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If you are current or former law enforcement:


As a current or former police officer, prosecutor, or corrections officer, the public looks to you for guidance about issues of crime and punishment. People respect your opinion about the effectiveness of our criminal justice system because you have been on the front lines, devoting your skills and your time to keeping our communities safe.

If you are able to be involved in the movement for repeal or reform – or if you support the death penalty but would like to begin a dialog about the issue – your voice is needed and your perspective is welcome. Sign up here.

What some of your colleagues are saying:

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Sign-on statements by law enforcement – from CA | from MD

Learn about the death penalty from a public safety perspective:

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Issue quote: David Kaczynski, on Cost - Testimony before the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment. July 28, 2008

Do we want more lawyers arguing in court, or more cops on the street? Do we want longer trials, or better victim services? Do we want to kill an unlucky few (not necessarily the worst), or do we want to help troubled kids before they end up hurting someone? In the real world, these are the choices we must make.

— David Kaczynski, who turned in his brother, the "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski

Issue quote: Ron McAndrew, on Cost - Testimony, March 25, 2009

I don’t believe there is a single qualified prison warden in this country that wouldn’t trade the death penalty for more resources to keep his or her facility safe. The death penalty system is just a drain on those resources, and it serves no purpose in the safety of the public or prisons.

— Ron McAndrew, former warden, Florida State Prison, who presided over eight executions

Issue quote: Robert Morgenthau, on Public safety - Death Penalty Information Center report, February 7, 1995

Prosecutors must reveal the dirty little secret they too often share only among themselves: The death penalty actually hinders the fight against crime.

— Hon. Robert Morgenthau, former District Attorney for 34 years, New York, NY

Issue quote: Judy Kerr, on Cost - Death Penalty Information Center press release, October 20, 2009

The death penalty won't bring my brother back or help to apprehend his murderer. We need to start investing in programs that will actually improve public safety and get more killers off the streets.

— Judy Kerr, California, whose brother was murdered

Issue quote: Stephen Dalsheim, on Secondary trauma - Testimony, February 11, 2005

I do know, though, the effect of the death penalty on the staff working in the death house. I remember quite clearly PK Kelly who... talked about how he had to kill people and he was never sure whether the person he was killing was innocent or guilty. It had a terrible impact on him and the other workers in the death house. Many of them drank excessively.

— Stephen Dalsheim, former warden for 20 years at Sing Sing Prison, New York

Issue quote: Chief James Abbott, on Cost - Fort Worth Star Telegram, January 20, 2008

The death penalty throws millions of dollars down the drain – money that I could be putting directly to work fighting crime every day – while dragging victims' families through a long and torturous process that only exacerbates their pain.

— Police Chief James Abbott, who changed his mind about the death penalty after serving on the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission

Issue quote: David L. Joslyn - Personal Correspondence, November 3, 2010

The death penalty makes no sense as a law enforcement tool. Any law enforcement officer will tell you that it has no deterrent effect. Coupled with how much time, energy and money we pour into the death penalty system, it is nothing but a burden on prosecutors, the courts and the taxpayers. If we get rid of the death penalty, prosecutor's offices and the courts would be more effective and the public will be safer as a result.

— David L. Joslyn, Assistant State's Attorney in Cook County

Issue quote: Michael Murphy, on Public safety - Testimony, February 4, 2005

While serving as a Prosecutor I allowed myself to believe, based on certain studies, that the death penalty was a meaningful deterrent to crime… I could not have been more wrong…In an effort to exact the ultimate punishment of society's most heinous criminals we have created a labyrinth of laws, procedures and endless appeals which, of necessity, drain precious resources from the legitimate goals of our law enforcers.

— Michael Murphy, former New Jersey prosecutor

Issue quote: Andy Sonner, on Public safety - Andrew L. Sonner, "Commentary: It's time to kill Maryland's failed death penalty,"

During my 30 years as a Maryland prosecutor, I saw the death penalty system up close. I sent 12 defendants notices to prepare for a capital trial, tried six of them, and obtained death penalty verdicts in two. The crimes were cruel and the killers were wicked. I believed that if we are to have a death penalty, they deserved it. I have changed my mind.

— Hon. Andrew Sonner, former Maryland State's Attorney who used to support the death penalty

Issue quote: Daniel Evans - Safe & Just Alternatives, April 24, 2013

The death penalty is no deterrent, is enormously costly, and riddled with errors.

