State taxpayers have spent $4 billion on capital punishment since 1978. Is it worth it?
A new analysis of the death penalty's costs says that taxpayers have spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment in California since it was reinstated in 1978, or about $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out since then, the Los Angeles Times' Carol Williams reported Monday.
The examination of state, federal and local expenditures for capital cases, conducted over three years by a senior federal judge and a law professor, estimated that the additional costs of capital trials, enhanced security on death row and legal representation for the condemned adds $184 million to the budget each year.
The study's authors, U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell, also forecast that the tab for maintaining the death penalty will climb to $9 billion by 2030, when San Quentin's death row will have swollen to well over 1,000.
In their research for "Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature's Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle," Alarcon and Mitchell obtained California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records that were unavailable to others who have sought to calculate a cost-benefit analysis of capital punishment.
Among their findings to be published next week in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review:
The state's 714 death row prisoners cost $184 million more per year than those sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A death penalty prosecution costs up to 20 times as much as a life-without-parole case.
The least expensive death penalty trial costs $1.1 million more than the most expensive life-without-parole case.
Jury selection in a capital case runs three to four weeks longer and costs $200,000 more than in life-without-parole cases.
The authors outline three options for voters to end the current reality of spiraling costs and infrequent executions: fully preserve capital punishment with about $85 million more in funding for courts and lawyers each year; reduce the number of death penalty-eligible crimes for an annual savings of $55 million; or abolish capital punishment and save taxpayers about $1 billion every five or six years.
What do you think of the findings? Is the expense worth preserving the death penalty in California? Or is life without parole adequate punishment? Should the state's fiscal crisis be taken into account when making choices about capital punishment? Tell us your thoughts.
Read the full story: Death penalty costs California $184 million a year, study says