Death penalty reform initiative passes key hurdle, but our work has just begun

By Michele Hanisee

The crucial initiative to reform and preserve the death penalty for California’s most brutal criminals has cleared a significant hurdle by securing enough signatures to qualify for the November statewide ballot.

The Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings campaign recently submitted 593,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office. Qualifying an initiative requires about 366,000 valid signatures.

While this is an important step, our hard work has just begun. Over the coming months, we have to convince our friends, loved ones and acquaintances why it’s critical to support this initiative.

For starters, you can tell them that failure to pass the initiative will, quite simply, mean the end of California’s death penalty. Opponents are pushing a competing initiative to eliminate this form of justice for thugs who murder, torture and rape.

At the same time, you can explain to them that the current system is broken and in dire need of repair.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the state has executed only 13 inmates. A quarter of the 700-plus inmates on California’s death row have been there for more than 25 years.

The endless inmate appeal process of their death sentences has essentially turned a death sentence into life in prison. Indeed, California’s last execution took place more than a decade ago.

The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act would solve this problem, and many more. Among other things, it would require that a defendant who is sentenced to death be appointed a lawyer at the time of sentence, meaning the defendant’s appeal will be heard sooner. It would also allow the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce the cost of housing death-row inmates, and make it easier for the department to enact an execution protocol.

As we said in an earlier post, failure to pass this initiative is not an option. A donation of $25, $50 or $100 will go a long way toward helping the campaign educate voters about its importance. You can donate here.

You can read about this measure in detail, and learn how to help, at

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