Thursday, March 06, 2008

The High Price of Death

When it comes to capital punishment, you've basically got three groups. One one side, there's folks like me who oppose the death penalty in all its forms and in all cases on philosophical/moral grounds. On the other side are folks who, for their own philosophical/moral grounds, believe that capital punishment is a requirement of a just society. In the squishy middle are those folks who generally support the idea of capital punishment, but have practical concerns about its application.

The group in the middle might want to consider a new study out of Maryland comparing the costs of prosecuting death penalty cases versus life-in-prison cases. Bottom line - it ain't cheap:

The death penalty has cost Maryland taxpayers at least $186 million more in prosecuting and defending capital murder cases over two decades than would have been spent without the threat of execution, according to a study to be released today.

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Paid for by the Baltimore-based Abell Foundation and prepared by the Urban Institute, a national, nonpartisan research organization in Washington, the study estimates that the cost of reaching a single death sentence costs the state an average of $3 million, which is $1.9 million more than a non-death penalty case costs, even after factoring in the long-term costs of incarcerating convicted killers not sentenced to death.
And for that money, taxpayers don't even get that much in return:
In addition, because most death sentences in Maryland are overturned and eventually reduced to life without parole, state residents are often saddled with the high cost of a capital case and the bill for housing a convicted killer for life, the study found.
This report comes at a time when the Maryland legislature is considering following New Jersey by doing away with capital punishment. I hope they do, regardless of the reason why.

1 comment:

Elvis Drinkmo said...

What's scary is that when I (from the anti-capital punishment side) argue with someone on the other side to convince someone in the middle about the cost involved with death penalty cases, the other side starts talking about the need to curtail constitutional rights make putting people to death cheaper. Like curtailing the right to appeal (?!!).

Of course, I don't expect much common sense out the pro-death penalty people since they are essentially the ideological descendants of the people who used to burn "witches" at the stake because they a mole in the wrong place.