: We don’t want it
by Correll Thomas
The Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act (SAFE California Act) is an atrocity and I question the author and sponsor(s)’ motives behind the initiative. Who are they really working for? Who are they really working with? read more... http://sfbayview.com/2012/death-row-debate-yes-or-no-on-the-safe-california-act/
Supporter’s note: Correll Thomas is one of numerous men and women on California’s death row, who are currently unrepresented and wait for counsel to be appointed. You will often hear the pro-death penalty forces talk of the “years” it takes to find justice, but most people are unaware of the years many prisoners wait as witnesses disappear, memories fade, evidence is lost and they even die awaiting justice. And they have no counsel appointed to represent them. If the SAFE California initiative passes this November, these men and women will most likely never have their cases reviewed.