A bill proposed by Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, would eliminate the death penalty in Washington state to allow millions of dollars to be spent in other ways.
“We spend millions and millions of dollars on the lengthy process of deciding if someone should be executed or not,” said Regala. “That money could be spent in more positive ways in lots of other places.”
Since 1981, Washington state has held the death penalty as the ultimate punishment for criminals. In that time, 30 people have been sentenced to death; five of those executions have been carried out. Regala says SB 6283 meets the goal of maintaining public safety by incarcerating those offenders for life.
“When we want to ensure public safety, we can do that by giving someone a sentence of life without the possibility of parole,” said Regala. “They are then in prison for the rest of their life and the public is safe.”
Regala says the debate over capital punishment is an important one, but given the financial crisis the state faces, the responsible act is to include the cost of maintaining the policy of capital punishment in that debate. For example: the cost of prosecuting a capital case is $800,000 more than a non-death penalty case and, in King County alone, $7.4 million was spent on four ongoing death penalty cases in 2001. In addition, studies indicate that Washington’s capital punishment law does not deter criminals from committing capital offenses.
“People who are in the throes of committing a capital crime do not refer to the RCW,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Adam Kline, D-Seattle, referring to the Revised Code of Washington. “The death penalty does not deter capital crime.”
Regala and Kline agree the cost of capital punishment lacks the passion of the moral arguments of capital punishment or the concern that innocent people can mistakenly be convicted and sentenced to death. However, both lawmakers argue that the prohibitive price tag of putting a criminal to death make the abolition of the death penalty an obvious choice.
“Things are always changing,” said Regala. “That means we should review public policy to determine if we are achieving our ultimate goals or can we accomplish them in alternative ways.”
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For more information: Ian Cope, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7535
For interviews: Sen. Debbie Regala, 360-786-7652