Yes on 34

Hello, my name is Gillian, and I hate talking on the phone. I hate it. The advent of text messaging seems like it was made especially for me. I can talk to people without having to talk to them! I don’t have to steady myself with deep breaths before dialing! Or practice voicemail messages! Because talking on the phone is for the birds!

And yet, on Sunday I volunteered 3 hours of my afternoon to call people on the phone. Not just people, but STRANGERS. Strangers who mostly did not want to talk to me. Some of whom were not at all shy about how much they did not want to talk to me. Because I guess, there’s like, something that I actually believe in. And care about. So much that I will voluntarily call strangers on the phone! And it’s California Proposition 34. In case you don’t know….

<from my phone script> Proposition 34 is a November ballot initiative that would replace the death penalty in California with life in prison without the possibility of parole. It would save the state $130 million per year and eliminate the risk of ever executing an innocent person while still keeping violent offenders behind bars forever. <end phone script>

The script goes on, though it’s still a bit unfathomable to me that it needs to (although, interesting fact, $100 million of those dollars will go directly to local law enforcement agencies for the express purpose of solving more rapes and murders every year).

Yesterday, an Orange County judge, who had proudly termed himself the “hanging judge,” passed away at the age of 89. During his time on the bench, he sentenced 9 people to death row. Not one of them has been executed. In fact, of the 800 people who have been sentenced to death row in California over the past 35 years, only 13 have actually been executed. Many more have died of old age. And still more remain in expensive, segregated death row housing.

In his retirement, this judge became a death penalty detractor, because he saw just how deeply and irreparably the system is broken. He supported Prop 34. And so do these people: 

  • Ron Briggs, the lead proponent of California’s 1978 death penalty initiative
  • Don Heller, the attorney who wrote California’s death penalty law
  • Jeanne Woodford, a former warden who carried out four executions herself
  • An increasing number of victims families (more than 400 currently)
  • The California Democratic Party
  • The California Nurses Association
  • The League of Women Voters

All of this information is widely available, but if I learned anything from the 100+ calls I made yesterday it was that a lot of people don’t even know that this proposition exists, which is the point of this post. (Also some pats on my own back for caring about something).

I don’t generally get cheesy and patriotic, but there is a very real possibility that we the people, meaning the voters, the citizen, just the regular old people like me and you and whoever, could end the death penalty in California in November. And I am extremely proud to be a part of the effort. Even if it means I have to call people on the phone.