Death Penalty: Crime Deterrent Or Financial Burden?

1703 words - 7 pages

For decades people have debated the death penalty. These discussions have taken place at the water cooler in the workplace as well as at family dinners. Some people see it as a barbaric form of torture, and others see it as a necessity of modern life. Most people do not understand the complex issues that heads of states need to evaluate regarding the death penalty. In conference rooms they discuss issues such as costs, wrongful convictions and what they could do with the additional revenues. Even though some people see the death penalty as a crime deterrent, in this economy individual states have to rethink the financial costs involved.
Many people do not realize the additional ...view middle of the document...

In California it costs $90,000 more a year to house one inmate on death row, where each person has a private cell and extra guards, than in general prison population. (Tempest, 2005)
Not only do states pay millions more to incarcerate, but the legal fees due to appeals can be insurmountable compared to a non-death-penalty case. The state of Kansas found that it was 21 times more expensive for appeals in a death penalty case. In addition, Washington State found that is costs approximately $100,000 more to appeal a death sentence. (Costs of the Death Penalty, 2005)
The next question on the minds of politicians is, “Is the death penalty actually a crime deterrent?” By comparing crime rates in death penalty and non-death-penalty states we can see that since 1990 the murder rate has been significantly lower in the non-death-penalty states. Studies have shown that in 10 out of the 12 states without the death penalty, they have a murder rate significantly lower than the national average. (Text and figure below from Deterrence: States without the Death Penalty Have Had Consistently Lower Murder Rates., 2008)

Another topic of debate, is if the death penalty can even be seen to promote murder. As we can see from the above chart the murder rate is higher in death penalty states. Is it possible that the death penalty is just a barbaric way of settling scores from the days of an eye for an eye? Is it possible that settling scores this way just promotes a long line of continually trying to get even?
Over the years many groups such as the Innocence Project have come together because of concerns of either faulty evidence, or convictions due to corrupt officials resulting in innocent people being put on death row. New Mexico’s governor, Bill Richardson, was instrumental in repealing the death penalty in his state. He stated that “Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe.” (Grinberg, 2009)
Since 1989, there have been a total of 238 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States. Approximately 60% of the convicted were of African American descent. The major factor in misidentifying a criminal is that it has been found that people have a difficult time picking out characteristics of a person of a different ethnicity than themselves. (Facts on Post-Conviction DNA Exonerations, 2009). As far as we know these were not cases of professional misconduct on the part of county and state officials.
Mistakes made either because of professional misconduct, or tainted evidence is the cause of the average length of a person being unlawfully incarcerated being 12 years. The average age at conviction was 26. (Facts on Post-Conviction DNA Exonerations, 2009). Is this simply just the cost of doing business, to believe that by having the death penalty we can feel...

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