Somehow California manages to spend a whole lot on something it's not even doing. Our friends on the left coast haven't executed anyone since 2006 but they have more than 700 prisoners waiting on death row—the most of any state. More impressively, according to a new study from the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, California managed to spend $4 billion on death penalty expenses, with 13 prisoners executed since the reinstatement of the state death penalty in 1978. (54 prisoners, on the other hand, have died of "natural causes.")
Conservatives have plenty to howl about here; the cost of each prisoner's average of 25-plus years on death row is undeniably astronomical and an outrageous hesitation to just fry (sorry, inject) all the guilty bastards. Liberals can counter that this high cost further proves life in prison is a better way.
Those 716 death row inmates currently cost California taxpayers $178 million extra dollars a year compared with the cost of lifers. According to the LA Times, the study "also forecast that the tab for maintaining the death penalty will climb to $9 billion by 2030, when San Quentin's death row will have swollen to well over 1,000." To circumvent this, the study offers these options:
fully preserve capital punishment with about $85 million more in funding for courts and lawyers each year; reduce the number of death penalty-eligible crimes for an annual savings of $55 million; or abolish capital punishment and save taxpayers about $1 billion every five or six years."
Go here for the July issue of Reason and the whole mess of problems with the US's criminal justice system.