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Props 62 and 66: Death penalty debate behind enemy lines

Friday, October 28, 2016 17:17
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(Before It's News)

Read the perspectives of Spoon Jackson, serving a sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP), “the other death penalty,” at Lancaster State Prison near Los Angeles, and Tim Young, on San Quentin’s Death Row near San Francisco.

‘No’ on Prop 62

by Spoon Jackson

Spoon Jackson

Spoon Jackson

I just saw the first ad from the supporters of Prop 62. Mike Ferrell, the head of that movement, claimed that a “yes” vote on Prop 62 saves innocent lives on Death Row, by giving them all Life-Without-the-Possibility-of-Parole death sentences. What a myth and twist in thinking. Would Mr. Ferrell be willing to debate any LWOP prisoners he has demonized? Or is he afraid of the truth?

Prop 62 does not save any innocent lives on Death Row by re-condemning already condemned prisoners on Death Row to an LWOP death sentence. A vote “yes” would garnish more taxpayers funds with no returns. Mr. Ferrell stated in this bill, he will charge prisoners and their families and friends, and take the pennies from inmate slave wages.

Listen to the absurdity of his claim – Ferrell wants Prop 62 to pass to save innocent lives on Death Row. Really, in fact, innocent prisoners are better off on Death Row, where a poor person of color can obtain a real lawyer. Under Prop 62, innocent LWOPs will die in prison because they will receive no legal representation.

Prop 62 does nothing to save money but give more money to politicians, the prison industry, lobbyists and other companies that profit like maggots on the victims and their families, prisoners and their families and other loved ones. A vote of “yes” on Prop 62 is a vote to continue the racism, sexism on an endless LWOP level equally, as hideous as Death Row.

Around the world, and especially in civilized countries, LWOP and Death Row are considered barbaric, inhumane, and cruel and unusual punishment. So why does Mike Ferrell and his group push so hard to keep prisoners in limbo – innocent, the young, old and first term LWOPs without any hope or road to freedom? Can people change – is that the question? At least, on Death Row, death can free you from the fate of an LWOP death sentence.

A vote of “yes” on Prop 62 is a vote to continue the racism, sexism on an endless LWOP level equally, as hideous as Death Row.

It makes me wonder how deep Mr. Ferrell’s hands go into the pockets of big business and the prison industry, which wants to redirect Death Row money to Life Without Parole. The first rule of inmate economics is the more prisoners kept in prison, the more money. I cannot grasp how anyone who cares about humanity can support LWOP or Death Penalty sentences.

Mike Ferrell has never sat in a group of LWOPs or Death Penalty prisoners to discuss the ramifications of a LWOP sentence – to discuss the ethics and human aspects of the American penal system of justice and reform. For Prop 62 supporters to boast that innocent lives will be spared by an unbreakable, no hope LWOP sentence is myopic and absurd.

I cannot grasp how anyone who cares about humanity can support LWOP or Death Penalty sentences.

There is no humanity or reform in any of the provisions of this Prop 62 initiative – and no savings. In fact, in the long run, it will cost more money. Why is the implementation of LWOP sentences mainly to people of color and the poor? Why is that OK? Prop 62 will keep the racist pipeline to prison of Black and Brown people – walls full of prisoners without hope.

Getting rid of the Death Penalty for its twin, LWOP, is not justice and is like calling Satan the devil. For first term prisoners, the young, the old and the repented who messed up their lives and lost sight of what it is to be human, to be loved and forgiven, only to discover their humanity while incarcerated, there must be a path for redemption and second chances.

We are all human, and nothing human is alien to any of us, even those of us who have made big mistakes but have reformed. Who is the judge of who and what can be forgiven or reformed? Some countries embrace change and humanity and see prisoners in their society as their brothers and sisters to one day be welcomed back into their society.

Getting rid of the Death Penalty for its twin, LWOP, is not justice.

The prison systems in Germany, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Jamaica and some African and South American countries have paths for second chances, forgiveness and reform, even for those who have life sentences.

American journalists and prison officials visited a German prison system and asked why do they allow such reform programs in their prisons. The German officials responded that the people in their prisons are also their brothers and sisters and fellow citizens and must be welcomed back to their society, especially for those inmates who show reform.

For realness, people, one love, one planet, one race – and, fellow citizens, vote “NO” on Prop 62, because it is the human and healing thing to do.

