Ccommission Report Finds CA’s Death Penalty ‘Dysfunctional’ and ‘Costly’

June 30, 2008

In a comprehensive report on California’s death penalty released today, the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice described the death penalty system as dysfunctional, costly, and close to collapse.

The commission, a nonpartisan statewide advisory board, pointed to inadequate funding for defense counsel, long delays in the appeals process, and a risk that innocent people will be sentenced to death.

According to the commission, the administration of the death penalty system in California currently costs taxpayers $137 million a year. To reform the death penalty system and make it functional would cost taxpayers an additional $95 million for a total of $237 million per year.

Ultimately, the report says that the people of California must make a choice:
— spend hundreds of millions on reforming the current death penalty system
— drastically narrow the system, or
— replace the death penalty with permanent imprisonment.

The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties joins other advocates across the state in calling for the replacement of the death penalty with permanent imprisonment. This would cost taxpayers $11.5 million a year as compared to the $137 million we spend now on the death penalty system or the $237 million that we should spend to make the system work.
“Permanent imprisonment has worked in California: no one receiving such a sentence has ever been released, there is no risk of executing an innocent person with permanent imprisonment, and the cost savings are hard to ignore,” said Andrea Guerrero, the Field & Policy Director for the ACLU.

“Given the tremendous budget shortfall in this state, it doesn’t make sense to spend ten times more to fund a dysfunctional death penalty system when we could be using that money to fund education and effective violence prevention programs,” said Guerrero.

The ACLU applauds the commission for its honest look at the high costs of a failed system and urges legislators to replace the death penalty with permanent imprisonment.

Click here to read the Commission’s report.

Read the Commission’s Full Report

CCFAJ DP Report 6-30-08.pdf