New Study Documents Death Penalty is Costlier Than Life Sentences
A three-year study conducted by a federal judge and a law professor reveals that California is spending $184 million more per year on the state's 714 death-row inmates than it would if the prisoners had been sentenced to life without parole.
Ninth Circut Court of Appeals Judge Arthur Alarcon and Loyola Law School Professor Paula Mitchell authored "Executing the Will of the Voters: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature's Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle."
They had access to California State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records unavailable to prior researchers. Their findings echo earlier reports that executing prisoners costs far more than incarcerating them for life without parole.
Professor Mitchell opposes the death penalty, while Judge Alarcon does not. They intended their study to be objective and to leave aside moral questions about capital punishment.
In reaction to the report, state Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) announced she will introduce legislation to generate an initiative to end state executions and replace existing death sentences to life without the possibility of parole.
In 1972, the California Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment violated the state constitution because it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. As a result of the ruling, 107 inmates were taken off death row and resentenced to life imprisonment. In November of that same year, voters passed an initiative promoted by law enforcement interests that reinstated the death penalty. But a U.S Supreme Court decision that same year placed a moratorium on executions in California until several years later.
According to "Executing the Will of the Voters," California taxpayers have spent an everage of $308 million for each of the 13 people executed in the state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978.