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December 11, 2008

DPIC releases year-end report on state of death penalty in 2008

DPIC data Because there are no more executions scheduled for 2008, the Death Penalty Information Center was able to release its annual report on the death penalty early this year.  The report is available at this link, and it has these two sub-titles on its first page, "Marginalization of the Death Penalty Deepens With 95% of Executions in the South" and "Economic Concerns Bog Down Capital Punishment System." 

The first sub-title is not especially new or notable, since the vast majority of executions have always been in the south over the last three decades.  The second sub-title is new and notable because it has only been in recent years that the costs of administering capital punishment have become a more common part of policy debates.  And the DPIC report reinforces these economic dynamics in its conclusion:

Death sentences and executions have declined in the current decade.  Supreme Court Justices, law enforcement officers, and victims representatives have voiced deep concerns about the way the death penalty has been applied and whether it deserves fixing.  Clearly, a more reliable death penalty system will be very expensive.  As the country's economic crisis deepens, some states have abandoned capital punishment and others are considering doing so, primarily on pragmatic grounds....

The recent election revealed that the American public has become impatient with government programs that are very expensive and do not work.  There is a broad consensus for change.  As a program with increasing costs and questionable returns, the death penalty could be affected by these sentiments in coming years.

As I have suggested in so many prior posts, every capital punishment case is costly and a well-run capital punishment system is very expensive.  With states facing budget crunches and having to cut so many government programs that seek to help lots of citizens in need, states likely will continue to see the economic wisdom of cutting a government program that seek to kill a few citizens who murder.

The DPIC year-end report is always effective at getting these capital punishment realities in the news, and this year is no exception.  Here are links to just some of the major news coverage:

December 11, 2008 at 10:24 AM | Permalink


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The sadness is that innocent people have been executed meanwhile.

Posted by: peter | Dec 11, 2008 1:24:57 PM

Nearly 4 months of this year was cordoned off from the executioners thanks to the Baze moratorium. Hopefully, we'll do better next year. I think we can expect at least 50, possibly 60 executions next year.

Posted by: realist | Dec 11, 2008 2:06:33 PM

A lot depends on North Carolina. There is a huge backlog there because of the stunt pulled by the medical board (Query whether a state agency has the right to discipline someone for performing a duty prescribed by law--the question answers itself, at least in any rational system of law. Somehow this basic concept eluded the grasp of some of the learned judges on the NC Supreme Court at oral argument). Tennessee has a significant number as well, but there is still federal lethal injection litigation in Tennessee.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 11, 2008 5:21:48 PM

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