Too broke to kill

California can’t afford the death penalty, say advocates

Opponents of the death penalty in California have marshalled a novel argument against capital punishment: lack of capital. The cash-strapped state could save as much as US$1 billion in the next five years if it simply commuted the sentences of its 682 death-row inmates, who have been in limbo since the institution three-and-a-half years ago of a court-ordered suspension of executions. The abolitionists have been further empowered by California budget crisis. Between the costs of legal representation and the price of accommodation in high-security death-row prison units, a bipartisan panel that looked into the issue concluded the existence of the death penalty is costing the state $200 million annually (the annual cost of imprisonment alone is about $138,000 per inmate). Notably, a former state attorney general, and a former head of corrections, count among the proponents of the financial argument for dumping the death penalty.

Los Angeles Times