prison.jpgProponents of a ballot initiative that would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole in California gathered in San Francisco today to launch a signature-gathering campaign.

Supporters of the SAFE California Act need to gather 500,000 signatures by March 18, 2012 to place the initiative on the November 2012 ballot.

Supporters of the legislation who gathered on the steps of City Hall Tuesday morning included Supervisor Scott Wiener and Natasha Minsker, a former criminal defender and campaign manager for SAFE CA.

Minsker highlighted the financial costs of inmates on death row. Each execution costs taxpayers approximately $308 million, according to Minsker.

Individual cells, multiple prison escorts, trials and investigations, as well as extensive and costly federal and state appeals make up the majority of those costs, Minsker said.

“It takes money from the community without giving anything back,” said Lorrain Taylor, the mother of 22-year-old twins who were murdered in Oakland in 2000. Taylor argued that the money spent on the death penalty could be better used to investigate unsolved cases of murder and rape.

Among those who spoke out against the death penalty was Maurice Caldwell, who served 20 years in prison for a murder conviction before being found innocent and released in March 2011.

“The system in not perfect. I’m here today. I could have been convicted and faced the death penalty,” Caldwell said.

According to a Field Poll released on Sept. 29, 48 percent of California voters prefer life sentence without parole, while 40 percent prefer the death penalty for those convicted of capital crimes.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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