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High in cost and low in sense, the death penalty needs to go

This just in – an eye for an eye won’t only leave us all blind, it will leave us cash-strapped and judicially impotent as well.

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty nearly three decades ago, 948 people have been tried, sentenced and executed, paying the ultimate price for their crimes.

While the removal of these convicted felons from society should no doubt leave the streets safer, we must question whether or not the costs outweigh this potential benefit.

First and foremost, the death penalty is simply not a deterrent. No one commits a crime with the idea that they might actually be caught.

You didn’t expect your mother to catch you when you would sneak cookies before dinner; you knew that you’d get swatted if you got caught, but you did it anyway.

Crime is no different.

In fact, the region with the highest murder rate is the South, which also happens to be the region with the highest rate of executions.

If that isn’t enough, the Northeast — the region with the lowest murder rate in the United States – has executed less than one percent of those 948 felons. Aren’t deterrents supposed to deter something?

If the death penalty isn’t meant as a deterrent as much as it is a punishment, then at the very least, it should be applied with a fair and even hand. This, however, is not the case either – the application of capital punishment is unfair and arbitrary.

A crime that would likely fetch the death penalty in conservative states such as Texas might not in a more liberal state, such as New Jersey.

If this felony was committed in Alaska, North Dakota or in one of 10 other states, the death penalty would not even be brought up at sentencing, as this handful of states has banned executions.

The geographical area where the crime was committed is more important that the crime itself.

The death penalty is biased against certain groups of people as well. Most defendants in capital cases are poor and cannot afford decent counsel.

Certain groups, such as juveniles and the mentally retarded, are apt to submit false confessions under duress.

The punishment is racially biased as well – most death row inmates are minorities and most of the victims in capital punishment cases were white.

Without uniform application across the board, the death penalty is laughable at best and chillingly unfair at worst.

Almost as important in this time of economic worries is the fact that the death penalty does cost substantially more than life imprisonment.

Not only do we, the taxpayers, have to pay for the room and board (not to mention the 24-hour surveillance) of these felons while they live their last days but we also have to pay for their legal fees.

Every inmate on death row is guaranteed one appeal and many make more than one.

A report released by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury shows that death penalty trials are 48 percent more expensive than trials in which the prosecutor seeks a term of life imprisonment.

A study conducted by Duke University found that the cost per execution in the state of North Carolina was a whopping $2.16 million more than the cost of life imprisonment.

Not to be outdone, Florida spent $3.2 million per execution from 1973 to 1988.

In contrast, the cost of life imprisonment (based on an average term of 40 years and the national average of $16,100 spent per inmate per year as determined by the General Accounting Office) would only run about $644,000.

Not only does life imprisonment remove these dangerous criminals from the society they have plagued, but this way is a whole lot cheaper as well.

Unless there is a way to make capital punishment cheaper, fairer and a lot more effective, the death penalty should no longer be used. Look at it in terms of simple mathematics.

The cost of housing an average death row inmate: more than $2 million.

The cost of housing the average lifer: less than $700,000.

Unclogging the legal system and preventing unwarranted executions: priceless


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