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February 18, 2009

States considering laying off the death penalty during tough economic times

This new AFP story, headlined "US states may axe executions to cut costs," effectively reviews the growing talk of abolishing the death penalty in a few states:

In an unexpected twist to the economic crisis, several US states are weighing whether to abolish the death penalty as the execution process proves too great a drain on dwindling resources.

Death penalty laws remain on the books of 36 of the 50 US states, and capital punishment is supported by some two-thirds of the American public. But across the nation, states as diverse and far-flung as Montana, Kansas, New Mexico and Maryland are among those actively considering abolishing capital punishment in a bid to overcome ballooning budget shortfalls....

Most of the states involved in the move are those which have only executed a few people — five or less — in the past 30 years since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

The irony here, of course, is that thos states seriously considering death penalty repeals really do not spend that much money on their capital punishment systems.  With few on death row and fewer executions, the costs savings from a repeal are not like huge (though I suppose every penny counts these days).

Of particular note here is that the state with the biggest current budget problems, California, is also the state that wastes the most resources on a bloated capital punishment system.  As detailed in DPIC data here and here, California has over 650 persons on its death row, but has only executed 13 persons in the modern capital punishment era.  And yet I have seen no talk of laying off the death penalty in California, even as the state's Governor prepares to lay off 20,000 state employees.

February 18, 2009 at 07:08 AM | Permalink

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