The Guardian has recently published a thought-provoking article about California’s uneven relationship with the death penalty. The article points out that California has 746 inmates on death row, which is more than any other state in the union. This is not surprising, given that California’s population of just under 40 million people is over 10 million more than its closest rival, Texas.
What is surprising, though, is that one in nine death row inmates are senior citizens, and the oldest is 86 years old. California has not executed anyone in over a decade, which has led to a ballooning number of inmates who must be fed, clothed, housed, and medically cared for at taxpayer expense.
It is this large financial burden that is at issue with Proposition 66, which will be put to California’s voters in the November election. Titled as the “Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act,” Prop 66 would streamline the appeals process for condemned inmates, expand the pool of attorneys available to handle appeals in capital punishment cases, and allow the state to place death row inmates in cheaper housing while they await an execution that may not ever happen. The savings realized by Prop 66 are thought to be in the tens of millions of dollars each year on the correctional side, which could be offset in whole or in part by increased court costs for appeals by the affected inmates.
At the other end of the decision-making spectrum this fall is Proposition 62, also known as the “Justice That Works Act.” This proposition would abolish the death penalty altogether in California, which is thought to result in a savings of $150 million annually. Those already on death row, and those who may be given the death penalty in the future, would instead be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and would be required to work under the supervision of the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The evolving status of the death penalty in California, whether it will be “reformed” or done away with entirely, suggests that the matter of crime and punishment will always be revisited and reshaped. Society empowers the state to impose punishments on those who are convicted of wrongdoing, but the Proposition process allows every California voter to make his or her voice heard, not through the actions of elected representatives but through the voting booth directly. It is direct democracy in action.
If you or someone you know is sitting on death row, or is awaiting trial on charges that could lead to the death penalty being imposed, you owe it to yourself to find out what the passage of one or both of these Propositions in November could mean for you. Former prosecutor Ambrosio E. Rodriguez has significant experience in this field, and he can work with prosecutors to seek relief from the courts. To learn more, contact a Los Angeles criminal attorney today.