Desert Sun: California voters have the opportunity to end the state's rediculously inefficient death penalty system and invest some of the savings to help solve major crimes.
August 21, 2012 | , Desert Sun | Link to Article
California voters have the opportunity to end the state's ridiculously inefficient death penalty system and invest some of the savings to help solve major crimes.
Since 71 percent of the voters approved the 1978 initiative to reinstate the death penalty, the state has spent $4 billion on about 900 capital punishment cases. It has executed 14 prisoners, the last one in 2006. At that abysmal rate, it's not much of a deterrent. Inmates spend an average of 34 years on death row. Most die of old age.
Recent polls show that California support for the death penalty is still strong, backed by more than 61 percent of those surveyed. But the system is so flawed, The Desert Sun believes its time for it to come to an end. It's time for California to join 16 states, the District of Columbia and 139 countries that have banned capital punishment.
Some argue that families deserve the closure that comes with an execution. But executions are rare, and so is that closure. Families endure endless appeal proceedings, and the taxpayers bear the cost of them.
Rather than an “eye for an eye,” California should follow the course set by the initiative to provide an ironclad guarantee of life in prison. Slamming the prison door for good should provide the closure.
The cost of an average murder trial is $93,000 when the death penalty is not pursued. The average death penalty trial costs $1 million. Some trials cost much more.
Proposition 34 — the Safe, Accountable and Full Enforcement Act — would use part of the savings to create a $100 million fund to help solve homicides and rapes.
And it would require convicts to work while in prison to pay restitution to their victims.
California's nonpartisan legislative analyst estimates the change will save the state and local governments $100 million the first year and $130 million a year thereafter. Death penalty cases require a regular trial plus a penalty phase.
Ending the penalty phase cuts the cost considerably and reduces the time defendants spend in county jail — relief that Riverside County desperately needs. Ending the extensive appellate process alone saves $50 million a year.
Shutting down death row makes economic sense and would end a practice that many Californians passionately oppose.
Our judicial system is too overwhelmed to efficiently administer the death penalty.
It has failed for 34 years. Convictions may be correct most of the time, but the system is imperfect, and there is no fixing death.
Vote yes on Proposition 34.