Saturday, 24 February 2007

Capital punishment expensive

Capital punishment expensive

A YOUR TURN letter argued last month that capital punishment is less
costly than life imprisonment (Jan. 6). This argument is as hackneyed as
it is untrue.

Every serious study ever done on the subject has found that capital cases
are far more expensive than cases where the government seeks life

A 2-year study by Duke University determined that capital cases cost $2.6
million per execution more than cases where prosecutors sought life
imprisonment. With 944 executions in the United States from 1974 to 2005,
this means the United States has spent more than $2 billion more to
execute prisoners than it would have to imprison them for life.

That amount is even more ridiculous when you consider that only 13 % of
capital cases end in execution.

Capitol punishment trials take 3 to 5 times as long as ordinary murder
trials. They require more of everything: more lawyers, more judges, more
potential jurors, more expert witnesses, more appeals, more due process
and more court security.

The revenue spent on capital cases creates a drain on public resources
that actually decreases public safety. Prisoners in Texas during the 1990s
had their sentences reduced as much as 80 % due to prison crowding while
the state spent $183 million on executions. What is the benefit to the
public of executing one inmate when the result is that 20 more are put
back on the street to pay for it?

All this money spent on capital punishment could be put to better use
elsewhere. Ask any police officer what would reduce the crime rate and
they will tell you more officers, better equipment, more crime prevention
programs, and longer sentences. In a 1995 poll, police chiefs nationwide
ranked capital punishment as the least effective means of deterring crime.

The bottom line is that lawyers cost more than prison guards, and it is
far cheaper to lock someone up for the rest of his life than to go through
the whole process of executing him.

(source: Letter to the Editor, Contra Costa Times -- Mathews lives in

No comments: