Replacing the Death Penalty: From Connecticut to California

Posted on 16 April 2012

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By Natasha Minsker
SAFE California Campaign

Last week, the Connecticut Assembly voted to replace the death penalty with life without parole as maximum punishment for murder in that state. Governor Dannel Malloy has already pledged to sign the bill into law. Once he does, Connecticut will be the 17th state to turn from the death penalty in the United States.

This is great news for the people of Connecticut. They’ve plugged a major drain on state resources and have freed up funding for effective public safety solutions.

The impact of Connecticut’s decision will be felt far beyond the state’s own borders. Connecticut is now the fifth state to replace the death penalty in five years – and observers from around the world rightly expect California to be the next state to do the same.

The death penalty system is broken in many of the exact same ways here in the Golden State. But there are some important differences:

  • Connecticut’s estimated $5 million in annual death penalty costs pale in comparison to California’s $184 million per year. Spending on the death penalty for the entire state of Connecticut comes to about 3% of what we spend in California in just one year.
  • California has the largest and costliest death penalty system in the country. We have over 700 prisoners on death row – with the attendant special housing, security and legal costs – even though there is no practical or legal possibility that any of them will be executed for many years, if ever.

 If voters decide to replace the death penalty in California next November by saying “YES” to the SAFE California Act, we will save $1 billion that we are on track to spend on this failed system over the next five years and we will have $100 million in budget savings that will be used exclusively to solve open rape and murder cases. (California has a shocking 46% of unsolved murder cases and 56% of unsolved rape cases every year, on average).

But no matter where you look, some things don’t change.

  • Replacing the death penalty makes sense. California’s resources would be better spent on education solutions and better crime-fighting technology.
  • The death penalty system is costly, harms public safety, and always carries the risk of executing an innocent person.
  • Hundreds of crime victims across California support SAFE California and its requirement that convicted killers work and pay restitution in to a victim’s compensation fund.

The death penalty is broken beyond repair. Connecticut has learned that lesson. After spending $4 billion since 1978, that’s an expensive lesson we’ve learned in California, too.

It’s time for us to do something about it -- and we can, by passing the SAFE California initiative this November.


Natasha Minsker is Campaign Manager for the SAFE California Campaign.

What does cost have to do with the appropriateness of the death penalty?


An admirer wishes you good luck for your work (abolition of death penalty in California [and elsewhere] and fixing the Californian Three-Strikes Law).

Many greetings, :) <3


For the facts about the California ballot measure to abolish the death penalty, go to