Voices from California's Death Row

Death Penalty Initiatives in the California Election


By: CEDP

We invite people to check this ongoing and vitally important election year project:  

Voices From California's Death Row. 

There are two initiatives that have made it on the ballot for the November election– Proposition 62 is called "The Justice that Works Act" and seeks to replace the death penalty with life without possibility of parole.  

The other is Proposition 66 and is called the "Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016".

CEDP mailed a questionnaire to everyone on death row in California to ask what their opinions of the propositions. We hope that folks will take the time to scroll through the dozens of responses presented in this blog. 

The CEDP feels that it is critical to hear the voices of prisoners who will be most affected by the passage of either of these pieces of legislation. A few years ago, similar legislation to end the death penalty was proposed, and we hosted a forum much like this to discuss that legislation. Many abolitionists were critical of that legislation, in part because of it's promotion of life without parole as an alternative, but also because of the money, earmarked exclusively for police and prosecutors, written into the bill. 

However, things are different this time around. The competing legislation to restart the death penalty puts many prisoners perilously close to execution. 

A de facto moratorium has been in place in California since 2006 because of a legal challenge to execution protocol.  As the state moves closer to instituting a new "humane" execution method, the danger of the moratorium being lifted grows ever closer.  Many cases have exhausted their appeals and there is a danger that several executions will be planned as soon as the moratorium is lifted.

These are important considerations in discussing the impact of death penalty repeal in California. Prisoners are crucial to this discussion - this forum is one platform where their voices are amplified.

Among the 46 people represented here there are a variety of opinion. Only one prisoner is in favor of the death penalty. All others oppose the death penalty, and many also oppose life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty. 17 are in favor of the Justice that Works Acts and 21 are against. Another 7 respondents are critical of the death penalty and prison system, are ambivalent about the legislation, and take no clear position.

Here, with their permission for us to publish, are their responses to our survey questions.


The survey questions were as follows:

1)      Would you like to see “The Justice that Works Act” passed or not? Why or why not?

2)       How do you feel about the replacement of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), instead of the death penalty?

3)       How do you feel about the requirement that all those with LWOP sentences have to work (this would include all those currently on death row)? 

4)      How do you feel about the mandate that all those with LWOP sentences have to pay 60% of their wages earned toward restitution if they have restitution orders in their case?

5)      There is also a ballot initiative called “The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act” that seeks to speed up executions. If both pass, the one with the most votes will go into effect. Does that change how people should vote? Does that change your opinion of “The Justice that Works Act?

6) If you have other opinions about these initiatives please tell us.