Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Death Penalty: Unbelievably Expensive To Taxpayers


The ACLU Blog of Rights uses California as an example:

Let's Cut the Death Penalty and Save California $126 Million a Year

The California Supreme Court has just 'sentenced' our state's taxpayers to an additional debt of at least $180,000 more per year. How? The state's high court upheld the death penalty in two cases.

Imposing the death penalty adds enormously to the cost of prosecution and permanent lifetime housing for an inmate. The death penalty is certainly a polarizing public policy issue, but I wonder how many people realize that it's also a vortex-like drain on their own pocketbooks.

Whether you're for or against the death penalty, you are paying for it. Here are the staggering numbers, from a report by the ACLU of Northern California:

  • $90,000 a year: taxpayers' extra cost of holding one inmate on death row, over and above the cost of keeping an inmate in the general prison population
  • $10.9 million: taxpayers' cost of one death penalty trial, based on the records of a sample of trials
  • $117 million a year: taxpayers' cost of seeking execution, after conviction, for inmates throughout the state

Altogether, Californians spend as much per year in pursuit of executions as the salaries of more than 2,500 experienced teachers, or 2,250 new California Highway Patrol officers.

There's no answer to that one.

Provide any less due process and you're risking executing innocent people... believe me, that approach was very popular in Texas in the 1980s when many Texans didn't give a good damn whether innocents were executed as long as they got their fill of executions. It was an ugly business.

But you know it won't do. Due process is spelled out, detail by detail, in the Constitution, and most of us know enough history to understand why it's there.

But let's suppose a state decides to ignore the dangers and the constitutional shortcomings. Are there any other reasons not to execute people who merely might have committed a murder? Well, yes: see the list of taxpayers' money wasted in the process.

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