Pros and Cons: CA Propositions 34, 35, 36

Here are some details on the three propositions on the November ballot that deal with criminal justice issues, props. 34, 35, and 36.  No. 34 repeals the death penalty in California.  Prop. 35 increases penalties for human traffickers.  Prop. 36 relaxes the state’s stringent three strikes law.


According to the official election guide, prop.34 would

Repeal death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to existing death sentences. Directs $100 million to law enforcement agencies for investigations of homicide and rape cases. Fiscal Impact: Ongoing state and county criminal justice savings of about $130 million annually within a few years, which could vary by tens of millions of dollars. One-time state costs of $100 million for local law enforcement grants

Pros –

  • Ethical concerns; that either the death penalty constitutes “cruel and unusual” punishment by our modern standards or that it is immoral.  Also, a belief that in practice a death penalty system always ends up being administered in a discriminatory and/or arbitrary manner.
  • Keeping people on death row for decades itself amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, and it is impossible to shorten that time period dramatically and still maintain due process.
  • Most other rich countries have abolished the death penalty as a remnant of a more primitive time, and we should, too, for the same reason.
  • Death row costs the state of CA a fortune, even compared to life in prison.

Cons –

  • Moral or ethical belief that the death penalty is just and appropriate in some cases.
  • The death penalty is not as discriminatory as the boatload of academic research suggest it is, or, if it is, it’s still worth it to execute a small number of the worst criminals.
  • Passing prop.34 would remove from district attorneys the leverage over suspects that having the death penalty provides.
  • Removing the death sentence from already-convicted murderers would be unfair to their victims and reverse the judgments duly rendered by trial courts.

Links to Pro/Con Opinions


The official CA voter guide says prop. 35:

Increases prison sentences and fines for human trafficking convictions. Requires convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders. Requires registered sex offenders to disclose Internet activities and identities. Fiscal Impact: Costs of a few million dollars annually to state and local governments for addressing human trafficking offenses. Potential increased annual fine revenue of a similar amount, dedicated primarily for human trafficking victims.

Pros and Cons

  • These are among the worst crimes, yet under enforced, etc.
  • It is supported by major CA elected officials and by both political parties.
  • Or, CA already has strong anti-trafficking laws.  Why add, inflexible, carved-in-stone new penalties by means of an initiative?
  • Prop.35’s definition of sex trafficking is too broad, and could be used to go after the adult entertainment industry and sex workers.
  • Some parts of the initiative may be unconstitutional.

Links to Pro/Con Opinions


The voter guide says prop. 36:

Revises law to impose life sentence only when new felony conviction is serious or violent. May authorize re-sentencing if third strike conviction was not serious or violent. Fiscal Impact: Ongoing state correctional savings of around $70 million annually, with even greater savings (up to $90 million) over the next couple of decades. These savings could vary significantly depending on future state actions..

Pros and Cons

  • The three strikes law is overly-broad and snares people in life sentences who don’t deserve it.  Prop.36 would return the 3-strikes law to its original intent: LWOP the worst of the worst violent offenders, not others.
  • All of the LWOP prisoners cost the state a fortune and corrections resources would be better used if there were fewer of them.
  • No, people with two serious or violent felony convictions and a third that isn’t belong in jail for life, even if their last strike was not a serious or violent crime (example: grand theft without a firearm).

Links to Pro/Con Opinions

NEXT POST:  The tax and budget-oriented propositions: Props. 30 and 38.   


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