Monday, June 30, 2008

California Death Row is a Multi-Million Dollar Failure

It’s Official — Now What? A panel of experts, including 10 law enforcement officers and prosecutors, unanimously agrees that California’s death penalty is utterly broken. To fix it, we’ll need to spend over $200 million per year. The current failed system already costs over $137 million more each year than our alternative of permanent imprisonment. Today’s report forces all Californians to ask: how much we are willing to pay for our death penalty when we have an alternative that punishes criminals and protects our communities without making us bankrupt?

(Please go to the death pen blog at ACLU's website for the report/video...)


Death Penalty: An Open Forum by Nancy Oliveira Monday, June 30, 2008
California's Death Row--long excerpt from her article.

The best-kept secret in California is the real cost of the death penalty system...

...for some reason, the state's coffers seem to be wide open when it comes to carrying out the death penalty in California. Most people think we save money with executions - that it is cheaper to execute prisoners than to lock them up until they die of old age, illness or injury.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We spend an estimated $117.35 million annually to keep the death penalty on the books in California when we have an alternative: permanent imprisonment. This sentence costs far less - about $23 million a year - and is a severe, swift and certain punishment. It allows the victims' families to move on with their lives, knowing that the convicted murderer will never be free and society will be safe.

Capital cases are expensive because they are so complex; they require more lawyers, more experts, an extensive jury selection process, and two trials (one to determine guilt and one for sentencing) - all constitutionally required to help prevent the conviction and execution of the innocent.

Conversely, executing those on Death Row (673), or waiting for them to die of other causes, will cost California an estimated $4 billion more than if they had been sentenced to permanent imprisonment.

Every tax dollar spent on executions is a tax dollar not available for education. Why are we willing to spend so much money trying to kill prisoners and not on the education of our children? What could $117.35 million dollars a year buy for our public schools?

The real cost of the death penalty is what we sacrifice for it. Perhaps we should join all the other Western democracies that have abolished capital punishment and put our tax dollars to better use.

Nancy Oliveira has been a resident of San Francisco for 35 years. She also serves on the Board of Death Penalty Focus.

San Francisco

Be sure to go to the poll and vote at the opinion section



California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
870 Market St. Ste. 859 San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel. 415.262.0082 - Fax 415.243.0994 - California Crime Victims

For Immediate Release
June 30, 2008

For more information contact:
Aarti Kelapure, 415.262.0082

Survivors of Murder Victims Applaud Report on California's Death Penalty

Commission Report Highlights Many Problems with California's Death Penalty and Encourages Californians to Consider Alternatives

Sacramento-The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice issued the state's first comprehensive report on California's death penalty today. The 116 page report identifies many problems with the state's death penalty, concluding that it is "dysfunctional" and quoting the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court who said the system may "fall of its own weight" if nothing is done.

During a series of hearings around the state, the Commission heard from a growing segment of advocates who oppose the death penalty: family members of murder victims whose personal experiences with the system have lead them to become ardent, outspoken advocates for alternatives to the death penalty.

Fifteen survivors of murder victims opposed to the death penalty testified at the Commission's three public hearings in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Santa Clara. These witnesses, who are active with the coalition California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CCV), are also available for comment this week.

Many CCV family members told the Commission that funds now spent on the death penalty would be better used helping victims, solving unsolved murders, and preventing violence. Others emphasized the negative impact of the death penalty appeals process on survivors of murder victims.

Witnesses included (find some of these folk on the Journey of Hope website):

* Nick and Amanda Wilcox (Grass Valley), who testified on the anniversary of their daughter Amanda's murder. Amanda was working at a mental health clinic when she was killed by a patient. The Wilcoxes have become leading advocates for expanding treatment for the mentally ill to prevent violence.

* Barbara Zerbe Macnab (San Francisco), who testified that, despite her mother's pleas for clemency, two men were executed for the murder of her father when she was just eight years old, causing even more anguish to their family.

* Aba Gayle, who testified that, despite her requests, the Placer County District Attorney continues to pursue lengthy appeals seeking to reinstate the death sentence for the man who killed her daughter Catherine. At the time of the trial, Aba Gayle supported the death penalty. Ten years later, she realized that holding on to the anger and anticipating the execution would not help her heal.

* Vera Ramirez-Crutcher (Ventura), who testified about the anguish she experienced when her son David was murdered trying to protect his girlfriend, but who has always opposed the death penalty on religious grounds.

* Dawn Spears (San Jose), who became the primary caretaker of her three grandchildren when her daughter Tameca was murdered, testified that she is opposed to the death penalty, as was her daughter.

"I am pleased that the Commission reported noted the moving testimony of the people who have personal experience with the system," said Judy Kerr, spokesperson and victim liaison for California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CCV). "Ours is an important voice in this debate." Family members of murder victims were instrumental in the persuading the New Jersey legislature to end the state's death penalty.

Aundré Herron, a former prosecutor who now represents people on death row and whose brother, Danny, was murdered remarked, "The death penalty does not help us heal; rather than honoring my brother, executing his killers would have forever tied his memory to an act of revenge."

"Californians should consider how we can best help the survivors of murder victims rebuild their lives and prevent more murders?" asked Kerr. "I believe the first step is to replace the death penalty with permanent imprisonment."

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