Document Type

Book Chapter - On Campus Only

Publication Date



On November 6, 2012, the state of California was poised to become the eighteenth state in the United States to abolish the death penalty, replacing it with a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (commonly referred to as LWOP). The Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act (The SAFE California Act) appeared on the statewide ballot as Proposition 34 and would have overturned a previous 1978 ballot initiative that restored the death penalty in California following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1976 ruling in Gregg v. Georgia. When the votes were counted, Prop. 34 lost by a margin of four percentage points, leaving the California existing death penalty statute in place. The prospect for passage looked promising leading up to the vote. Not only has there been an emerging national trend in support of death penalty abolition but there has also been increasing support for ending the death penalty in California during the previous decade. Prop. 34 had the backing of supporters of the previous 1978 initiative, insisting that it had been a “terrible mistake” to reinstitute state executions following Gregg. But perhaps the best reason to think that California would move into the “abolitionist” column was because the state faces one of the worst fiscal crises in the nation.

Recommended Citation

Dilts, Andrew. “Death Penalty Abolition in Neoliberal Times: The SAFE California Act and the Nexus of Savings and Security,” in Death and Other Penalties, edited by Geoffrey Adelsberg, Lisa Guenther, and Scott Zeman, 106-129. New York: Fordham University Press, 2015.