— Daniel Evans, Former Washington State Governor

Issue quote: Norm Stamper, on Cost - Norm Stamper, "Death penalty wastes money, while failing to reduce crime," San Jose Mercury

Spending all this money on the death penalty might be worth it - if it actually made our communities safer. But it doesn't… Our communities would be exponentially better off by reinvesting the time, money and resources we spend on trying to get a few people executed into crime prevention measures that work.

— Norm Stamper, Former Seattle Police Chief

Issue quote: Jim Davidsaver, on Public safety - Jim Davidsaver, “Community Columnist: Death penalty comes down to dollars, cents

I have experienced countless violent crime scenes... Of the accused murderers my fellow officers and I have brought to justice, I do not believe any of them was deterred in the least by Nebraska’s death penalty.

— Police Sergeant Jim Davidsaver, 20-year veteran of the Lincoln Police Department

Issue quote: John Hickenlooper, on Fairness - Colorado Executive Order: Death Sentence Reprieve, May 22, 2013

The death penalty is not making our world a safer or better place.

— John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado

Issue quote: Daryl Roberts - Justice in the Works Fall 2012

The death penalty makes a mockery of the idea of prevention. Chasing a handful of executions means that countless other crimes go unsolved. It means fewer cops on the beat. It means that those cops will get less training and be less effective....The death penalty drains millions of dollars and resources away from real crime-fighting solutions while it pretends to be that solution.

— Daryl K. Roberts, former police chief of Hartford, CT

Issue quote: Judy Kerr, on Cost - California Progress Report, April 15, 2010

It is now nearly seven years since my brother Bob's murder. His killer is still walking the streets. My message and voice are focused on dispelling the delusion that the death penalty keeps us safe. We are wasting millions each year sentencing a few aging convicts to death while thousands more murders each year remain unsolved and tens of thousands of family members like me are left with little hope for any justice.

Issue quote: Steven D. Levitt, on Public safety - New York Times blog, June 11, 2007

If you do back-of-the-envelope calculations, it becomes clear that no rational criminal should be deterred by the death penalty, since the punishment is too distant and too unlikely to merit much attention. As such, economists who argue that the death penalty works are put in the uncomfortable position of having to argue that criminals are irrationally overreacting when they are deterred by it.

— Steven D. Levitt, author of Freakonomics

Issue quote: 51 MD law enforcement officers, on Public safety - Letter to the Maryland General Assembly, released at a press con

We bow to no one in our support for tough law enforcement policies. We believe, however, that tough law enforcement policies must also be smart and effective. After much study and deliberation, we have come to believe that Maryland's death penalty is neither smart nor effective. Nor, because it is necessarily imposed in an inconsistent manner, is it tough.

— Letter urging repeal of the death penalty signed by 51 current and former Maryland law enforcement, March 13, 2007

Issue quote: Robert Morgenthau, on Cost - Testimony, December 15, 2004

The death penalty exacts a terrible price in dollars, lives and human decency. Rather than tamping down the flames of violence, it fuels them while draining millions of dollars from more promising efforts to restore safety to our lives.

— Hon. Robert Morgenthau, former District Attorney for 34 years, New York, NY

Issue quote: Thomas Sullivan - Testimony before the New York State Assembly Codes, Judiciary, and Correction Committees. Decembe

...the truth of the matter is that if you favor the death penalty, you're not being tough on crime. It has nothing whatsoever to do with, as far as we can tell, as far as anybody can tell, on the affect on crime. Zero. Zip. It's just irrelevant. It's tough on the taxpayers. It's tough on the budget. That's what its tough on.

— Thomas Sullivan, former prosecutor and co-chair, Illinois Commission on the Death Penalty

Issue quote: James Abbott, on Cost - James Abbot, “Less money, more pain and injustice,” Fort Worth Star Telegram. January 20, 2

As a police chief, I find this use of state resources offensive... Give a law enforcement professional like me that $250 million, and I'll show you how to reduce crime. The death penalty isn't anywhere on my list.

— Chief James Abbott, Police Chief and former death penalty supporter, West Orange, NJ

Issue quote: Darryl Stallworth - San Jose Mercury News, July 6, 2008

I now understand that the death penalty is an ineffective, cruel and simplistic response to the complex problem of violent crime. Our limited resources could be better spent on programs that focus on stopping violence before it starts, such as preventing child abuse and drug addiction – programs that will prevent another child from becoming the next [murderer].

