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October 26, 2012

Latest California polling data suggests hard-core sentencing will be up real late on election night

La-me-death-penaltya1-20121025-gI have an inkling (and certainly a hope) that we will know the outcome of the 2012 presidential election not all that long after 9pm EST on November 6th: the polls will by then be closed in the crucial swing states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia.  But this big Los Angeles Times article, which provides the latest poll numbers on the two big sentencing reform ballot initiatives in California, suggests that hard-core sentencing fans should plan for very late night watching election returns from the Golden State. the article is headlined "Support for end to California death penalty surges; Nearly half of registered voters still back capital punishment, but the margin has shrunk to 3 percentage points; Voters also favor easing the three-strikes law." Here are excerpts:

Voter support for a ballot measure to repeal California's death penalty has jumped dramatically, though not enough to ensure its passage, a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll has found. Support for a separate measure that would ease the state's three-strikes sentencing law remained high, with more than 60% in favor of amending it.

The survey, conducted last week, showed that the gap between supporters and opponents of Proposition 34, the capital punishment measure, is now very small — only 3 percentage points — compared with last month.  Still, less than half of respondents said they would vote for the measure, which would replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Forty-two percent said they would vote for Proposition 34, with 45% saying no. In September, the gap was 38% to 51%, a 13-point difference.  A significant 12% of respondents said they did not know how they would vote, nearly identical to the 11% who had not decided last month.  "There is no question there has been a sharp shift," said Dan Schnur, who heads the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.  The results suggest that passage is "not impossible" but still "very difficult," Schnur said.

When voters heard more information about Proposition 34, such as its financial ramifications and details of the effect on prisoners, responses flipped: 45% were in favor and 42% against — still very close to the survey's margin of error, which is 2.9 percentage points.

The latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll [with crosstabs available here] questioned 1,504 registered voters by telephone from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21, before the Proposition 34 campaign launched radio and television ads. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm, did the survey with American Viewpoint, a Republican company. 

Proposition 34 would apply retroactively to condemned inmates, require convicted murderers to work in prison and contribute to victim restitution funds, and direct $100 million to law enforcement over four years.  It could save the state as much as $130 million a year, according to California's nonpartisan legislative analyst.  California has more than 727 inmates on death row, the most in the nation....

Natasha Minsker, campaign manager for Proposition 34, said the poll's findings prove that "this election is absolutely moving in our direction."  But Peter DeMarco, a strategist for the opposition, expressed confidence that the shift was too small to make a difference....

La-me-death-penalty-inside-20121025-g

Meanwhile, support for the three-strikes measure, Proposition 36, has held relatively steady in recent weeks, with 63% of voters in favor, 22% opposed and 15% undecided or not answering.  Last month, the initiative was leading by 66% to 20%.  "Unless the opponents can convince voters that the criminals being impacted by this measure are still dangerous, the initiative looks pretty safe at this point," Schnur said. 

The three-strikes law allows prosecutors to seek sentences of 25 years to life for any felony if offenders were previously convicted of at least two violent or serious crimes, such as rape or residential burglary. Proposition 36 would amend the law so offenders whose third strikes were relatively minor felonies, such as shoplifting or drug possession, would no longer be eligible for life terms.  Of the state's nearly 8,900 third-strikers, about a third were convicted of drug or minor property crimes.

This week, the proposition's campaign unveiled a television ad in which the district attorneys from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties tell voters that the amendment would ease prison overcrowding, save the state millions of dollars and "make the punishment fit the crime."  Opponents point out that the current law already allows prosecutors and judges to spare a third-striker the maximum sentence and argue that flexibility is needed to protect the public.

I suspect that the polling on these sorts of initiatives can be subject to lots of statistical noise, so I am quite chary about making book on these latest poll numbers.  That all said, it will be big news if either of these sentencing reform initiatives pass, and huge news if they both do.  Thus, I now have yet another reason to wish Election Day 2012 was here already.

October 26, 2012 at 06:12 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Do you mean that we might know the result by EDT or EST time? I'm in Australia (student) so it makes a difference for me. Thanks!

Posted by: Tom Moore | Oct 26, 2012 9:07:06 PM

LOL now this was funny!

"Proposition 34 would apply retroactively to condemned inmates, require convicted murderers to work in prison and contribute to victim restitution funds, and direct $100 million to law enforcement over four years."

Let's see i've been sentenced to life in prison in calif's rathole of a prison sytem. Under the current 3 strikes law 've probably got either a death sentence or LWOP to look forward too. Let's see what would my reponse to "get up and go to work so we can save on staffing"


Hmm

"FUCK YOU" comes to mind LOL

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 27, 2012 1:03:03 AM

Prop. 34 will kill innocent people:

Those on death row murdered at least 1,279 people, including 230 children & 43 police officers. 211 were raped, 319 robbed, 66 killed by execution, & 47 tortured. 11 murdered other inmates.

A jury of 12 people and a judge confirmed for each of these inmates that their crimes were so atrocious and they were so dangerous that they not only did not deserve to live, but they were so dangerous that the only safe recourse was the death penalty. Recognizing how dangerous these killers are, the prison houses them one person to a cell and does not provide them with work, leaving them locked in their cells most of the day.

Prop. 34 wants to ignore all of this and save money by placing these killers in less-restrictive prisons where they share cells with other inmates. They also want to provide them opportunities for work, where they have more freedom, access to other inmates and guards, and more chances to manufacture weapons.

Prop. 34 will also destroy any incentive for the 34,000 inmates already serving life without parole to kill again. There would be no death penalty under Prop. 34 and they are already serving a life sentence, so why not get a name for yourself killing another inmate or a guard?

