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The Death Penalty and Criminal Justice in America

The state of California passed new legislation in the November 2016 election regarding the death penalty. California law will keep the death penalty in place and shorten the appeals process for inmates on death row in California prisons.

Proposition 62 “Repeal of the Death Penalty”was voted down by a 53.7%majority in California this month according to State reported returns. [1] And while this sounds close in numbers, looking at the counties that voted in favor of the measure, it was a landslide victory. The only counties in California that voted to repeal the death penalty are largely coastal and include Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma, Yolo, Alpine, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles.

Proposition 66won by a much closer margin in California at just 51%. Prop 66 addresses “Death Penalty. Procedures. Initiative Status.” This measure gained support from counties that predictably also supported Prop 62. The majority of coastal counties voted against Prop 66.

The measure passed changes that affect the current procedures that are followed regarding both death penalty convictions and sentences. It limits the number of “successive petitions” that can be filed and “establishes [a] time frame for state court death penalty review.” Proposition 66 also allows inmates to be transferred among California prisons, and it “exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution methods.” In addition, the new legislation increases the amount of money that can be taken from an inmate’s “wages” and given to their victim(s) for restitution. [2]

Pew Research Center recently published “5 facts about the death penalty” by David Masci on the heels of the passing of new legislation regarding capital punishment. It wasn’t just California that had measures on the ballot this year. Nebraska and Oklahoma also voted on measures that support this form of sentencing.

Masci points out the following [3] in his article:

  • 1. 31 states and the federal government utilize the death penalty as means of punishment.
  • 2. Support for capital punishment tends to be partisan. Says Masci, “34% of Democrats favor the death penalty, compared with 72% of Republicans.”
  • 3. To date, 2016 has seen the execution of 17 inmates.
  • 4. A 71% majority of adults admit that there is a risk that “that an innocent person will be put to death.”
  • 5. According to Pew Research Center, opinions about the death penalty to see “racial and gender divides.” Men are more likely to favor it than woman says Masci, as do “a majority of whites (57%) …compared with 29% of blacks and 36% of Hispanics.”

  • For more information about capital punishment visit Death Penalty Information Center .

    SOURCES
    1. Secretary of State Website. Retrieved via http://vote.sos.ca.gov/returns/maps/ballot-measures/prop/62/
    2. California Secretary of State. “California General Election November 8, 2016, Official Voter Information Guide.” August 18, 2016. Retrieved via http://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2016/general/en/pdf/complete-vig.pdf .
    3. David Masci. Pew Research Center. November 14, 2016. “5 facts about the death penalty.” Retrieved via http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/14/5-facts-about-the-death-penalty/ .
    4. Death Penalty Information Center. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/


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