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November 22, 2005

New report on the costs of capital punishment

I have long thought that one strong argument against the modern death penalty centers on the extraordinary economic costs of administering a system of capital punishment.  And thanks to this Newsday article, I see that a new report concludes that New Jersey has spent over a quarter of a billion dollars(!) on its death penlaty system without having actually executed anyone.

This new report comes from the New Jersey Policy Perspective, which claims to be a "nonpartisan" research group.  The report, which is available here, is entitled "Money For Nothing? The Financial Cost of New Jersey's Death Penalty."  The report's analysis culminates in this conclusion:

Having the death penalty on the books has cost the State of New Jersey more than $250 million since capital punishment was reinstated in 1982.  That is, at best, a very conservative estimate.  Given the difficulty in obtaining precise information from the various state and county entities that play a role in capital cases — and what appear to be decisions by those entities not to keep track — there is considerable reason to believe the figure is higher....

From a strictly financial perspective, it is hard to reach a conclusion other than this: New Jersey taxpayers over the past 23 years have paid more than a quarter of a billion dollars on a capital punishment system that has executed no one.

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November 22, 2005 at 01:08 AM | Permalink

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» The Exorbitant Cost of the Death Penalty from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
Newsday reports: In the 23 years since New Jersey reinstated the death penalty, the law has cost taxpayers about $253 million and executed no one, according to a new study. "Money For Nothing? The Financial Cost of New Jerseys Death... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 22, 2005 3:11:35 PM

Comments

When you mention a conservative estimate it struck me that the only conservative measure that liberals have is their money. They are the tight wads. You guys are always blabbing away about the right with the money, but it is you that have the most. I have found this to be evident when I often run in liberals, especially in large concentration areas and you know where that is...

Posted by: Paul | Nov 22, 2005 7:30:15 AM

Paul, I'm not sure I completely understand your point, or how it responds to the concern that the operation of a system of capital punishment is very costly and perhaps not worth the significant expense.

Posted by: Doug B. | Nov 22, 2005 9:13:52 AM

Finances are only one aspect to this hot topic, but finances aside I would agree to pay that much and more if the money bought something in return to the taxpayer. I unfortunately think it buys nothing for society. I have seen no data that can conclusively say that execution is a better alternative to life in prison. Granted the execution of the convicted subject does exact revenge for their actions, but that should not be the main motive to move the public, much less the government, to take life. The state should be above our petty lust for vengeance and concern itself, including spending tax money, on mitigating violent crime and the prevalence of acceptable violent conduct in our society. Before we spend $250 million dollars on execution related issues we should see how much we are spending on studies on how the government can decrease violence in society.

Posted by: John Hinds | Nov 22, 2005 5:45:53 PM

First we have to sort out what "capital punishment" is. In my opinion, criminals are living the high life in prison. Even if they serve a life sentence, they are offered classes, are kept alive, religious services, exposure to the outside world through media and other devices, and a chance to become normalized into society if/when they are released. Sure, it's hard for them to get a job once they're released, but let's overlook that for a minute. Taxpayers are paying for all of that. Now, the real question here is, do you want to pay for a criminal to get his life back, or do you want to pay for him to be executed? Most offenders get a quick, easy, sterilized lethal injection so I don't see why that doesn't work for us. Other countries (yes, yes I know, you don't care) will execute you by way of firing squad for stealing a handbag.

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