Thursday, July 7, 2016

Comparing California's Competing Death Penalty Initiatives

By Adjunct Professor Paula Mitchell
Executive Director, Alarcón Advocacy Center & Legal Director, Loyola Project for the Innocent

On Nov. 8, 2016, California voters will choose between two competing death penalty initiatives: Prop 62 ends capital punishment and saves California taxpayers $1.5 billion over the next 10 years, while the other measure, Prop 66, doubles down on the state’s costly, failed system, spending millions more in an effort to speed up executions.

The state has spent roughly $5 billion over the last 40 years on a system that has produced no more than 13 executions. Supporters of Prop 62, known as the Justice That Works Act, say it is too costly, it does not deter crime, it risks executing innocent people, it is not evenly applied racially or geographically, and it is fundamentally a failed system that cannot be repaired. 

They say its time to end the death penalty because the system has long been dysfunctional and is now broken beyond repair. They also argue that ending the death penalty will prevent the state from ever executing anyone who is actually innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. Prop 62 is retroactive and will convert the death sentences of the 747 inmates on death row to life without the possibility of parole and increase to 60% the share of wages earned while working in prison that are dedicated to victim restitution orders.

By contrast, the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016, Prop 66, claims the system can be fixed and proposes to implement various amendments to state law aimed at speeding up the judicial review process and the rate of executions, including suggested time frames and limitations on direct appeal and habeas corpus proceedings, changing the process for appointment of to appoint counsel in direct appeals and habeas corpus petition proceedings, shifting initial jurisdiction for habeas corpus petitions, and making various other changes to the laws and procedures that would ease regulations surrounding the lethal injection protocols developed and employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). These proposed changes will increase state costs by tens of millions of dollars annually, with the fiscal impact of such costs being unknown in the longer run.

The full report appears below.

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