Re "We can't afford the death penalty," Opinion, June 10
There may be many reasons to object to the death penalty, but cost is not one of them. The unreasonable costs result because we do not have a death penalty. We have a toothless death-threat system.
A functional system requires executions. It is beyond ludicrous to sentence killers to death and then put them on death row for 25 years with free protection, food, clothing, shelter and color TV. During this time, we also provide a court system so tax-paid attorneys can argue that we must not execute them because it might hurt them.
If we established a maximum time frame of one year between sentencing and execution, the cost of the death penalty would be much less.
We would eventually have nobody on death-threat row and about 20 on death row.
Only in the United States would the cost of the procedure be the rationale for ending capital punishment.
Surely this is the least of the reasons to halt this practice.
I wholeheartedly agree with John Van de Kamp's opinion that it's time to save our state $125 million each year by converting the sentences of those now on death row to permanent imprisonment. I would like to add that this also would provide us with a speedier legal process that would provide closure years sooner for the families of victims.
Richard M. Doberstein
I've been opposed to the death penalty for years because of the moral and religious arguments.
But Van de Kamp is perfectly right to focus on the extravagant cost of pursuing the death penalty in California. In these days of state fiscal crisis, it is absolutely crazy to pursue these cases at, as he writes, "as much as $1 billion over the next five years simply to keep the death penalty on the books."
Why not commute all those sentences to life without the possibility of parole and put that money toward schools?
I agree that the present system is dysfunctional, but I don't feel the solution is to toss out the death penalty, as Van de Kamp urges.
Instead, let's streamline the appeals process and make justice swift, rather than a 25-year stint on death row. Perhaps it would then function as a deterrent.
The $125 million a year is a drop in the bucket compared with the costs of unleashing murderers and rapists back into society. It is not an oxymoron to say that the death penalty upholds the sacredness of every life.