The truth about Death Row


This story is really just tragic, but it does reflect a reality in the California prison system. Very few people on death row die by execution. The leading cause of death is old age.

George Smithey, for example, was 70, and had been on Death Row since 1989. That's 21 years, during which the state has spent a fortune on high-security imprisonment and legal appeals. It costs millions to prosecute the death penalty to its conclusion, and in most cases, the state has to pay millions more to defend the accused. Those costs are mandatory; the Supreme Court (and the basic rules of human civilization) require that someone facing the ultimate penalty be given every possible avenue of appeal, every chance to make sure that the state isn't making an irreversible mistake. 

Life without parole is way cheaper -- and in most cases, gets you to the same place anyway.


Its appeal is emotional, Tim--obviously it isn't a deterrent. It doesn't work. DNA evidence sprung half of Illinois' death row in the 90's, Its victims are disproportionately racial minorities and never above the middle class economically.

In other words, it's bullshit--but because we've been on a bloodlust jag since the early 70' remains. Costing us a fortune and making us no safer.

Posted by Guest Johnny Wendell on Aug. 30, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

The answer to runaway prison cost is a constitutional amendment, creating a new clemency system. For too long grieving relatives of the victims of violent crimes have used politicians and vice verse. In a vengeful attempt for closure which in my opinion is impossible, both have gained enough sympathy from well intended, but naive voters, who are paying the price of their naiveté. The result has been the highest amount of people incarcerated in the country (170,000). Californians pay the largest amount to house a single inmate per year in the country ($49,000.00). In addition, we are cursed with the pettiest Three Strikes Law, which has incarcerated more than 400 individuals at 25 years minimum each, for offenses that are no more serious than stealing “cookies.” What a new clemency system in California could do is, slow down the overzealous prosecutions by putting prosecutors on notice that an inmate can take his or her case to a newly created clemency board in their county for a more reasonable sentence that could include a total pardon. If we continue to lean on our current attitude on justice, we will never solve the death penalty debate.

Posted by Allen Jones on Aug. 30, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

Kind of ironic that State-sanctioned execution is in itself an act of murder.

Posted by Luke Thomas on Sep. 01, 2010 @ 12:42 pm