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If the Budget's So Bad, Why Doesn't California Repeal the Death Penalty?

Other states are talking about repealing the death penalty to save money. If California followed suit, it would save the state $125.5 million.

California's new (and former) governor, Jerry Brown, has announced broad and brutal budget cuts in an attempt to dig the state out of a $28 billion shortfall for this fiscal year. The University of California and California State University systems are losing $500 million each. Services for the developmentally disabled are being cut by $750 million. Welfare is being cut by $1.5 billion. It's rough.

To deal with its own fiscal problems, the Illinois House of Representatives just voted to ban the death penalty in the state. Seven other states are considering doing the same.

So how much would California save if it followed suit? A 2008 report (PDF) showed that "the $137 million annual cost of maintaining the criminal justice system would drop to just $11.5 million annually if the death sentence were abolished." The death penalty, with its expensive death row accommodations and lengthy legal proceedings, costs an astounding $125.5 million dollars each year. If it were made more error-proof it would cost even more.

Jerry Brown has a long and fraught history with the capital punishment in California. He tried to abolish it once and was overruled by the voters, as you can see in this news clip from 1977.


But doesn't it seem obvious that the world would be a better place if California stopped spending that $125.5 million trying to kill criminals that could simply be given life without parole and spent it on public education instead?

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