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SAFE California Initiative seeks shift on death penalty

The lethal injection room at the San Quentin State Prison.
The lethal injection room at the San Quentin State Prison.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

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In 1978, California voters overwhelmingly approved the Briggs Death Penalty Initiative that vastly expanded the number of crimes punishable by death. The sponsors of the proposition argued that it would allow prosecutors to seek just punishment for crimes of murder. Now, California's death row currently houses more than 700 inmates, more than any state in the union.

Its supporters argued it would send a strong message to criminals – commit murder in California and expect a quick trip to the gas chamber – but it hasn't worked out that way. In the almost 35 years since it was approved, the state has executed 13 convicted murderers. Now, the Briggs Family that sponsored the 1978 initiative supports the SAFE California Initiative that would replace the death penalty in California with a sentence of life without parole.


Ron Briggs, member of the Board of Supervisors in El Dorado, CA. In 1978, Briggs, his father, and his brother sought to expand the death penalty through the Briggs Death Penalty Initiative.