Saturday, February 28, 2009

More on Cost

From The Standdown Blog :

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Global financial crisis could put an end to the US death penalty," is by Tom Leonard in the UK's Daily Telegraph.

Capital cases are typically more expensive because trials take longer, involve more lawyers and more frequently lead to appeals

Anti-capital punishment activists at the Death Penalty Information Centre (DPIC) estimate that executing a prisoner in Kansas costs 70 per cent higher than keeping him or her in prison – $1.26 million compared to $740,000.

The state has not executed anyone since 1976 but it has nine men on Death Row.
Caroline McGinn, a Republican Kansas state senator, has proposed a bill banning the death penalty from July in order to cut the state's budget deficit.

In Maryland, where the governor, Martin O'Malley, is supporting a death penalty repeal. the DPIC claims the state's five executions since 1976 cost it more than $37 million.

Mr O'Malley said capital cases in his state cost three times as much as non-capital ones. "And we can't afford that when there are better and cheaper way to reduce crime," he told the New York Times.

"The issue of cost is definitely an issue that legislators are looking at because of the severe economic recession (having) a significant impact on many states," said Steve Hall, director of the StandDown Texas Project, an anti-capital punishment group.

"The state legislators are looking at ways to cut the funding, to pull themselves out of deficit, and the high cost of the death penalty is absolutely something that they are looking at."

One note of editorial correction, StandDown was started to advocate for a moratorium on executions and a state-sponsored study commission to examine Texas' application of the death penalty. It has the mandate to work with supporters of the death penalty as well as opponents of capital punishment to bring needed reforms to strengthen our criminal justice system.

The Week has, "Death penalty economics."

What happened

Lawmakers in Maryland, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, New Mexico, and New Hampshire are arguing that their states should repeal the death penalty as a cost-cutting measure in a time of tight budgets. Capital punishment cases cost significantly more to prosecute than life-sentence cases. States are also looking at releasing nonviolent offenders to save on prison costs. (The New York Times)

What the commentators said

“The misery wrought by the recession is practically universal,” said Alexandra Gutierrez in The American Prospect online, but it won’t be all bad if it gets states to “adopt sounder legal policy.” Tough-on-crime measures like the death penalty cost a lot of money, but appear to yield few “substantive benefits.

” Let’s hope the “financial argument” succeeds “where the ethical one has failed.”That’s just it, said The Philadelphia Inquirer in an editorial.

Proponents of the fiscal argument, like Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, were already opposed to the death penalty on moral grounds. But no matter how “just” O’Malley’s cause, the majority of his state—and the nation—backs capital punishment.There’s another problem with the fiscal argument, said law professor Douglas Berman in Sentencing Law and Policy.

The “states seriously considering death penalty repeals” have few death row inmates and fewer executions, so they don’t actually spend that much on capital punishment. Meanwhile, states with “bloated,” expensive capital punishment systems, like California, are cutting jobs instead.

More on cost in this post.

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