Proposition 62 – YES with reservations

It is important to vote yes to repeal the death penalty in California, although we are opposed to the provision to automatically impose life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

In addition to repealing the state death penalty, Prop 62 would:

  • Replace the maximum punishment for murder with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
  • Apply retroactively to those already sentenced to death.
  • Persons found guilty of murder and sentenced to life without possibility of parole must work while in prison.
  • The portion is increased of the inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution.

An estimated $150 million annual savings of criminal justice costs would result.

Prop 62 is supported by many labor unions, human rights groups, and religious organizations. In opposition are mostly police and district attorneys and their respective organizations.

A decent society and secure society should not condone state sanctioned murder, but should uphold the possibility of rehabilitation for all human beings. However heinous the crime, the perpetrator should have the opportunity to be rehabilitated. Denying that potential for rehabilitation by imposing life without possibility of parole denies the essential quality of human beings to improve.

The death penalty is deeply flawed, not only because defendants are executed and then found to be innocent, but because it is disproportionately and unjustly enforced on poor and working people, especially people of color:

  • The social status of the victim in the underlying murder has a significant influence on whether the death penalty is sought and imposed on the defendant.
  • Defendants who are convicted of capital murder are more likely to get the death penalty when defended by court-appointed counsel, compared with those who hired private lawyers.
  • The threat of capital punishment has not been shown to serve as a deterrent to capital crime, but does serve as an instrument of elite control threatening those of lesser means.
  • Currently more than half of all people on death row are people of color, most of whom are African Americans.
  • There is a huge bias against African American victims; offenders who murder African Americans get off much more lightly than those who murder whites.

Vote YES on Prop 62 to repeal the death penalty with the understanding that the provision for a life sentence without the possibility of parole (LOWP) is the next challenge to be repealed. Despite our reservations about LOWP, a YES vote sends a strong message that state sanctioned murder is wrong. A NO vote supports a punitive pro-death sentiment. At a time when powerful social movements such as Black Lives Matter are rising up and challenging the criminal justice system, repeal of the death penalty is more urgent than ever.

It is especially important to vote yes on Prop 62 and No on Prop 66 (a measure which would speed up the process for execution of condemned prisoners). If both pass, the measure with more votes will take effect.