Spitzer’s “Pro-Criminal Liberals” Accusations and the High Cost of the Death Penalty

Over on Orange Punch, Steven Greenhut takes State Rep. Todd Spitzer (R-Orange) to the woodshed for his insistance that liberals are pro-criminal.  Here’s the link to the post.

Assemblyman Todd SpitzerSpitzer has this to say over at OCBlog.net: “I was deeply saddened to hear of the liberals’ intentions to halt the timely construction of a new death chamber, which is clearly an attempt to prevent the reinstatement of the death penalty. It is the ultimate insult to victims and family members who are forced to work with a system that gives more rights to murderers than the victims of these violent criminals.”

And Spitzer has this to say over at Flash Report: “Liberals have supported and sponsored legislation to undermine some of our most important public safety measures. At the same time, they’ve introduced bill after bill to aid criminals and trample over the rights of victims.”

I’m not a death penalty fan simply because its proven that the death penalty doesn’t deter violent crime in the age of three strikes.  

Florida and Texas have some of the highest murder rates in the country as well as the highest execution rates. Its appalling that it costs the state more to imprison a criminal for a year than it does to send a person to Harvard, but its a cost worth bearing to keep our citizens safe from violent felons.  I remember an interview with Richard Pryor when he and Gene Wilder were filming “Stir Crazy,” and the quote was “Thank God we have penitentiaries.”

For all the talk from the conservative right on saving the taxpayer’s money, there is considerable evidence that life in prison without parole costs the taxpayer’s less money than execution.  See the story below from 2005.

So which is it?  An eye for an eye, or less taxpayer money spent to effectively met out a worse punishment? 

California spends millions more on capital cases

California spends $90 Million dollars annually above and beyond the ordinary costs of the justice system on capital cases. $78 million of that total is incurred at the trial level (Sacramento Bee, March 18, 1988). In January 2003, despite a budget deficit, California Governor Gray Davis proposed building a new $220 million state of the art death row. (New York Times, January 14, 2003).

According to state and federal records obtained by The Los Angeles Times, maintaining the California death penalty system costs taxpayers more than $114 million a year beyond the cost of simply keeping the convicts locked up for life. This figure does not count the millions more spent on court costs to prosecute capital cases. The Times concluded that Californians and federal taxpayers have paid more than a quarter of a billion dollars for each of the state’s 11 executions, and that it costs $90,000 more a year to house one inmate on death row, where each person has a private cell and extra guards, than in general prison population. This additional cost per prisoner adds up to $57.5 million in annual spending. (Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2005).

  2 comments for “Spitzer’s “Pro-Criminal Liberals” Accusations and the High Cost of the Death Penalty

  1. May 10, 2007 at 7:29 am

    Assemblyman Spitzer has taken a trip down the traditional Republican/Conservative road of trying to paint “liberal beliefs” and liberals in general in a negative light. Liberalism is not some evil thought.

    In fact, liberal ideals are the foundation of our Constitutional democracy. To correct this misdirection, I encourage Assemblyman Spitzer, liberal detractors, and liberals to the Wikipedia discussion of liberalism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism

  2. Judy Kerr
    June 10, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Just released projected costs make this murder victim family member incensed that the state can even consider spending this kind of money to build a better death chamber. My brother’s killer is neither identified nor charged. When someone is charged I will be doubly victimized if the case is found death eligible. When will we get our priorities right?

    For victims families who oppose the death penalty please consider the alternative to life in prison without the possiblity of parole as the only option that allows for human fallibility….the only option that is fiscally responsible…..the only option for California.

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