The process of getting a convicted felon from prison cell to execution chamber costs unnecessary millions of tax dollars in legal fees, endless appeals, and increased security. In other words, the death penalty is anything but quick and painless to taxpayers.
Thankfully, Proposition 34 on the November ballot will give voters the opportunity to abolish the death penalty in California. A “yes” vote would eliminate the death penalty and alter all death row inmates’ sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole. It would also create a $100 million fund to help law enforcement investigate more rape and murder cases, and would require previous death row inmates to work in prison in order to pay restitution to victims.
Between the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1978 and September 17 of this year, 824 inmates have entered California’s death row. Of these, only 13 have actually been executed by the state. That puts the overall rate of execution since 1978 at about 1.6 percent.
A death row inmate costs taxpayers $90,000 more to house than a traditional inmate. Extra costs come from additional security, the greater expense of capital trials, and legal representation. That puts the average cost per execution since 1978 at $308 million.
The matter is also complicated by a moratorium put on capital punishment in 2006, the year that the question was raised as to whether or not the execution process there in place was humane. Since then, not a single inmate has been put to death by the state.
The death penalty in California only exists in theory. This leaves California spending billions on a virtual impossibility, and for whose benefit? A nonexistent punishment cannot work as “eye-for-an-eye” retribution, nor as a deterrent.
The only beneficiaries of maintaining the death penalty charade are attorneys who charge exorbitant fees to represent defendants in capital cases, and surprisingly, death row inmates.
According to the San Francisco Gate, criminals on California’s death row tend to oppose Prop. 34. This is because the state gives them more tools to appeal their conviction than a typical inmate receives, in order to prevent a wrongful execution.
Hanging the improbable prospect of execution over a prisoner’s head is nearly meaningless to them, but it is grim for California taxpayers. The only sensible option is repeal. On Nov. 6, vote “yes” on Proposition 34.