« NY Chief Judge pushing for new courts to try older teens for non-violent offenses | Main | State judge makes personal plea for right to use medical marijuana »

May 17, 2012

"Since When Don't We Put a Price Tag on Justice?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this new Huffington Post commentary by Professor Ty Alper, which advocates for California's ballot initiative to eliminate the state's death penalty.  Here are excerpts:

Faced with unassailable evidence that the death penalty in California costs hundreds of millions of dollars per year, death penalty supporters tend to respond with what is intended to be a conversation stopper: "You can't put a price tag on justice."

But wait a minute. Don't we already? Only in a world with unlimited resources could we run government programs with no regard for their price tags....

My kids go to public school in California and I teach at a public law school. I would love to be able to say, "You can't put a price tag on an education." But that would be ridiculous. It happens all the time.

The implication in the death penalty context, of course, is that only the most heartless among us would relish telling the mother of a murder victim that the person who killed her child is not going to be executed because, well, it just costs too much.

But here's what we need to remember: about half of all rapes and murders in California go unsolved. A 2009 survey asked law enforcement officials what interfered with effective law enforcement. The number one answer was lack of resources. (Last on the list was "insufficient use of the death penalty.") Thousands of rape kits across the state sit unexamined, because there is no money to conduct DNA testing.

The victims of unsolved murders and rapes are no less deserving of justice than the victims of solved crimes. The SAFE California initiative that will be on the ballot in November would eliminate the death penalty, save $1 billion that we desperately need over the next five years, and create a "$100 million fund to be distributed to law enforcement agencies to help solve more homicide and rape cases."...

I'd love to live in a California with no price tags. Until then, the price tag on the death penalty is busting our state's budget.

May 17, 2012 at 09:39 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Since When Don't We Put a Price Tag on Justice?":


I'm really happy to see this post. Since the Left finally understands that there is, indeed, a limit on the amount we can spend, even for justice, I assume it will now support a proposal that spending for public defenders and related taxpayer-financed services be capped at one million dollars per capital case.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 17, 2012 2:38:01 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB