I thought I'd take a break from writing these blogs, in lieu of my busy schedule, to let one of my trust sources do the talking ------------ <u>Saving lives and money</u> Mar 12th 2009 | NEW YORK From The Economist print edition States plagued by fiscal woes rethink their stance on the death penalty AN EYE for an eye, or at any rate a death for a death, is the type of justice that most states still embrace. Only 14 of the 50 states have banned capital punishment. But that may change with the recession. As state governments confront huge budget deficits, eight more states have proposed an unusual measure to cut costs: eliminate the death penalty. The states considering abolition, including Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and New Hampshire, have shifted the debate about capital punishment, at least in part, from morality to cost. Studies show that administering the death penalty is even more expensive than keeping someone in prison for life. The intensive jury selection, trials and appeals required in capital cases can take over a decade and run up a huge tab for the state. Death row, where prisoners facing execution are kept in separate cells under intense observation, is also immensely costly. A recent study by the Urban Institute, a think-tank, estimates that the death penalty cost Maryland’s taxpayers $186m between 1978 and 1999. According to the report, a case resulting in a death sentence cost $3m, almost $2m more than when the death penalty was not sought. In an age of austerity, every million dollars counts. Proponents of the abolition bills describe the death penalty as an expensive programme with few benefits. There is little evidence that the death penalty deters. In fact, some of the states that most avidly execute prisoners, such as Texas and Oklahoma, have higher crime rates than states that offer only life in prison without parole. There is also the danger that innocent people may be put to death. So far, more than 130 people who had been sentenced to death have been exonerated. Colorado, one of the states that has introduced a bill to overturn the death penalty, intends to spend the money it will save each year by eliminating capital punishment on an investigations unit. According to Paul Weissman, the state House majority leader and the bill’s co-sponsor, around 1,400 murders are still unsolved in the state. Eliminating the death penalty will finance the new unit and leave an extra $1m for other state programmes. Other states are trying to free up funding to help offset their huge deficits. Savings from abolishing the death penalty in Kansas, for example, are estimated at $500,000 for every case in which the death penalty is not sought. Many other states, including Texas, which last year carried out almost half of all executions in America, have no plans to follow suit. But a prolonged recession may change a few Texan minds. ------------ Do we weigh justice with economic efficiency in these trying times?