Monday, June 20, 2011

A simple, money-saving suggestion

We spend a lot of money on our criminal justice system. Way too much money. And we spend our money in really stupid ways. We cut funding to education, Head Start, programs for at risk kids. We don't spend money on social services or mental health programs. And we couldn't possibly spend money on rehabilitation programs for inmates or ex-cons after they've been discharged. Spending money on those things would be cheaper than endlessly incarcerating people. Preventing crime is cheaper than dealing with the aftermath.

Then there's the fact that we have way too many crimes and incarcerate people for all kinds of silly things. But that's an entirely different rant.

The number 1 way we waste money on criminal justice? The death penalty, of course! Perhaps there is no better example of that than California. Where they have 714 people on death row but have only executed 13 people since 1978. California's system is just a big, bogged-down mess where they don't have anywhere near enough attorneys to handle the cases, among other problems. They've spent about $4 billion to kill 13 people. So just over $300 billion per death. Definitely cost-effective. And we all know how much money California has just lying around these days.

Might I respectfully submit, California, that you could really make a big dent in your budget woes by giving up on the death penalty? Commute all those 714 sentences to life. Stop pursuing new death sentences. Boom. Billions of dollars saved. You wouldn't need to find as many attorneys because non-capital cases don't require as many attorneys or as much expertise in the issues unique to capital proceedings. For the guys currently on death row, you'd cut half the issues out of their appeals. For cases yet to go to trial, you'd cut out a big phase of the trial and you'd eliminate the costliest part of the defense work, the mitigation investigation.

Unless you really want to go bankrupt, California, eliminating the death penalty seems like a pretty great place to start on your budget woes.

(And as a bonus suggestion, you might re-think your whole implementation of the three strikes law...)

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