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Democratic legislator files bill to end death penalty

Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, has filed a bill that would end the death penalty in Florida, saying there are better and more cost effective ways to prevent crime. She advocates for more sentences of life without parole, saying this option is less costly than executions. Rehwinkel Vasilinda also argues that executions aren't effective in preventing future murders.

From the news release announcing the filing of HB 4005:

The recent tragedies of Sandy Hook and Webster, NY have resulted in an urgent cry for improved methods and additional resources to prevent such heinous crimes. For neither of the perpetrators of the these horrible murders would the death penalty have been an effective deterrent as both predators killed themselves. The Florida Legislature will be working to find more effective ways to use all our resources  to prevent similar crimes. In fact, Florida schools are asking for two hundred million dollars to provide armed resource officers at every school

"The appropriate question for state government is how do we keep people safe from crime in the most cost effective way? When you analyze the numbers, state sponsored execution is not the correct answer," says Rep. Rehwinkel Vasilinda.

Executions are carried out at staggering cost to taxpayers.  In its 2000 report, “The High Price of Killing Killers,” the Palm Beach Post found that Florida spent approximately $51 million each year to enforce the death penalty.

 Other states and nations have done similar studies. With the money saved by passing HB 4005, Florida could add 450 highly trained and well-equipped law enforcement officers and significantly upgrade the FDLE investigative tools, including utilizing cutting-edge technology to apprehend criminals and prevent further crime. “We could take this money and invest it in law enforcement. In the end, Floridians would see a much greater benefit from having hundreds more police officers and detectives on the street, armed with the very best equipment,” said Rehwinkel Vasilinda.

Life without parole is a sensible alternative to the death penalty.  Almost every state in the country now has life in prison without parole.  Unlike decades ago, a sentence of life without parole means exactly what it says – convicts locked away in prison until they die. It is much less expensive to keep a criminal in prison for life without parole than it is for the state to execute them. Most significantly, there has never been a conclusive study that has found that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to murder.

In today's Tampa Bay Times, there is an editorial calling on the state to review its death penalty guidelines after leading the nation in new death sentences. Read the editorial here.