The Death Penalty: Your money or their life?

Reply Sun 8 Mar, 2009 02:27 pm
It seems the death penalty is under review -- not for moral reasons, but for economic reasons. Here are a few excerpts from an article in today's paper:

(Full story: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5igctmlsODOAxUpGyz0aSU2eehOEQD96PFTKO0)

It's 10 times more expensive to kill them than to keep them alive," though most Americans believe the opposite, said Donald McCartin, a former California jurist known as "The Hanging Judge of Orange County" for sending nine men to death row

Death penalty trials are more expensive for several reasons: They often require extra lawyers; there are strict experience requirements for attorneys, leading to lengthy appellate waits while capable counsel is sought for the accused; security costs are higher, as well as costs for processing evidence " DNA testing, for example, is far more expensive than simple blood analyses.

After sentencing, prices continue to rise. It costs more to house death row inmates, who are held in segregated sections, in individual cells, with guards delivering everything from daily meals to toilet paper.

In California, home to the nation's biggest death row population at 667, it costs an extra $90,000 per inmate to imprison someone sentenced to death " an additional expense that totals more than $60 million annually, according to a 2008 study by the state's Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice.

In Kansas, Republican state Sen. Caroline McGinn is pushing a bill that would repeal the death penalty effective July 1. Kansas, which voted to suspend tax refunds, faces a budget deficit of nearly $200 million. McGinn urged fellow legislators "to think outside the box" for ways to save money. According to a state survey, capital cases were 70 percent more expensive than comparable non-death penalty cases.

In New Mexico, Gov. Bill Richardson recently said his longtime support of capital punishment was wavering " and belt-tightening was one the reasons. As the state tries to plug a $450 million budget shortfall with cuts to schools and environmental agencies, a bill to end executions has already passed the House as a cost-saving measure. The state supreme court has ruled that more money must be given for public defenders in death penalty cases, but legislators have yet to act.

In Maryland, a 2008 Urban Institute study said taxpayers forked out at least $37.2 million for each of five executions since the death penalty was re-enacted in 1978. The survey, which examined 162 capital cases, found that simply seeking the death penalty added $186 million to prosecution costs. Gov. Martin O'Malley, who disdains the death penalty on moral and financial grounds, is pushing a bill to repeal it

I'll confess right off: I'm no fan of the death penalty so I'm especially interested in hearing from its advocates:

Would you be willing to abolish the death penalty, and commute current sentences to life in prison in order to avoid cuts in your state's spending in other areas?

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Finn dAbuzz
Reply Sun 8 Mar, 2009 02:53 pm
I'm not a fan of the death penalty for political reasons. I don't want the Stateto have the right to kill its citizens.

I've no problem with the death penalty as a just punishment for certain crimes, and so if I could get past the political reservation I would suggest that the proper approach is to address the reasons why it is so costly.

The appeal process that is satisfactory for someone sent to prison for life is satisfactory for someone sentenced to death.

I thinks it's distorted view that puts great store in the judgment of a society by the way it treats its criminals.

Perhaps when he solve all of the myriad problems that face law abiding citizens we should turn to the problems facing criminals.
Reply Sun 8 Mar, 2009 05:26 pm
@Finn dAbuzz,
Code:I would suggest that the proper approach is to address the reasons why it is so costly.

The appeal process that is satisfactory for someone sent to prison for life is satisfactory for someone sentenced to death.

Maybe what needs to happen is a higher standard for people being sent to prison for life since the difference seems to be on better forensics and competent attorneys. Everyone deserves that.

But that certainly won't help the immediate financial problems that states are having.

One social program that everyone agrees is good is public education. I've been watching my lousy school system get worse by the minute as they try to figure out how to pay for essentials.

If my state decided not to pursue any death penalty cases and to commute current sentences to life and then redirect that money towards education I'd be very happy.

But again, I'm not in favor of the death penalty.

My question isn't what should be done about the legal system, which is an interesting topic and worthy of its own thread but instead whether people who are in favor of the death penalty would be willing to abolish or suspend it and commute all current sentences to life in prison if the money would be redirected to other state programs like education.

Finn dAbuzz
Reply Tue 10 Mar, 2009 02:35 pm
I'll let proponents of the Death Penalty answer for themselves, but it strike me as something of a loaded choice you're offering:

Accept that the death penalty costs more than life imprisonment and reveal oneself as someone who believes killing certain criminals is more worthy of funding than education or another "state program."

I would be surprised if very many proponents of the death penalty based their support on the belief that it is cheaper to kill criminals than lock them up until they die, but perhaps we'll get an inkling from other responses you receive.
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