On March 13, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom announced his decision to halt the execution of 737 people sentenced to death in California prisons. This moratorium on capital punishment acknowledges the significant racial, economic, gender and disability disparities in death penalty sentencing and is an important step toward justice. California has the highest prison population in the country and has sentenced the greatest number of people to death row. Now, 737 have been granted life. It would be equally as ineffective and immoral to add that number of people to the 5,200 others who are currently serving Life Without the Possibility of Parole. Let us not sentence 737 more people to “the other death penalty.”
Our hope is that Governor Newsom will extended the equity and justice informed lens that brought him to stop the death penalty as he moves forward examining other forms of extreme sentencing in CA, including Life Without the Possibility of Parole.
Life Without Parole sentencing is increasingly being challenged and limited across the United States. Many states, including California, have passed legislation banning Life Without Parole sentences for youth. Now it is time to move forward and eliminate this inhumane punishment for all people. LWOP sentences deny that every person has the capacity to change, grow and be rehabilitated. While commuting a sentence does not guarantee release from prison, it does guarantee that each person will have the right to see the parole board in their lifetime, rather than being sentenced to a “living death”, an existence without hope. Life Without the Possibility of Parole is not a smart, safe, equitable or just alternative to the death penalty.