Apart from paying the state’s legislators a single cent for the worthless work they do, it’s hard to think of a bigger waste of money than the $184 million extra we pay to house 714 cold-blooded killers on Death Row than it would cost to lock them up with the other criminals locked up in maximum security prisons.
It has been five years since anyone was actually executed and the prospects of carrying out an execution for years to come are next to zero.
It costs 20 times as much to prosecute a death penalty case than a life without parole case.
“Of the 92 death row inmates who have died since 1978 (when capital punishment was restored), only 13 were executed in California and one was executed in Missouri, while 54 died of natural causes, 18 by suicide and six by inmate violence or undetermined causes,” reports Carol J. Williams in the LA Times. today.
The information comes from a new study entitled “Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle,” by death penalty experts U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arithur L. Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell. It will be published next week in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review.
“We hope that California voters, informed of what the death penalty actually costs them, will cast their informed votes in favor of a system that makes sense,” the report concludes.
What makes sense to the authors is abolish the death penalty altogether or at least sharply reduce what are now 39 different “special circumstances” that can be the basis of a capital punishment case.
That would mean only a few inmates would be housed on Death Row and they would actually face the possibility of being executed within something like the eight-year national average.
I don’t think capital punishment makes sense in a more or less civilized 21st century society. It’s a kind of feel-good exercise when we see some mad-dog killer get a death sentence but as a society we don’t have the will to line up 714 inmates and start executing them one after another anymore than we have the political will to deport millions of illegal immigrants.
There comes a time when we have to face reality and deal with it. There have been lots of studies — bipartisan and biased — that have made similar points as this study does without leading to any action.
Perhaps, at a time when $184 million means something, our leaders will find the courage to stop pandering to our baser instincts and do something about the death penalty issue.