“Todos los cristianos y hombres de buena voluntad están llamadas hoy a trabajar no sólo por la abolición de la pena de muerte, sino también para mejorar las condiciones de las cárceles, en el respeto de la dignidad humana de las personas privadas de libertad.” - Papa Francisco
The death penalty was first authorized in California in 1872, in the state’s penal code. Although the state Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court also did so, there was only a five-year hiatus before the state legislature overrode Governor Jerry Brown’s veto and reinstated the death penalty in 1977. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty California has executed only 13 inmates. However, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has the largest death row in the United States, with more than 700 persons awaiting execution.
80% of executions in California have been for those convicted of killing whites, while only 27.6% of murder victims are white. Furthermore, those who murder whites are over four times more likely to be sentenced to death in California than those who kill Latinos, and over three times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who kill African-Americans.
On March 13, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom made a historic step toward California's abolition by declaring a moratorium on all executions. The implications of shutting down California’s death row -- the largest in the Western Hemisphere -- are substantial. The moratorium granted reprieve to the 737 men and women currently awaiting execution in California, including the 24 who had exhausted all their appeals and were most at risk for execution. It also resulted in the dismantling of the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison, as well as the withdrawal of California's lethal injection protocol.
For more information and ways to get involved, contact your state's organizations:
The California Catholic Conference is the staff office of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops. It is the official voice of the Catholic community in California’s public policy arena.
California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a coalition of murder victim family members who support alternatives to the death penalty.
California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty (CPF) works to educate and mobilize faith communities to act to abolish the death penalty in California. CPF is a statewide interfaith organization.
Founded in 1988, Death Penalty Focus is one of the largest nonprofit advocacy organizations in the nation dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment through public education; grassroots and political organizing; original research; media outreach; local, state and nationwide coalition building; and the education of religious, legislative and civic leaders about the death penalty.