By Michele Hanisee
This November, California voters will be presented with two of the most important ballot initiatives in state history.
One – Proposition 66 – would preserve the death penalty for the most heinous criminals by enacting critically needed reforms to the system.
The other – Proposition 62 – would scrap the death penalty, allowing criminals who kill cops or rape and murder children to live out their lives in the relative comfort of prison.
I cannot overstate the importance of supporting Prop. 66, and doing everything we can – no matter how small – to educate others about it. If Prop. 66 fails, and California scraps the death penalty, the kind of brutal criminals who ambushed and slaughtered five police officers in Dallas Thursday night would only face life in prison if they committed those crimes here.
To be sure, the problems with California’s current death penalty system are by no means new, and they have literally transformed a death sentence into life without parole. 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 average death-row inmate has spent 16 years with a death sentence.
One of the primary problems is the endless inmate appeal process of their death sentences. Prop. 66 would fix 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 earlier posts, failure to pass this initiative is not an option; not only would Prop. 62 eliminate the death penalty going forward, but it would apply retroactively to people already sentenced to death.
You can sign up for campaign email updates, and volunteer for and donate to the campaign, by visiting the Californians for Death Penalty Reform and Savings website and clicking on the links on the right side of the home page.