Will California Taxpayers finally be “SAFE” from the Death Penalty?
The invisible death penalty industry described in my most recent book, Now I Walk on Death Row, is not unique to Florida.
Every state that has the death penalty also has a massive death penalty infrastructure that burns taxpayer dollars without objective
accountability. In addition to providing politicians with meaningless sound-bytes as taxpayer financed fodder for re-election campaigns,
this system keeps untold numbers of high-priced legal professionals, mostly on the state side, on the public dole. The high state salaries
and expenses for death penalty trials—costs that have been documented as much as 20 times higher than a trial for life in prison without
possibility of parole—have been almost immune to question. Any person seeking accountability for the wasteful government program called
the death penalty is immediately condemned by the very beneficiaries of this massive government largesse—mostly politicians and state
attorneys—for taking up with the bad guys and against the victims of crime.
After more than 35 years of such nonsense, America’s great death penalty experiment may finally have to answer for its dismal record of
financial recklessness and abysmal failure to contribute to public safety.
Taxpayers for Public Safety, a California coalition including taxpayer activists, members of law enforcement, and members of families
of murder victims, is collecting signatures to place a voter initiative on the ballot for Fall of 2012. The initiative is called “The
Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act”, or “The SAFE California Act”, for short. This incredible and
long-overdue initiative seeks to hold the invisible death penalty industry in California accountable to objective standards just
like any other government sponsored bureaucracy. The findings and declarations of the SAFE California Act speak eloquently for
themselves, and are in part as follows:
“The People of the State of California do hereby find and declare all of the following:
1. Murderers and rapists need to be stopped, brought to justice, and punished. Yet, on average, a shocking 46% of homicides and
56% of rapes go unsolved every year. Our limited law enforcement resources should be used to solve more crimes, to get more criminals
off our streets, and to protect our families.
2. Police, Sheriffs, and District Attorneys now lack the funding they need to quickly process evidence in rape and murder cases,
to use modern forensic science such as DNA testing, or even hire enough homicide and sex offense investigators. Law enforcement should
have the resources needed for full enforcement of the law. By solving more rape and murder cases and bringing more criminals to justice,
we keep our families and communities safer.
3. Many people think the death penalty is less expensive than life in prison without the possibility of parole, but that’s just
not true. California has spent $4 billion on the death penalty since 1978 and death penalty trials are 20 times more expensive than
trials seeking life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to a study by the former death penalty prosecutor and Judge,
Arthur Alacron, and law professor Paula Mitchell. By replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole,
California taxpayers would save well over $100 million per year. That money could be used to improve crime prevention and prosecution.
4. Killers and rapists walk our streets free and threaten our safety, while we spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on
a select few who are already behind bars forever on death row. These resources would be better spent on violence prevention and education,
to keep our families safe.
5. By replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole, we would save the state $1 billion
in five years without releasing a single prisoner—$1 billion that could be invested in law enforcement to keep our communities safer,
in our children’s schools, and in services for the elderly and disabled. Life in prison without the possibility of parole ensures that
the worst criminals stay in prison forever and saves money.
8. Convicted murders must be held accountable and pay for their crimes. Today, less than 1% of inmates on death row work and, as a
result, they pay little restitution to victims. Every person convicted of murder should be required to work in a high security prison
and money earned should be used to help victims through the victim’s compensation fund, consistent with the victims’ rights guaranteed
by Marsy’s Law.
9. California’s death penalty is an empty promise. Death penalty cases drag on for decades. A sentence of life imprisonment
without possibility of parole provides faster resolution for grieving families and is a more certain punishment.
10. Retroactive application of this Act will end a costly and ineffective practice, free up law enforcement resources to increase
the rate at which homicide and rape cases are solved, and achieve fairness, equality and uniformity in sentencing.”
The SAFE California ACT goes on to provide for a portion of such savings to be invested in funding for local law enforcement,
specifically police departments, Sheriffs, and District Attorney Offices, to increase the rate at which homicide and rape cases
The current economic crisis is forcing all of us in death penalty states to ask the bottom line question: Can we still afford a
death penalty that burns taxpayer dollars without accountability and without contributing in any meaningful way to public safety.
Wouldn’t an adopt-a-state-lawyer program for unemployed state death penalty lawyers be cheaper? Surely they could learn how to do
©2012 Dale S. Recinella, Tallahassee, Florida U.S.A.
All rights reserved. No reuse or republication without permission.