By Stephen Clark | FoxNews.com
Opponents of California’s death penalty are working on a bill to abolish capital punishment in the state, which if signed into law and approved by voters next year could help California save millions of dollars by taking hundreds of prisoners off Death Row.
The bill from state Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock of Berkeley would amend state law to require life in prison without parole for those convicted of what are now capital crimes, including people currently facing execution. If passed by the Legislature, the question would be put before voters on the November 2012 ballot.
The push comes as California continues to grapple with multi-billion dollar budget deficits that has led to deep spending cuts, a lower credit rating and the prospect of higher taxes.
Only 13 inmates have been executed since the death penalty was restored in the Golden State in 1978, but supporters of the death penalty say commuting the sentence of 714 condemned inmates to life in prison without parole would be a travesty of justice.
They argue that rather than abolish it, fix the capital punishment system so condemned prisoners don’t spend as much time on death row and cost taxpayers as much money.
“The people that want to abolish it are the ones who would raise the cost,” said Harriet Salarno, president of Crime Victims United of California, whose daughter was murdered in 1979 in a case that led to a life sentence for the man convicted. “You’re telling me that life without parole is not going to be costly?”
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