USA: GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS COULD PUT AN END TO DEATH PENALTY
February 25, 2009: A clutch of American states are considering whether to abolish capital punishment because of the cost of the execution process, which can run into millions of dollars for each prisoner.
In Maryland, Montana and New Mexico, such legislation has a strong chance of being passed, say experts.
Other states, including New Hampshire, Kansas and Nebraska, are also deliberating doing the same.
None of them is among the most enthusiastically pro-death penalty states but they all have the punishment on their books.
Of America's 50 states, 36 still have the death penalty and capital punishment is estimated to have the support of two thirds of the public.
However, judicial unease over executions has been fuelled by recent claims that lethal injection β the common method β is unconstitutionally cruel and a series of cases in which new DNA evidence has indicated that people were put to death for crimes they did not commit. Only Texas continues to execute criminals in large numbers.
Supporters of capital punishment counter that the figures brandished by their opponents fail to take account of the savings from crimes that the death penalty deters.
Capital cases are typically more expensive because trials take longer, involve more lawyers and more frequently lead to appeals.
Anti-capital punishment activists at the Death Penalty Information Centre (DPIC) estimate that executing a prisoner in Kansas costs 70 per cent higher than keeping him or her in prison β $1.26 million compared to $740,000.
The state has not executed anyone since 1976 but it has nine men on Death Row.
Caroline McGinn, a Republican Kansas state senator, has proposed a bill banning the death penalty from July in order to cut the state's budget deficit.
In Maryland, where the governor, Martin O'Malley, is supporting a death penalty repeal. the DPIC claims the state's five executions since 1976 cost it more than $37 million.
Mr O'Malley said capital cases in his state cost three times as much as non-capital ones. "And we can't afford that when there are better and cheaper way to reduce crime," he told the New York Times.
"The issue of cost is definitely an issue that legislators are looking at because of the severe economic recession (having) a significant impact on many states," said Steve Hall, director of the StandDown Texas Project, an anti-capital punishment group.
"The state legislators are looking at ways to cut the funding, to pull themselves out of deficit, and the high cost of the death penalty is absolutely something that they are looking at." (Sources: telegraph.co.uk, 25/02/2009)