Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Article: The Death Penalty

The New Jersey Assembly has approved a one year moratorium on the death penalty with bipartisan vote of 55-to-21. It has already been approved by the state Senate by a similar bipartisan margin of 30-to-6. It will now head to the desk of Governor Codey, who has indicated he will sign it.

Interestingly enough, one of the major factors in the moratorium is the cost of administering the death penalty. Since it was reinstated in 1982, the death penalty has cost New Jersey $253 million to put 10 people on death row, but it hasn't actually executed anyone. The last prisoner executed by New Jersey was in 1963. The comparable cost of simply incarcerating the 10 current death row inmates until they die is only $15.1 million.

It is now patently obvious that a sentence of life without parole is cheaper and more effective then the death sentence. If New Jersey had spent the $237.9 million on extra police officers to patrol the streets and investigate crimes, we would have fewer murders then any deterrence provided by the threat of the death penalty. This moratorium is a good step in the right direction.

On the same grounds, a good argument could be made by a Texan that the problem is not the death penalty, but poor administration. If you lowered the number of appeals and the burden of proof, the cost of administering the death penalty would drop to about $2.3 million per person. But that is still more then twice as expensive as sentencing someone to life without parole. And it leads to a higher likelihood of executing innocent people.

Even in the most extreme cases, it doesn't make sense. Assume we capture Osama bin Laden Laden - would executing him prevent his followers from attacking America? In a world of suicide bombers, the answer is no. Murdering another person, by definition, is almost never a logical thought process.

"I was going to shoot my wife, but that's not the rational thing to do, considering that I could be executed, as opposed to just spending the rest of my life being sexually assaulted by other prisoners in a federal penitentiary."

pound me in the assMurder in Progress

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I go out of my way to listen and learn from people I disagree with. But I have yet to see any strong evidence as to why we should execute anyone. It costs more. There is no evidence that it is a deterrent. And as long as we execute any large number of people, we are going to execute some number of innocent people. And that is morally reprehensible.

Hat tip to Blue Jersey and MyDD.
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