— Darryl Stallworth, former Deputy District Attorney, Alameda County

Issue quote: Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, on Cost - New Mexico State Capital, Feb 9, 2009

When I was a prosecutor there were two other prosecutors in my office that worked on a death penalty case for the entire two years that I was there. Without the death penalty on the books, those two prosecutors could have prosecuted 200 violent criminals each within that time frame. Imagine that, 400 violent criminals off the street -- instead, they worked on a death penalty case that never resulted in death.

— Representative Antonio "Moe" Maestas, former prosecutor, Bernalillo County, NM

Issue quote: George Gascon - Sacramento Bee, Oct. 14, 2012

We need to acknowledge that the death penalty is broken beyond repair.

— George Gascon, San Francisco District Attorney and former police chief

Issue quote: Edward DeFazio, on Victims - Edward DeFazio, "It's time to end the death penalty," The Bergen Record. November 18,

It is a hoax on the families of murder victims, on the public at large and on myself as a prosecutor in this state. It is a punishment that does not deliver the justice it promises, prolongs the suffering of those who have lost a loved one and does nothing to actually enhance public safety.

— Edward DeFazio, New Jersey prosecutor who changed his mind about the death penalty after serving on the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission

Issue quote: California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, on Cost - California Crime Victims for Alternatives

California spends $137 million per year to fund our death penalty system. The same amount could instead be used to hire an additional 1,780 criminal investigators or 2,132 crime lab technicians in order to solve more murders.

— "The Silent Crisis in California: Unsolved Murders," a report by California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, April 2010

Issue quote: Rick Van Winkler - Rick Van Winkler, testimony before the New Hampshire Commission to Study the Death Penalty, cite

The moral and monetary investment of the death penalty is significantly greater than the return to society.

— Rick Van Winkler, Superintendent of the Cheshire County House of Correction in NH

Issue quote: Sterling Goodspeed, on Cost

I think I could prove to you that I could put someone in the Waldorf Hotel for 60 to 70 years and feed them three meals a day cheaper than we can litigate a single death penalty case.

— Sterling Goodspeed, former District Attorney, Warren County, NY

Issue quote: Calvin Lightfoot, on Public safety - Personal interview with EJUSA.

I've been in this system for over 40 years. I’ve been held hostage and been through multiple prison riots. If someone told me that the death penalty would protect me as a corrections officer, I would be offended. Safety inside prisons depends on proper staffing, programming, and effective reintegration of inmates back into society. The death penalty does not safeguard anybody.

— Calvin Lightfoot, former Maryland Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services

Issue quote: Jeanne Woodford, on Secondary trauma - Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2008

As the warden of San Quentin, I presided over four executions. After each one, someone on the staff would ask, ‘Is the world safer because of what we did tonight?' We knew the answer: No.

— Jeanne Woodford, former director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the former warden of San Quentin State Prison

Issue quote: Robert M. Carney, on Cost - Testimony before the New York State Assembly Codes, Judiciary, and Correction Committe

Continuing to spend millions of dollars to take a murder defendant who has already been caught and subject him to death rather than life without parole will not prevent the next murder. Redirecting money to more vigorously apprehend and prosecute armed robbers, rapists, burglars, and those who commit gun crimes will prevent murders and save lives.

— Robert M. Carney, Schenectady, NY District Attorney

Issue quote: Janet Reno, on Public safety - U.S. Justice Department press release, January 20, 2000

I have inquired for most of my adult life about studies that might show that the death penalty is a deterrent. And I have not seen any research that would substantiate that point.

— Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno

Issue quote: Ray Samuels - Ray Samuels, "My Word: Newark Police Chief Ray Samuels: Holding on to the death penalty is serious mi

If the millions of dollars currently spent on the death penalty were spent on investigating unsolved homicides, modernizing crime labs and expanding effective violence prevention programs, our communities would be much safer.

— Ray Samuels, Police Chief of Newark, CA

Issue quote: Daryl Roberts, on Cost - CT News Junky, Dec 20, 2011

...it is just absurd that we would pull officers from the streets and at the same time spend millions of dollars to have a death penalty system that has not been proven to prevent crime.

— Daryl K. Roberts, former chief with 30 years of service to police force in Hartford, CT

Issue quote: Scott Harshbarger, on Public safety - Letter to the Montana House Judiciary Committee.

