All you death penalty junkies out there just might find the news disheartening. But there it is in today’s black and white: California’s death penalty machinery is a failed system, deemed “close to collapse.”
The report, by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, concluded that California’s administration of the death penalty would require massive new state spending or changes in sentencing laws to end decades of delay and dysfunction.
The commission’s findings grew out of the first comprehensive look at the state’s death penalty in the 30 years since capital punishment was restored in California.
Created by the state Senate to recommend improvements in the criminal justice system, the commission included defense lawyers, victims’ advocates, prosecutors and police.
The commission unanimously concluded that nearly $100 million in additional spending is needed for reform. Not surprisingly, however, there were also disagreements.
Five law enforcement commissioners complained that the majority was “seeking to undermine public confidence” in the death penalty and that the report “unmistakenly reveals a personal bias” against capital punishment.
Which says one very important thing. These five police commissioners stand alone in their opposition to the majority. The public sentiment against allowing the state to kill convicted felons is sweltering. People want to see change within the governing body when it comes to how they dictate what will happen to those of us who are convicted of homicide-related felonies.
This indeed is good news for the families of young men like Ryan Hoyt who’s on California’s death row. And also for the likes of Jesse James Hollywood, who is battling to stay away from the death penalty.
The best news yet is that eight of the commissioners signed off on their own separate report, which called for abolition of capital punishment all together. The system does not work. It is a drain on our tax dollars. It is a drain on our human psyches. It is a drain on our spiritual connection to the grace that lies within each and every living cell on this planet.
Four of the wiser commissioners signed a statement saying “the time may be right” for a ballot measure to end the death penalty and alternately proposed limiting capital offenses to less than 10% of first-degree murders.
Yet, if you believe in polls, Californians have supported death by government by a margin of 2 to 1 and have repeatedly voted to toughen sentencing laws. Laws that are being used by the state to tighten the noose around our civil necks. Measures of social control that we are scared into passing by vote. Due to our fears. Unfounded fears manifested and irritated by the media and those who would want to control us.
Justice for all can be found without killing again. And we can change the world in which we live in the process. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive. When we collectively learn how precious all life is, we will respect all others, convicted or not, with greater sincerity. This respect will come back to us in the form of a mutual appreciation for our true natures as compassionate human beings and shepherds for those who need our help. This will make life much safer and happier for everyone in return.