AirTalk for May 6, 2011

Should California revisit its death penalty policy?

Mercer 17715

swcamera60/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

California's San Quentin prison in the morning light.

California has 713 prisoners on death row. Housing death-row inmates is estimated to cost $90,000 a year more than housing prisoners serving life without parole. Now, California officials put off reviewing the state’s revised lethal injection methods until December. The delay means that California will have gone at least six years without executing any condemned prisoners. Last month, Governor Jerry Brown canceled a plan to construct a new Death Row at San Quentin State Prison, which was expected to cost $356-million. Opponents of the death penalty argue the Governor should take it further and commute the sentences of all prisoners on death row to life in prison, saving taxpayers about $1-billion over the next five years. According to a recent public opinion poll conducted by David Binder Research, 65% of 800 voters polled, support such commutations. Motivated at least in part by cost savings, fifteen states have abolished the death penalty. Should California follow suit? Is the death penalty just too expensive and convoluted a process to be worth it? Is it cruel and unusual to keep prisoners on death row for indeterminate periods of time? If you support the death penalty do these numbers cause you to rethink your position?


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