The cost of the death penalty

A former police officer speaks out against draconian penal code

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OPINION As a retired police officer, I believe deeply in safety and justice. As a father and a person who has devoted more than 30 years to working with young people, I know what our kids need to become positive members of our communities. I've seen the positive changes that come from resources, attention and education. I've seen it as a precinct service officer in East Harlem, New York, as a police officer and lieutenant in the Oakland Unified School District.

I can no longer stand by while we tell young people that we care about them while simultaneously undermining their future and safety with poor use of our resources. I can't stay silent as we talk about tough times and budget cuts, but spend billions on death row inmates who will actually die in prison of illness or old age instead of execution. It's not right, and it's not effective.

California's death penalty is suffocating our resources. A June 2011 study by former death-penalty prosecutor and federal judge Arthur L. Alarcón and law professor Paula Mitchell found that California has spent $4 billion dollars on the death penalty since 1978 and that death-penalty trials are 20 times more expensive than trials seeking a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

That money is wasted, because the system is so dysfunctional that those death row inmates actually end up serving the equivalent of life without the possibility of parole anyway. California is on track to spend $1 billion dollars in the next five years on the death penalty — all of this while risking the execution of an innocent person.

These irresponsible budget choices are undermining the safety of California families. Despite a horrific unsolved murder rate of 46 percent, we fire homicide investigators and take police off the streets. Even though a shocking 56 percent of reported rapes go unsolved, rape kits all over the state remain untested on shelves because of lack of funding. Budget cuts for crime labs and police mean evidence that can help find and convict criminals is sitting on a shelf while we waste millions on a death row that is broken beyond repair.

We also undermine crime prevention by firing teachers and taking away violence intervention programs — two things I know for sure keep kids out of a life of crime.

Proposition 34 will help us put our priorities into action by replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. That will save California $130 million dollars a year. Prop. 34 would redirect a portion of those savings for three years to solve open murder and rape cases. By solving more cases and bringing more criminals to justice, we can keep our families and communities safer and hold these people accountable for what they have done.

Murderers deserve tough punishment. But I can tell you from my career as a police officer — lifetime incarceration in prison with no chance of parole is real punishment.

There is no fixing the death penalty, but Prop. 34 will help us fix the funding for our priorities. That is justice that works for young people, and for all of us.

Steve Fajardo is a former police officer.

 

Comments

But elsewhere in same issue there is the bemoaning of some politician not voting to let people be paroled after 25 years in a life sentence for a crime they did as a minor.

This is all well and good but considering the incrementalism of politics from the far right and left, there is a certain level of trust that the average citizen expects on these issues from the state. If we get rid of the death penalty for life with out parole, will in a few years will the citizens be treated to some new 25 year's and parole thing?

The endless scheming of the far right and left is wearing. Anti death penalty rhetoric is dressed up in fiscal sense by the left, while nothing they ever do is made of fiscal sense, so why take them seriously?

The people that progressives loath, meaning the majority of the population who don't like being killed and robbed perhaps don't trust these talking points in the long run.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 23, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

matlock. It's *your* talking points that people shouldn't be trusting. Especially with regard to "Anti death penalty rhetoric" being "dressed up in fiscal sense by the left, while nothing they ever do is made of fiscal sense."

matlock, your boys have been mucking up America's finances since the 1960's. After Reagan and -- "OMG" -- G.W. Bush's brain palsied performances with regard to "fiscal sense," well let's just say you either have to have alot of godamned gall or just be plumb simple to come out with a blanket criticism of like that.

Killing innocent people is wrong. Is that simple enough for you?

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 29, 2012 @ 12:05 am

The arguments in support of the ballot measure to abolish the death penalty are exaggerated at best and, in most cases, misleading and erroneous. Proposition 34 is being funded primarily by a wealthy company out of Chicago, the ACLU, and similarly-oriented trust funds. It includes provisions that would only make our prisons less safe for both other prisoners and prison officials and significantly increase the costs to taxpayers due to life-time medical costs, the increased security required to coerce former death-row inmates to work, etc. The amount “saved” in order to help fund law enforcement is negligible and only for a short period of time. Bottom line, the “SAFE” Act is an attempt by those who are responsible for the high costs and lack of executions to now persuade voters to abandon it on those grounds. Obviously, these arguments would disappear if the death penalty was carried forth in accordance with the law. Get the facts at and supporting evidence at http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com and http://waiting4justice.org/.

Posted by Chris Bernstien on Aug. 28, 2012 @ 11:24 pm

The arguments in support of the ballot measure to abolish the death penalty are exaggerated at best and, in most cases, misleading and erroneous. Proposition 34 is being funded primarily by a wealthy company out of Chicago, the ACLU, and similarly-oriented trust funds. It includes provisions that would only make our prisons less safe for both other prisoners and prison officials and significantly increase the costs to taxpayers due to life-time medical costs, the increased security required to coerce former death-row inmates to work, etc. The amount “saved” in order to help fund law enforcement is negligible and only for a short period of time. Bottom line, the “SAFE” Act is an attempt by those who are responsible for the high costs and lack of executions to now persuade voters to abandon it on those grounds. Obviously, these arguments would disappear if the death penalty was carried forth in accordance with the law. Get the facts at and supporting evidence at http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com and http://waiting4justice.org/.

Posted by Chris Bernstien on Aug. 28, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

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