Brokenhearted Theology, California, Contemp Culture, Leadership, Meaning, Peacemaking, politics, Ramblings, Resurrection

The Death Penalty is Wrong; Vote Against It

Last month, I wrote about the question of justice for mass murders (Is Life Cheap in Norway?).

All our attempts at justice – whether it be community service hours, prison time, or the death penalty – fall short. And they don’t just fall short because we lack complete knowledge over the situations we’re judging. They fall short because our attempts at justice are rooted in fear and vengeance. To speak of “justice being served” is nothing but a myth on this side of redemption.

Last year, I wrote about the death penalty in light of the Troy Davis execution (The Death Penalty is Wrong).

The death penalty says that:

  • the nonviolent way of Jesus is stupid
  • some people are beyond redemption
  • our prison system is incapable of protecting society from violent offenders
  • ends can justify means
  • the shedding of blood can mend broken hearts
  • vengeance is ours

So now here I am, writing about the death penalty again because it’s a dated, unjust, arrogant, and shameful policy the USA should cease immediately.

And I’m writing about it because those of us in California have a chance to stop further state-sponsored executions with the passage of Proposition 34.

California has an infamous number of initiatives and propositions on each election ballot, and this year is no different. As I see it, a ballot initiative is a chance for relatively simple issues to be so muddled up in legalities and technicalities that no one understands it and then ridiculously politicize the once-simple issue to the point that no one wants to vote for anything anymore because there is no way to know what you’re really voting for.

But I don’t think Proposition 34 is that confusing.

Even as someone who pragmatically thinks our democracy is fraught with problems and theologically prefers a less-activist stance in the political sphere, I think there is no compelling reason why our government should have the right or the need to kill people and am proud to be listed amongst clergy and community leaders who support this Proposition. We have all the technology and infrastructure to protect the innocent from the guilty without resorting to state executions. We simply have no need for capital punishment and Proposition 34 provides a new way forward that continues to take terrible crimes seriously and seeks the peace and prosperity of our society.

Specifically, Proposition 34 seeks to:

  • Repeal the death penalty as maximum punishment for persons found guilty of murder and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
  • Apply retroactively to persons already sentenced to death.
  • Require persons found guilty of murder to work while in prison, with their wages to be applied to any victim restitution fines or orders against them.
  • Create a $100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases.

In short:

  1. We stop killing people.
  2. Killers stay in jail forever.
  3. Victim’s families are provided some tangible recompense.
  4. We don’t resort to lex talionis eye-for-an-eye vengeance that does not belong to us but to God (see Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 32:35, Psalm 94:1, Proverbs 20:22, Matthew 26:52 Romans 12:17, and Hebrews 10:30 as well as the entire narrative and ethical trajectory of the Scriptures if you want to engage this on a theological/biblical level).

A no-brainer, right? End the death penalty. Support Proposition 34. 

As always, all my writing and ranting on this blog are my own personal opinions, unless otherwise noted. Please try not to assume any organization, entity, or other individuals I may or may not be connected with
hold these same opinions!


3 thoughts on “The Death Penalty is Wrong; Vote Against It

  1. It is also interesting to note, that according to things I have heard and (very minimal) research I have done – it will actually cost SIGNIFICANTLY less to use the maximum penalty of life in prison rather than the death penalty. So if you are not swayed by moral and ethical debates – be swayed by money!!

    “Using conservative rough projections, the Commission estimates the annual costs of the present (death penalty) system to be $137 million per year.

    The cost of the present system with reforms recommended by the Commission to ensure a fair process would be $232.7 million per year.

    The cost of a system in which the number of death-eligible crimes was significantly narrowed would be $130 million per year.

    The cost of a system which imposes a maximum penalty of lifetime incarceration instead of the death penalty would be $11.5 million per year.”

    It kind of speaks for itself!


  2. California’s death row inmates murdered at least 1,279 people, with 230 children. 43 were police officers. 211 were raped, 319 were robbed, 66 were killed in execution style, and 47 were tortured. 11 murdered other inmates.

    The arguments in support of Pro. 34, the ballot measure to abolish the death penalty, are exaggerated at best and, in most cases, misleading and false.

    No “savings.” Alleged savings ignore increased life-time medical costs for aging inmates and require decreased security levels and housing 2-3 inmates per cell rather than one. Rather than spending 23 hours/day in their cell, inmates will be required to work. These changes will lead to increased violence for other inmates and guards and prove unworkable for these killers. Also, without the death penalty, the lack of incentive to plead the case to avoid the death penalty will lead to more trial and related costs and appeals.

    No “accountability.” Max earnings for any inmate would amount to $383/year (assuming 100% of earnings went to victims), divided by number of qualifying victims. Hardly accounts for murdering a loved one.

    No “full enforcement” as 729 inmates do not receive penalty given them by jurors. Also, for the 34,000 inmates serving life sentences, there will be NO increased penalty for killing a guard or another inmate. They’re already serving a life sentence.

    Efforts are also being made to get rid of life sentences. (Human Rights Watch, Old Behind Bars, 2012.) This would lead to possible paroles for not only the 729 on death row, but the 34,000 others serving life sentences. On 9/30/12, Brown passed the first step, signing a bill to allow 309 inmates with life sentences for murder to be paroled after serving as little as 15 years. Life without parole is meaningless. Remember Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan. Convicted killers get out and kill again, such as Darryl Thomas Kemp, Kenneth Allen McDuff, and Bennie Demps.

    Arguments of innocence bogus. Can’t identify one innocent person executed in CA. Can’t identify one person on CA’s death row who has exhausted his appeals and has a plausible claim of innocence.


    • Chris, thanks for the comment, though I nearly didn’t approve it since it is the same comment you have posted all over the internet anywhere someone writes in favor of Proposition 34 (i.e. not an original comment interacting with this post).

      I am aware of the talking points opposing Proposition 34 (and you have done a fine job quoting those talking points).

      I am also aware that people on death row have done terrible things and you don’t think they deserve to live. You also think that justice is served and that some “meaning” is conveyed through the execution of guilty people.

      I just happen to disagree.


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