In California, on average, 46% of murders and 56% of rapes go unsolved each year. For victims and their families, and for the cause of public safety, these numbers are profoundly disturbing.
A new ballot initiative (changing the law in California often requires a direct public referendum) aims to do something about this, by redirecting funds wasted on the death penalty ($184 million per year according to a recent study), to local police and prosecutors to ensure that more crimes actually get solved. Since 1978, there have been 13 executions in California, at a cost of $308 million per execution. In 2009 alone, the best year of the decade for solving murders, there were 722 unsolved homicides.
Bringing killers and rapists to justice is obviously very important for victims and their families, and is also clearly vital to public safety. And whatever deterrent value you might think the death penalty has (probably none), it is vastly overshadowed by the reality that, now, if you commit murder in California, you have an almost 50/50 chance of never getting caught at all.
The proposed initiative would also require those convicted of murder to work in prison and provide restitution to victims’ families. And, importantly, it would end California’s shameful association with the notorious human rights abuse of capital punishment.
If this initiative gets on the ballot and voters approve it in November 2012, California will finally escape from the financial (and human rights) black hole that is the death penalty, and will be free to focus its resources more effectively on public safety and on the real needs of victims.