Former San Quentin Warden Condemns Death Penalty
Jeanne Woodford, the former director of the California Department of Corrections, is also the former warden of San Quentin State Prison, where she presided over four executions. She isn't soft on crime. Yet Woodford no longer believes that executions are necessary to society's safety. Her argument is pragmatic: life imprisonment is "cheaper -- much, much cheaper than execution." Yet she also confronts the ethical question:
To say that I have regrets about my involvement in the death penalty is to let myself off the hook too easily. To take a life in order to prove how much we value another life does not strengthen our society. It is a public policy that devalues our very being and detracts crucial resources from programs that could truly make our communities safe.
The pragmatic argument should resonate with fiscal conservatives:
I wish the public knew how much the death penalty affects their wallets. California spends an additional $117 million each year pursuing the execution of those on death row. Just housing inmates on death row costs an additional $90,000 per prisoner per year above what it would cost to house them with the general prison population.
A statewide, bipartisan commission recently concluded that we must spend $100 million more each year to fix the many problems with capital punishment in California. Total price tag: in excess of $200 million-a-year more than simply condemning people to life without the possibility of parole.If we condemn the worst offenders ... to permanent imprisonment, resources now spent on the death penalty could be used to investigate unsolved homicides, modernize crime labs and expand effective violence prevention programs, especially in at-risk communities. The money also could be used to intervene in the lives of children at risk and to invest in their education -- to stop future victimization.
Every resident of a death penalty state should listen to Woodford, as should Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
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