High Cost of Execution: $700 Million in California if State Kills All on Death Row

Wednesday, May 09, 2012
California execution chamber
For California to execute the more than 700 murderers on death row, the state would have to spend about $700 million to do so, according to the Bay Area News Group.
The review of capital punishment cases revealed just how costly, and time consuming, state executions have become.
Since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, the state has executed only 13 prisoners, due to lengthy appeals in state and federal courts that can drag on for years if not decades.
The cost of these appeals totaled almost $1 million for Stanley “Tookie” Williams, co-founder of the Crips street gang, who was executed in December 2005. That amount could have covered tuition for about 76 University of California students for a year.
Appeals costs for Clarence Ray Allen, the last man to be put to death in California, was $761,635.
Since Allen’s execution in January 2006, California has not executed any prisoners due to legal challenges to the use of lethal injection.
Opponents of capital punishment will likely use these findings to bolster their argument for voters to adopt an initiative (the so-called SAFE California Act) slated for the November ballot that would repeal the death penalty.
Critics point out that in some cases, it’s less expensive to sentence a convict to life without parole than it is to execute them. The Bay Area News Group investigation found the average cost of life-without-parole appeals is about $17,000, while the clemency appeal costs alone for Williams and Allen were $30,000 and $53,000, respectively.
Last year, another study by U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell concluded that California had spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment since 1978, which averaged out to about $308 million for each of the 13 executions performed. The costs of capital trials and of keeping someone on death row add $184 million to California's budget, and that price is just going to grow with time.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
The Cost of California's Death Penalty (by Howard Mintz, San Jose Mercury News)

Support for Death Penalty Hits 39-Year Low (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 


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