Eliminating the death penalty...will not hinder the prosecutorial capacity to seek, or the court’s ability to impose, ‘life without parole’ sentences for serious, heinous crimes and criminals.

— Scott Harshbarger, former District Attorney and former Attorney General of Massachusetts, which has no death penalty

Issue quote: 47 CA law enforcement officers - Letter to the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice signed b

A trial seeking life without parole is far speedier than a death penalty case and costs far less. By pursuing life without parole sentences instead of death, resources now spent on the death penalty prosecutions and appeals could be used to investigate unsolved homicides, modernize crime labs, and expand effective violence prevention programs.

— Letter signed by 47 California law enforcement officials, March 28, 2008

Issue quote: Patrick Murphy, on Cost - Patrick Murphy, “Defending Leonard Hamm, opposing the death penalty,” Baltimore Examiner.

The state can protect many more officers at a fraction of the cost by adding police, providing the best protective equipment available, and implementing effective policing programs known to reduce crime. The death penalty is simply a distraction from the real issues surrounding public safety.

— Patrick Murphy, Former Detroit And New York City Police Commissioner

Issue quote: Gregory Ruff, on Public safety - Testimony in Kansas, Feb. 18, 1994

I have seen the ugliness of murder up close and personal. But I have never heard a murderer say they thought about the death penalty as consequence of their actions prior to committing their crimes.

— Gregory Ruff, Police Lieutenant, Kansas

Issue quote: Dale Vietmeier, on Public safety - saying he'd rank cutting drug addiction and adding police officers as higher pri

I think law enforcement thinks [the death penalty is] a joke and that's probably why 1 percent thinks it's effective. It takes too long and there's too many people on death row that never get put to death.

— Dale Vietmeier, Police Chief and former President of the Allegheny County, PA Chiefs of Police Association

Issue quote: Richard Brown, on Cost - Southeast Queens Press, December 27, 2003

[T]he commitment of time, money and man power necessary for a capital case is enormous and it takes from other cases. But I think what bothers me most is that it offers to the families of the victims and the survivors a false sense of closure.

— Richard Brown, District Attorney, Queens, NY

Issue quote: Carolyn McGinn, on Cost - Ron Sylvester, "From a budget standpoint, is death row worth it?" The Witchita Eagle. Oct

We've had the death penalty since 1994, and we continue to pay for the process with little results... But we continue to cut the programs that could prevent these types of crimes.

— Kansas Senator Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, who sponsored a bill to repeal the death penalty in order to save funds

Issue quote: Patrick Murphy, on Cost - Baltimore Examiner, March 30, 2007

Unfortunately, no state treasury has a bottomless pit of law enforcement dollars. In making choices about the most effective way to spend them, the death penalty would be last on my list.

— Patrick Murphy, former Police Commissioner, Detroit and New York City

Issue quote: Ken Jones, on Public safety - Personal Correspondence

What does the death penalty do for us? Without any deterrent value, it certainly is not an effective law enforcement tool. Effective law enforcement and crime prevention requires precious resources that are being wasted on this ineffective and broken program.

— Ken Jones, former Chief of Police in Burbank, Illinois

Issue quote: Richard Bloch - Huffington Post, May 20, 2013

The death penalty is an ineffective and costly government program that diverts resources away from public safety.

— Richard Bloch, Former Chief Deputy District Attorney of Arapahoe County, CO

Issue quote: John Connor, on Cost - John Connor, “Death penalty drains justice system resources,” Billings Gazette. March 22, 20

A well-managed prison with proper classification and staffing can create incentives for lifers to behave while segregating and punishing those who are a threat before violence ever occurs... Prison safety depends on proper staffing, equipment, resources and training. Certainly the money spent on trying to put someone to death for over 20 years could find better use in addressing those practical needs of our correctional system.

— John Connor, former chief special prosecutor for the state of Montana for 21 years, prosecuting five death penalty cases involving prison homicides

Issue quote: James Wells, on Public safety - Testimony, September 27, 2006

...the death penalty is not an effective law enforcement tool in practice. It is a distraction from justice.

— James Wells, National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, whose son was murdered

People Are Asking

Do we need the death penalty to keep someone who already has a life sentence from killing again in pri... (Public safety)

Do we need the death penalty to keep someone who already has a life sentence from killing again in prison?

No. The death penalty has nothing to do with prison safety. Proper staffing, equipment, programming, and classification are the keys to preventing prison murder.

Other tough questions about the death penalty
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