Tag Archives: death penalty cost

I Flip-Flopped on the Death Penalty

I used to be a zealous advocate for the death penalty. An eye for an eye! Justice must be served! But in recent years I’ve teetered on the fence of unsurity. After covering some death penalty cases for various news sources, I hereby rescind my advocacy for said punishment.

My opposition doesn’t come from the idea that you can’t be ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-death penalty.’ (You can do whatever you want and a lot of people are both.) Nor is it about the ‘humanity’ of it. And I certainly don’t care what ‘other countries’ or the UN have to say about it. It really isn’t even about the mental health component, because, while I find the idea of the State determining what mental capacity is acceptable for various punishments, fixing that wouldn’t really fix the overarching problem:cHOP

The fact that we cannot serve justice in a broken legal system and that the lies they tell you about saving money when someone is put to death are false.

It doesn’t take much more than a traffic ticket to reveal the real flaws of our legal system. Even for those crimes not on the list of ‘punishable by death’ show us often a sentence that has been overturned, or a case thrown out because of ‘new evidence,’ or an oversight during an investigation. Sure, it’s the big cases that hit the news circuits where a man is freed from prison after serving some 36 years…wrongfully. Is 29 years “better” than 36? We know it happens more than we would like to admit. We feel bad for the victim of a wrongful conviction but then carry on and go back to soccer practice and Facebook. It’s almost as if society is afraid to acknowledge its flaws. ::gasp::

Statistics show the following:

  • 144 people on death row have been exonerated since 1973 when the death penalty was reinstated. (Here is the list)
  • We know of at least 10 cases where someone was wrongfully executed.
  • It costs $90,000 more PER YEAR to house a death row prisoner, compared to ‘general confinement.’
  • Forbes points out that it can be 10x more expensive to kill an inmate than to keep them alive and attorneys on both sides spend roughly 44x more time on death penalty appeal cases than life sentence appeal cases.
  • Because of the lengthy appeals process that can take decades to settle, states can spend upward of $184 million PER YEAR in death penalty appeals cases.
  • The Idaho legislative Capital Punishment study committee put together a lovely report on the actual costs.

A Georgia man was recently executed because he shot a Laurens County Sheriff’s deputy 9 times and it was recorded on a dash cam. The defendant didn’t deny doing so either. This is certainly a ‘slam dunk,’ if you will, but at what cost? At the cost of potentially taking the life of a man or woman who was not guilty.  And a VERY high cost when we aren’t always ‘sure.’ 144 people on death row wrongfully in 42 years doesn’t seem like that high of a number. Unfortunately 1 is far too many.

So I suppose I am unsure if I am actually against the death penalty, but under our flawed legal system, I simply cannot support it.

Troy Davis & The Death Penalty: Race, Cost & Repercussions

The execution of Troy Davis on September 21st has fueled a lot of discussion on the death penalty in recent days. Of course there are the extremists who call for the abolition of the death penalty all together.  There are the moderates who believe that the death penalty needs some tweaking, like more appeal opportunities, longer death row time, etc.  And then there are the hooligans who think Troy Davis was only convicted because he was a black man who killed a white man.

In evaluating the death penalty, there are several aspects that one must take into consideration.  First and foremost, the death penalty is NOT a deterrent for crime.  It is a punishment for committing a crime.  The death penalty, like many other foundations of America, is based on Biblical values.  And in actuality, the death penalty has become so humane, that it is no longer feared.  Criminals are lucky that they aren’t executed in the same fashion by which they took a life.

Death row is often times considered to be a “second punishment” in addition to the actual execution.  But how is this any different from a life sentence? And isn’t it a bit hypocritical to say that jail time is punishment, when the same groups are extending the length of time in jail by appeals and stays and retrials?  Craig Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz said, “People on death row live under the threat of death, which is of course an extraordinary psychological trauma, and they are denied most of the ways that people make life in prison more tolerable: meaningful social activity,
programming of any kind, activities,” but again, prison is a punishment so why must it be tolerable, or comfortable, or enjoyable? The conditions are pretty nice. All states offer television and a limited number of states offer educational training and group recreation time.

Some interesting facts about the death penalty, for those who are so against it:

  • On average, 13 years elapses between the time a death sentence is handed down
    and carried out. (1)
  • In Kentucky, more people on death row have died of natural causes than have been executed in the last 30 years. (1)
  • Almost all people facing the death penalty cannot afford their own attorney. The state must assign them two public defenders, and pay for the costs of the prosecution as well. (2)
  • The rate at which death penalties are handed down at sentencing has gone down dramatically over the last twelve years, with slow-downs occurring in almost every state that still allows the death penalty, including the southern region (4)

Dragging on the process of appeals is costly.  It costs $90,000 more annually to house a death row inmate than it does someone sentenced to life imprisonment.

Another misconception? African Americans make up the majority of death row. Wrong. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 43.68% of inmates on death row are white, 41.77% are African American, 12.12% are Latino and the remaining 2.43% are categorized “other”.  Further, many believe that the South is more likely to sentence a black man to death row than a white man, but Alabama has equal numbers of both, and Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee have more white men on death row (3).

You don’t have to support the death penalty. You can certainly move to one of the 16 states that has banned it: Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia or Wisconsin. Or better yet, another country.

Sources
1. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hOcn1bXU7W_NbP0JN80LCNIVFa7A
2. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty#financialfacts
3. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/race-death-row-inmates-executed-1976
4. http://deathpenaltyfacts.org/facts-about-the-death-penalty/