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In the ongoing saga of California's budget crisis, automatic spending cuts will be triggered by the state's failure to meet its optimistic revenue projections as mandated by last summer's budget deal. This will mean devastating cuts to public schools, higher education, subsidized child care for low income families, public libraries, public safety and other social services.

death row san quentin

As it cuts critically important funds, the state continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into one government program that is expensive, arbitrary and ineffectual. California's death penalty has been a costly failure, a state program that undermines rather than promotes public safety by gobbling up resources that could be far better utilized by law enforcement to investigate unsolved rapes and murders. (On average, 46% of murders and 56% of rapes go unsolved in California every year.)

A study released by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Arthur L. Alarcon and law professor Paul Mitchell found that California's death penalty system is currently costing the state about $184 million per year. Further, "since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, California taxpayers have spent roughly $4 billion to fund a dysfunctional death penalty system that has carried out no more than 13 executions. (California taxpayers spend an extra $100,000 every year just to house each of the 700-plus death row inmates compared to inmates serving life without parole.)

Not to mention the ever-present risk of executing an innocent person. 138 death row inmates have been exonerated nationally, including three people in California who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death but acquitted after a retrial or had charges dismissed.

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It is time to cut the death penalty. The trigger is a ballot initiative that will replace the death penalty with life without parole and set aside $30 million a year, for three years, to solve open rape and murder cases. And instead of being warehoused on death row for decades, inmates will work in high security prison and help victims by paying restitution into a victims' compensation fund.

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You can join the effort to replace the death penalty by clicking here: SAFE California.

Andy Love
Fair and Unbalanced