The Death Penalty Dilemma Facing California

January 12, 2012 Should capital punishment in California be streamlined or abolished. That is the question that is reaching critical mass in this budget crunching climate. As a long standing confrontation between proponents and opponents, moral reasons for and against are coming up against practical realities such as the cost of death penalty appeals and the impact it is having on California’s fiscal crisis.

The Cost of Justice: The question of the death penalty being cruel and unusual punishment by using a drug cocktail has led to a myriad of appeals, with few if any death row inmates actually being executed. And justice doesn’t come cheap. Some estimates put the cost of keeping a prisoner on death row at $100,000 a year. Multiply that by 718 inmates currently on death row; and that’s not counting the cost of appeals that the taxpayer pays.

Gil Garcetti, past Los Angeles District Attorney, believes that the death penalty serves no useful purpose and has concluded it isn’t a deterrent. Simply put, it’s too expensive and not affordable. According to the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, since 1978 California has spent $4 billion dollars on this problem. These resources, Garcetti cites, could be better spent preventing future tragedies.

What Californians Think: Passions are stirred with the mere mention of asking for or implementing the death penalty. The victims and their families certainly deserve justice. But what form does justice take? The convicted have rights to appeals and that would certainly continue, regardless of the sentence. The question of having justice at what price is a key issue of debate. Californians voted 2 to 1 in favor of the reinstating the death penalty in 1978. And according to a recent Field Poll, 68% still favor keeping it.

Noted philosopher, Fredrich Nietzsche, wrote in “Beyond Good and Evil” that “There is a point in the history of society when it becomes so pathologically soft and tender that among other things it sides even with those who harm it, criminals, and does this quite seriously and honestly.”

In the final analysis, the voters will ultimately decide — whether it’s dollars or sense.

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