If every murder that subjected a defendant to a sentence of life without parole took place outside prison, Proposition 34 might be workable. However, this is not the case.
More than 700 death row inmates would have their sentences commuted to life without parole under Proposition 34. Thousands of other inmates are already serving life without parole or sentences so lengthy that they will never be released. Such inmates would be immune from punishment under this proposition.
A sentence of life without parole is meaningless to an inmate who will already spend his life in prison. This is the real problem with Proposition 34. One wonders what the initiative's proponents will say when one of these prisoners murders a guard and cannot be punished in any meaningful way.
Richard de la Sota
The writer was a deputy Los Angeles County district attorney from 1971 to 2004.