Prop. 34 also takes away the $ for inmates to challenge their convictions. If innocent, now they will spend the rest of their life in jail, likely celled with men who are vicious killers. Prop. 34 may just cause more deaths of innocent people– guards and people wrongfully convicted but no longer able to fight it.

And they refer to Prop. 34 as the SAFE Act!

Posted by: Chris Bernstien | Oct 27, 2012 4:18:33 AM

"Proposition 34 would apply retroactively to condemned inmates, require convicted murderers to work in prison..."

Really? Won't that be subject to a legal challenge as an ex post facto punishment? When such a provision was not part of the original sentence, I don't see how such a challenge could be avoided.

In addition, the legislature could act right now prospectively to require persons sentenced to death to work in prison to contribute to restitution up to the time of execution, which is generally quite a few years. If building up the restitution fund is a good idea after election day, it's a good idea now.

Not that such a requirement will actually be enforced. The Prop 34 backers could care less whether killers are (on paper) required to work; that's just a make-weight to bring in a few more votes. The real purpose, of course, is to bring celebration to the gentle folks on death row.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 27, 2012 8:03:37 AM

"require convicted murderers to work in prison"

Which is, ironically, when many inmate murders and escapes take place.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Oct 27, 2012 6:21:44 PM

Bill Otis: "Really? Won't that be subject to a legal challenge as an ex post facto punishment? When such a provision was not part of the original sentence, I don't see how such a challenge could be avoided."

Bill apparently has never heard of the sexual offender registration requirements.

Bill Otis: "In addition, the legislature could act right now prospectively to require persons sentenced to death to work in prison to contribute to restitution up to the time of execution..."

Like rodsmith said, who is going to force the guy sentenced to death to work? Are you volunteering for that job?

Posted by: Huh? | Oct 27, 2012 9:21:40 PM

"Really? Won't that be subject to a legal challenge as an ex post facto punishment? When such a provision was not part of the original sentence, I don't see how such a challenge could be avoided."

No, because a mandate for prisoners to work has been the law for a very long time. The initiative's requirement is merely duplicative, and it was thrown in to sound good, not to actually change anything.

Despite the mandate, most prisoners do not work, for a variety of reasons. There is insufficient work available. Many prisoners are too high a security risk to be allowed to work (which would include many if not most of the present death row prisoners). Other activities are allowed to count as "work." Most of those who do work are in jobs that pay such a pittance that they do not produce any significant funds for restitution.

The claim that the inmates presently on death row are going to produce any significant restitution for victims through labor if Prop. 34 passes is a fraud.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Oct 28, 2012 2:04:05 PM

CA executed 13 people since the 1970s. There are many more than that number sentenced to death. WHATEVER happens with this ballot (sorry, no, don't want to bet with you on it Bill), these people will still be in prison. Something will be done with them in prison. Some of them will do some sort of work. As to that being punishment, if the alternative is spending time in a room for 23 hours or whatever, I don't think they will all say [expletive deleted]. Many of them will WANT to do something. How much restitution this will get ya is another story.

Anyway, how about those other measures on the CA ballot? Sex stuff seems to be a favored topic here. The LA county porn measure should be of interest to some. Admittedly, not really a sentencing issue but this thread isn't really interested in the OP that much so don't let that stop you.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 28, 2012 10:52:30 PM

Huh? --

Me: "Won't that [the work requirement in Prop 34] be subject to a legal challenge as an ex post facto punishment? When such a provision was not part of the original sentence, I don't see how such a challenge could be avoided."

Huh?: "Bill apparently has never heard of the sexual offender registration requirements."

Wake up and read some law. The Supreme Court held sex offender registration requirements to be civil in nature; thus they do not trigger the bar on ex post facto punishment.

But don't worry, Huh? That was only nine years ago, in Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003).

For a guy who so constantly tells us how smart he is, you should really try to keep up.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 29, 2012 10:07:44 AM

try again bill.

"Wake up and read some law. The Supreme Court held sex offender registration requirements to be civil in nature; thus they do not trigger the bar on ex post facto punishment."

Actualy what they said was legal...was almsot immediately rendedered moot as the very things they said would have made it illegal if done...are now required.

Seems you know the case...now i suggest you go read it.

Never mind i'm still waitiing for one of you hot shot lawyers to explain how "No expost" has been legally initerpeted to mean "No expost" except in civil and sex crimes

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 29, 2012 11:00:01 AM

rodsmith --

Huh?'s point was that the permissibility of post-conviction sex offender registration requirements shows that the post-conviction prison work requirements of Prop 34 would also be permissible. But that is not true. It's not true because the post-conviction registration requirements as litigated in Smith v. Doe were found to be civil in nature, whereas no sensate person could think that an in-prison work requirement of Prop 34 could be anything other than penal.

Thus, contrary to Huh?'s view, the permissibility of post-facto sex registration requirements does nothing to support the alleged permissibility of post-facto prison work requirements. He just ignores (or doesn't know about) the distinction between a civil and a criminal disability. But, as the Court found in Smith v. Doe, that distinction is the whole deal.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 29, 2012 11:28:29 AM

LOL good one but based on that same decison we also know the court was talking out it's collective ass as well. That in fact and in law what they claimed was a civil decison was in fact and in law a criminal one. The chicken shits on the courts are just afraid to admit it. Thanks to the brainwashing of america they are terrified of the result.


as for huh?'s point. not sure about you but knowing our two-faced nazi wannabees in the court system. I can see the beginning statment of any decison right now!

"Do to the fact that "work" is not a crime. This law is considered civil" case closed.

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 29, 2012 1:53:27 PM

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