A 64 Million Dollar Question

August 17, 2010

Killing prisoners is an abuse of state power.  Even if it saved money it would still be the ultimate human rights violation.  But of course, it doesn’t save money.   The death penalty costs money.   This is especially true in California, where a study recently concluded that abolishing capital punishment would save the state over $100 million a year.  And that’s not including the hundreds of millions of dollars California needs to build a new death row.

Now comes the news that Governor Schwarzenegger intends to borrow $64 million from his state’s already depleted General Fund to keep the new death row construction going.  How else could $64 million be spent?  The ordinary Californians surveyed in this video thought first, not of yet another prison, but of education, housing for the homeless, and better transportation.

When 500 Chiefs of Police were surveyed as to “what interferes with effective law enforcement”, insufficient use of the death penalty came in dead last, with only 2% citing it as a problem.  At the top of the list for these Police Chiefs were “lack of law enforcement resources” (naturally), but also of most concern were drug/alcohol abuse, family problems/child abuse, and lack of programs for the mentally ill. 

$64 million could go a long way towards addressing these real concerns. So how does it makes sense to divert scarce resources that could improve the lives (and safety) of Californians, just to maintain an ineffective policy that violates basic human rights?