Florida lawmakers rejected a bill Thursday that would have eliminated the state’s death penalty. The House of Representatives Criminal Justice committee voted 9 to 4 on the bill.
Florida has about 400 prisoners on death row. The state has the second most inmates on death row in the nation behind Texas.
State Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda battled the issue for three years, and each time the bill failed to pass. She was disappointed that the bill was rejected since Florida leads the country in sentencing innocent people to death.
“I think one innocent person that is executed is just too much,” she said. “There are alternative options for these people like maximum security prisons and life without parole.”
Rehwinkel Vasilinda said the system needs to be precise when accusing a person of a crime because mistakes have been made in the past and Florida is very well known for that.
She said executions are more expensive than having the prisoners remain on death row due to the legal process.
The costs to feed, clothe, house, educate and provide medical services to prisoners on death row is about $15,000 per year, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.
These costs come from taxpayer dollars. With 405 prisoners on death row right now in Florida, the total cost is about $6 million.
Rehwinkel Vasilinda says the money spent on the death penalty is not an efficient way to spend taxpayers’ money, which can be used in other ways, such as public safety.
“We could use that money for better equipment for law enforcement, which not only keeps them safer but the citizens as well,” she said.
Rep. Matthew Gaetz said he wants to keep the death penalty in the state and also speed up the process. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, an inmate can spend about 13 years on death row before his or her execution.
Rehwinkel Vasilinda said she doesn’t think his strategy will work if Florida already has a record of accusing innocent people of crimes they didn’t commit.
“We need to be very careful going forward, so we don’t make those same mistakes,” she said.
Chris Kirschner edited this story online.