Voices from California's Death Row

RF at San Quentin

Response to “The Justice that Works Act of 2016”

1. Would I like to see the Justice Act passed? No. Not as proposed.

This proposed law is ill-thought out, poorly crafted, and I really doubt it will save money, or serve any real purpose other than pander to the frightened and vengeance-seeking voters.

Case in point: Under §2: Finding and Declarations”, the wording “…and severely punished” should be removed. While the law may appeal to the group who want vengeance, it’s not realistic. What is the state going to do as a means of severe punishment? Bring back torture? Floggings or beatings? Starvation? Lock someone up forever?

2. How do I feel about replacing DP with LWOP?

I don’t have any problem with that, except for the all-encompassing nature of what qualifies for LWOP. As written, this law is designed to lock-up everyone. It’s too easy to convict everyone then sentence them to LWOP.

3. How do I feel about having to work? I have no problem with working. The reality of prison life, however, is there are not enough jobs and CDCR is running a slave-labor force now.

4. How do I feel about having to pay 60% of my wages for restitution?

There is no polite way to put this: with the restitution part, this is really stupid idea.  I’d say I have a problem with the portion. Currently, the inmate pay-scale ranges from a monthly salary of $12 to $56 for a 40 hour week, 52 weeks a year with no vacation time. (See chart) This is nothing more than slavery. Then to take 60% of a slave’s (inmate’s) wages leaves to little, there is no incentive to work, and a lot of incentive to resist. 

The accompanying chart shows how long an inmate must work to afford basic necessities. The lowest pay scale requires 22 hours to afford a 70 cent toothbrush, 75 hours to afford the cheapest $2.40) toothpaste, and 294 hours to afford a book of stamps.  This part of the law can only be described as stupidity, and that’s putting it mildly. An inmate can’t even afford the most basic necessities. Also, the law does not specify a retirement age, or make allowances for the sick or handicapped. Then include taking 50% of all money sent in from the outside that makes it even worse, especially when it’s usually the poor with imprisoned family members who are hard pressed to provide money for themselves, let alone money for even the basic necessities needed in prison. To insure good behavior while in prison, an inmate should keep what he or she earns. Restitution should come from the state who should pay a surcharge for every inmate hour worked at $12 to $56 per month.

5. Does have the initiative with the most votes pass affect my vote? Since I can’t vote, this is not applicable. 

From RF, San Quentin

RF chart