More than 3 years into a court-ordered suspension of executions in California, opponents have embraced a new argument: that taxpayers can’t afford to carry out the death penalty in a constitutional manner, the Los Angeles Times reports. They contend that by commuting all 682 death row inmates’ sentences to life without the possibility of parole, the state could save up to $1 billion over the next five years.
That view expected to be offered, and challenged, during a hearing today in Sacramento on proposed changes to the lethal injection procedures. The cost-saving argument emerged as abolitionists unsuccessfully lobbied for repeal of capital punishment on moral grounds. They have been empowered by the state’s budget crisis, as well as by some influential law-and-order advocates who have concluded that deficiencies in the legal and corrections systems are beyond repair. More California death row inmates have died in the time executions have been halted than were put to death in the previous 30 years: 16 have died since early 2006, 11 of natural causes and five by suicide, compared with 13 put to death since 1976.