By Alexander Strada
Western Sun Managing Editor
A chance to reduce overcrowding in our prisons, a chance to abolish the wasteful and pointless death penalty, and a chance to ensure the right of consumers to know what’s in their food. Each election cycle, many of us go to the polls, and until we slide that curtain shut, don’t know enough about the various propositions to stand confidently on either side.
This election year, I’ve done the work for you on three of our propositions, each of which offers common sense opportunities to either save our state some money or protect the rights of consumers.
First we have Proposition 37. Prop 37 is a fairly simple bill that does something you would think ought to already have been in place. Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMO’s, are food products that have had their genetic material altered. There are a variety of reasons why producers do this, from pest resistance to increased produce yield.
All 37 does is require that these foods be labelled as GMO’s so that consumers can be aware of what they are getting.
This technology is still relatively new, and while studies so far seem to suggest these foods are safe to consume, it stands to reason that consumers have a right to know whether they are purchasing natural products or GM foods. It does not ban or restrict the sale or production of such food, it merely requires that it be clearly labeled for what it is.
Next we have Proposition 36, a bill that has the support of many law enforcement officials across the state, calls for a modification to the “Three Strikes” law currently in place. Under the “Three Strikes” law, criminals who are convicted of their third major crime are faced with a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
This law, which is aimed at curbing repeat offenders, is currently set up such that it floods our prisons. In some cases, petty theft and drug possession charges can count as a strike, and many prisoners sentenced under the law are non-violent offenders who have made it difficult to find room to incarcerate more serious, violent criminals.
Prop 36 would change that, altering the law so the third crime has to be more serious or violent in order to incur the strikeout sentencing. This would apply retroactively, allowing non-violent prisoners who were previously convicted to petition for reduced sentences and freeing up space and resources for more serious offenders.
Finally comes Prop 34, perhaps the clearest choice of all. Prop 34 puts an end to California’s death penalty. Regardless of how you feel about the ethics of the death penalty, the cost of maintaining a death penalty system is beyond absurd, especially when study after study has shown that it is ineffectual as a deterrent.
A 2011 study by former federal judge Arthur Alarcon showed California had spent $4 billion to execute 13 people since the death penalty was reinstated, and that it costs California $184 million per year per inmate to implement the death penalty as opposed to life without parole.
The death penalty system is irreparably broken and fails to serve any actual purpose, and Prop 34 offers us the chance the undo the mistake voters made in 1978 when they reinstated it.
Common sense is rarely honored in politics, but at least with these three Props it can be.