California Administration of Death Penalty Costs State $100 Million a Year and Is Close To Collapse

The first comprehensive look at California’s administration of the death penalty in 30 years has produced a study concluding that the state’s administration of the death penalty is “close to collapse” and would require either lots of money or changes in sentencing laws “to end decades of delay and dysfunction.” Here’s the story, from the LA Times.

The main report did not advocate abolishing the death penalty but did note that California could save more than $100 million a year if the state replaced the punishment with sentences of life in prison without possibility of parole. The report concluded that death-row prisoners cost more to confine, are granted more resources for appeals, have more expensive trials and usually die in prison anyway.

According to the story, the time from death sentence to execution in California is 20 to 25 years, compared with the national average of 12 years, the commission said. The state spends about $138 million a year on the death penalty and has executed 13 people over the last three decades, the commission said.

The commission learned of “no credible evidence” that the state had executed an innocent person but said the risk remained. Fourteen people convicted of murder in California from 1989 through 2003 were later exonerated. Six death row inmates who won new trials were acquitted or had their charges dismissed for lack of evidence.

Still, all were not of the same mind on the study. In one of the study’s dissents, five law enforcement commissioners complained that the majority was “seeking to undermine public confidence” in the death penalty and that the report “unmistakenly reveals a personal bias” against capital punishment.


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