Letting go of the death penalty

20Jan09

Death penalty - unjust endMost states are facing drastic cuts in vital services because of the recession. Schools, health care, and law enforcement will have to get by with less.

Death penalty cases, however, stand out, demanding more money even as executions become less likely. In this economic climate, they may be a luxury we can no longer afford.

According to a recent report released by the Death Penalty Information Center, the death penalty is being used less and executions are being carried out in only a few states. Yet the costs are becoming more of an issue as the pressure to avoid the mistakes of the past has grown. There were 37 executions in 2008; 95% of them were in the South and almost half were in just one state — Texas. Executions and death sentences have been steadily dropping throughout the current decade. But millions of taxpayer dollars have to be spent to keep the vast apparatus of capital punishment in place.

California, for example, has 670 people on death row. Each one of them costs the state about $90,000 per year over what it would cost to keep them in prison if they were condemned to permanent imprisonment instead. In total, the state is spending $138 million per year, but only executes less than one person every two years, according to a recent state commission report.

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