Recent FADP Legislative Actions!
Although we here at FADP had pretty much written off the Legislature this session, the calling of a special session on the budget starting on May 12 presented us with the sudden opportunity to educate the general public and the politicians.
With the help of a special gift from a Swiss organization, Lifespark, FADP mailed a packet of information to each Florida state legislature at their district office. The packet included a printed copy of the below op-ed, as well as a copy of the article you can see at https://fadp1.wpengine.com/news/apr30.html, and a copy of FADP’s “Alternatives” statement at https://fadp1.wpengine.comwordpress/?page_id=3548. In addition, the envelope bears a sticker reading “Urgent Budget Information Enclosed” in the hope of at least getting the recipients to open it….
Please read the below article, and contact your legistlator to take action. Please emphasize the below argument, in your own words: “I support the FADP position supporting funding for CCRC (Capital Collateral Regional Counsel), but I support even more the elimination of ALL death penalty related funding from the budget – in other words, de-facto abolition. Let’s put that money into prevention and education instead of vengeance.”
When that’s all done, if at all possible, please use the feedback form available at https://fadp1.wpengine.comwordpress/?page_id=4042, as it would be very helpful to know what sort of response we are getting.
Submitted May 6, 2003
“It’s the most attractive argument for repealing the death penalty I’ve heard, though I disagree with the way it was put forth. I wish that he (Bonowitz) would have put it into a budget amendment.”
Former Republican House Speaker Tom Feeney, a strong death penalty supporter, made this statement during the special session on the budget in November, 2001, after Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP) displayed a banner from the gallery of the House, which said:
FLORIDA CAN’T AFFORD THE DEATH PENALTY: Save $51,000,000+ ANNUALLY!
FADP took this unusual step to draw attention to the fiscal irresponsibility of Florida’s death penalty system, because more conventional efforts had been ignored by the Florida Legislature and Governor Bush.
Florida is again facing a critical budget shortfall. One of the items being considered is funding for the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel (CCRC), the state-level public defender system handling post-conviction appeals for Floridians sentenced to death.
Governor Bush wants to privatize the post-conviction appeals system in order to save $5 million annually – about one hundredth of 1% (0.01%) of the proposed $50 billion budget. Nice try. This minuscule savings isn’t the Governor’s true goal. His real agenda is to reduce the number of successful appeals by CCRC attorneys, and thus avoid the embarrassment of future death row exonerations. Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations with 25 wrongful convictions discovered so far, and CCRC was instrumental in many of these cases.
Governor Bush has made numerous attempts to speed up executions. This latest ploy seeks to tie the hands of lawyers representing Floridians facing execution, and he’s trying to sell this move to the public as a tax savings.
One problem with the private system is the spending caps limiting private lawyers to about 800 hours of work on post-conviction appeals, less than one-third of the minimum time considered necessary to properly work such a case. This forces lawyers who take capital cases to either volunteer up to two-thirds of the time required to do the job properly, or do a substandard job. Would you expect the best work from your tax lawyer, physician, mechanic or hairdresser if they had to accept 33% of their normal rate?
CCRC should be cut from the budget ONLY if the death penalty system is eliminated, which would make CCRC unnecessary. The immediate savings would be at least $51 million per year, because the state attorneys responsible for death cases would be eliminated, and the calendar of Florida’s appeals courts would be freed up. The Florida Supreme Court currently spends 50% of it’s time on only 3% of its cases – the death penalty cases. County budgets would also benefit, because initial prosecutions are a county expense, and a death penalty trial costs twice as much as a non-death trial.
How much do Florida taxpayers spend on the death penalty system? The actual cost of prosecuting, convicting and executing one individual in Florida averages about $3.2 million. The Palm Beach Post conducted a study that examined extra work needed in capital cases when the death penalty is sought, the time and effort expended on defendants who face death but get life without parole, as well as those whose death sentences are overturned on appeal. Since Florida resumed executions in 1979, almost $1 billion has been spent, but only 55 prisoners have been killed. That’s about $18 million per execution. Imagine if that money had been invested in crime prevention and education instead of vengeance.
Some suggest cutting appeals to save money and quicken executions. In anuary 2000 Governor Bush called a special session of the Legislature to try exactly that, but the changes passed were found unconstitutional. Appeals are intended to ensure that society has followed the letter of the law. Constitutional errors in criminal proceedings are not mere “technicalities,” especially in matters of life and death.
Florida’s appeals process has exonerated 25 wrongly condemned prisoners since 1973 (more than any other state); several of whom served more than 15 years on death row for a crime they did not commit. Without thorough appeals, these people would have been killed. Florida is also a national leader in overturned death sentences due to constitutional error. Until 1998, 74% of death sentences were overturned on appeal. Since then, the reversal rate has been lowered to about 50% – still a spectacular, unacceptable failure rate.
The Governor and legislators who mislead the public about the death penalty are trying to
weaken constitutional protections guaranteed to all citizens. They are misusing tax dollars and abusing public trust.
The death penalty is clearly a public policy failure on economic grounds alone. Abolish the death penalty now for an immediate savings of at least $51 million annually.
Visit Your Legislator at the District Office
It is very important that legislators hear from their constituents about important matters such as opposition to the killing of prisoners and related issues. Please follow these easy steps:
- Visit <http://www.leg.state.fl.us/> to find out who your State Rep and Senators are. Call their offices to share your views, or better, write them a brief, hand written note. Please find out when they will be in the district, and schedule a time that you can visit your legislator “About issues you care about.”
- Click here for a basic “how to” primer on meeting with your legislators.
- Click here for specific talking points so that you can be clear, concise and accurate during your visit.
- Visit your legislators in their offices when they are in the district. If your legislator is holding a public forum or will be at public events, go see them there in addition to in their office! Use the talking points to raise “on the spot” questions like, “Do you support changing the state constitution just so we can execute 16-year-olds?”
AFTER YOUR VISIT, RETURN TO THIS PAGE
- Click here to fill in the “How My Visit Went” questionnaire.
- Follow up your visit with a brief, HAND WRITTEN note to the legislators and/or legislative staff you visited.
- CALL YOUR LEGILATOR, and urge your friends and neighbors to do the same. FADP asks EVERYONE to make a phone call to the Capitol to ask their Senator AND Rep for a meaningful review of Florida’s Death Penalty.
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy
Gainesville, FL 32609