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Election 2016 FAQ: Proposition 62, Repeal The Death Penalty

Proposition 62 bans the death penalty and replaces it with life in prison without the possibility of parole

Credit: California Counts

Proposition 62.

See a list of all our proposition explainers here.

Special Feature California Counts

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio to report on the 2016 election. The coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

The basics

There’s one thing supporters and opponents of capital punishment agree on: California’s death penalty simply doesn’t work.

Since voters reinstated the death penalty in 1978, California has executed 13 inmates. Meanwhile, the population on death row has grown to nearly 750.

No condemned inmates have been put to death since 2006, when a federal judge placed executions on hold over concerns about the state’s lethal injection process.

As a former California Supreme Court chief justice once said, “The leading cause of death on death row is old age.”

The question is what to do about it.

What you're voting on

There are two very different ballot measures aimed at resolving the dysfunction. One is Proposition 62. It would ban capital punishment for future first-degree murder convictions. And all existing death sentences would be converted to life in prison with no chance of getting out.

Supporters of Proposition 62 say the state’s death penalty is “an empty promise” because the ultimate penalty is rarely carried out. The appeals process drags on for decades and then nothing happens. This is frustrating, even infuriating, to crime victims’ families, who want justice for their murdered loved ones.

Proponents say the decades-long appeals process, as well as housing death row inmates in single cells with high security, is expensive and wastes money since executions aren’t carried out.

Many death penalty opponents also feel executions are inhumane or even immoral. They point to other states where some innocent people have been executed, only to be exonerated after they’re dead. California’s long legal appeals process makes that unlikely, and so far it’s never happened here.

In addition to banning capital punishment, Proposition 62 would require convicted murderers to work while in prison, with 60 percent of their wages going to crime victims’ families.

Financial analysts for the state say that if Proposition 62 passes, it would save California about $150 million a year from the $122 billion state general fund budget. The savings would mostly come from reduced costs for trials and legal appeals.

When a similar measure was on the 2012 ballot, 52 percent of Californians voted to keep the death penalty.

Who are the opponents?

Critics of Proposition 62 include crime victims’ rights groups and most district attorneys. They say that rather than banning capital punishment, the state should fix the system we have. They’re proposing to do just that with a competing measure, Proposition 66. (If both Proposition 62 and Proposition 66 pass — which is highly unlikely — the one with the most votes would take effect.)

Fiscal impact — by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

There would be cost savings from changes to murder trials, court appeals and getting rid of death row at state prisons. The state would save around $150 million annually within a few years, including $55 million spent fighting death penalty appeals each year.

Supporters say — by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

• Getting rid of the death penalty would save the state millions of dollars in costs.

• This is the only way to make sure that no innocent person is ever executed in California.

Opponents say — by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

• We need the strongest possible punishment for the most serious first-degree murderers.

• The pay that inmates would put toward victims’ families cannot make up for the lost life.

How much is being spent on the campaigns?

California Counts is a collaboration of KPBS, KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio. Our coverage focuses on major issues and solicits diverse voices on what's important to the future of California.

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