Send our brother some love and light: Spoon Jackson, B-92377, CSP-LAC A5-141, P.O. Box 4430, Lancaster, CA 93539-4430.

The death penalty: Let’s be smart about this

by Tim Young

Tim Young

Tim Young

In 2012, during the last presidential election cycle, I wrote an article entitled, “Just when you thought it was SAFE.” In it, I stated that if the sponsors of the SAFE California Act were full of good intentions about abolishing the death penalty, then they would take the pork out of their initiative and come anew. The SAFE California Act ended up falling short at the polls by a few percentage points. But I am happy to report that since then, they have eliminated the pork, and they have definitely come anew.

Nov. 8, 2016, voters will again have an opportunity to abolish the death penalty. The new measure is called, “The Justice that Works Act.” It is well written, well meaning and well supported. And, truth be told, it is likely California’s last best chance to abolish the death penalty. Standing in the way, however, is another initiative called the “Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act.”

The Justice that Works Act, Proposition 62, calls to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (LWOP.) The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act, on the other hand, seeks to “fix” the death penalty and speed up executions. Now, to any voter who may be straddling the fence when it comes to these two initiatives, I say to you this: The death penalty is not something that you “fix”; it’s something that you do away with!

According to a study by former death penalty prosecutor and judge Arthur Alarcon and law professor Paula Mitchell, “the death penalty costs over a $100 million more per year to maintain than a system that has LWOP as its harshest punishment.” Thus, by attempting to “fix” the death penalty, taxpayers would be forced to dig deeper into their pocketbooks and essentially throw good money after bad. It’s time for California’s voters to get on the right side of history, because you can’t be “smart on crime” if you continue to be archaic on punishment.

Nov. 8, 2016, voters will again have an opportunity to abolish the death penalty. The new measure is called, “The Justice that Works Act.”

I must say that for the past 10 years or so, I’ve been hearing a wide range of people using phrases like criminal justice reform, restorative justice, transformative justice etc. Well, the time has come to put those words into action. Yes, get off of the soapbox, head to the ballot box, and may the aforementioned phrases be reflected in your votes.

The “winds of change” do not blow relentlessly; however, they have been stirring about. That is why I say that this is California’s last best chance to abolish the death penalty. To that end, propitious winds have aligned us with a governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general who are all opposed to the death penalty. Adding to that impressive list is a plethora of judges, educators, celebrities and elected officials, who all agree that California’s death penalty is biased, broken and beyond repair.

It’s time for California’s voters to get on the right side of history, because you can’t be “smart on crime” if you continue to be archaic on punishment.

Speaking of “winds of change,” I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the impact that Bernie Sanders has made in terms of his opposition to the death penalty. Case in point, Bernie Sanders refused to endorse Hillary Clinton for president unless or until she incorporated more progressive issues into the DNC’s platform. Eventually, Hillary capitulated, and issues like abolishing the death penalty were thereby adopted.

It is not known how much money and manpower the Democratic Party will actually put into getting Proposition 62 passed. One thing is for sure, though, if Bernie supporters show up at the polls, the state of California will finally be able to kiss the death penalty goodbye!

In the event that Proposition 62 does pass, it is safe to say that those who have a vested interest in maintaining California’s costly death penalty system will no doubt be “feeling the Bern!”

One thing is for sure, though, if Bernie supporters show up at the polls, the state of California will finally be able to kiss the death penalty goodbye!

The 11th hour is drawing near, and between now and Nov. 8, you, the voting public, will be bombarded with biased reporting, negative ads and gruesome images. These tricks are designed to tug at your heartstrings and thereby induce you to vote against your own best interests.

To those who may be swayed or manipulated by these 11th hour tactics, just know that prisons are teeming with men and women who have been wrongfully convicted. And they are depending on you, the voter, to stand firm in your opposition to the death penalty.

As an innocent man on Death Row, I find it hard to acknowledge anything short of freedom as being a victory. To me, LWOP is not a panacea, but rather a bare beginning. But, all things considered, it is better to have a bare beginning than it is to have a “fixed” ending!

With LWOP, we live to fight another day. And I have to believe that the pathway to vindication becomes a little less convoluted once the sentence of death is no longer hanging from one’s neck. Thus, let’s be smart about this. Vote “yes” on 62 and “no” on 66!

©Tim Young. Send our brother some love and light: Tim Young, F-23374, SQSP, San Quentin, CA 94974.

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