Beth A.

Beth A.
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Dallas, Texas, United States
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Journalist. Editor. Bubble popper. Likes long walks on the beach and hand-crafted gym socks.

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OCTOBER 20, 2009 6:07PM

Fiscally Conservative - and Pro-Death Penalty?

Rate: 6 Flag

Today, we learned that the death penalty, on average, costs about $10 million more per year per state than life without parole, according to The Death Penalty Information Center.

So let's talk finances. Texas now has an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, a 22-year high. As people move out and businesses shut down, that's less in both property taxes collected and in sales tax revenue. If building slows down, as it seems it may, we're looking at further slow down. 

Texas has about 336 inmates on death row. At $10 million more (granted, I haven't looked to see if other states have more), we're looking at a lot of extra money we're spending to keep guys alive until we kill 'em.

That's a lot of zeros. So can you really be a fiscal conservative if you're for the death penalty? 

And that's also Rick Perry's problem - and the problem of every other state currently actively using the death penalty. Every state is pretty much experiencing some shortfalls. Even without the Willingham case enveloping him like three-day burrito, can Perry and the state legislature make a case for keeping the death penalty fiscally?

Now, some are going to argue that the end result - getting no-good killers off the streets forever - is worth the extra expense. 

So what they're saying is: "It's for the greater good, so it's OK to spend this money." 

 Is that so? Really? It's OK to spend more if it's going to be better for the state and the country?

Well then ... you should have no problem with spending more for this. Or this. Or even this.

But when we can keep a guy in prison his entire life with less expense than killing him - and when we can't even make sure we're killing someone that needs killing? 

Well, I don't know if I can justify that expense. Can you?

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Electrocute them 30 minutes after the verdict. Problem solved.
Can you justify bailing out GM and Chrysler because we are told that if we don't, millions of Americans will loose jobs and they go bankrupt anyway? Can you Justify bailing out banks that are now paying billions in bonuses. Can you justify being for a climate change bill that will put more Americans out of work? Can you justify having a safe school czar in the white house that, when he was a teacher, only ask a 10th grade boy that was having sex with a 45 year old man if he was wearing a condom? Can you justify being against the death penalty and for abortion? Can you justify a government that is spending tax dollars to try to make a news station look bad? Can you justify giving people that can work but just don't want to, tax dollars? Can you justify the congressmen who's votes are bought by lobbyist? Now go figure out how much money all of this would save. Can you Justify the tax dollars that this country spends on illegal immigrants? Can you justify the trillions that this government is putting us in debt? To keep a person that raped and killed a child (just an example) off the street. YES I CAN!
Start with the lawyers, and then the politicians.
The real problem contained in that cost has to do with the effort to reconcile two competing factors - [1] what you note at the end of your post - the need to make sure we're killing guilty people, and [2] the problem noted at the beginning of the CNN article to which you've linked: "coping with an appellate system that has kept some convicted killers waiting for an execution date since the late 1970s." We are rightfully conflicted about the death penalty, and it materializes in the tremendous expense associated with delaying its implementation for as long as possible. If we were to accept a certain level of error - i.e. we know we'll be killing some people, say 1% of all those executed, who are innocent - then we go ahead an implement Blackfon's solution tomorrow. The day you're convicted, you're killed. Bingo, expense reduced drastically.

But we're not okay with that cost, clearly. So we have a system which is less than perfect. Convicts are aware of society’s weakness: most of us don’t like killing people, especially innocent ones, and they are only too happy to exploit that weakness by brutalizing the appellate process for decades, which leads to that expense problem.
Perry sucks! He was elected last time with less than 40% of the votes. In Austin most people didn't vote for him. Everybody should vote on the Republican Primaries in Texas to take his name out of the pools. I rather have Kay Bitch Hutchison than him as governor (since the democrats will never have a good name to beat the republicans anyway) and silly liberal people always run to divide the leftists vote (vide Kinky Friedman).
Capital punishment has -never- been about getting killers off the street. It's about keeping the proles in line. From a statistical standpoint alone, we'd need to execute a much greater number of people for 'permanence' to be a reason.

No, state sanctioned murder is really just a flashy way to say: Look who's in charge! Now, behave, or we'll kill you.

That's a pretty poor relationship to have with your government, don't you think?
If putting them in a cell for life costs ten times less than killing them, then default to life in prison with minimum amenities.

As long as they never get to hurt anyone else, I'm happy with the end result.

The expense of the death penalty isn't justified unless the governments can offer proof of deterrence. Certainly ending someone's life for committing an economic crime may be a deterrent, as it changes the economics around. But whether it deters psychopathic murderers is, AFAIK, still open to question.
First of all, everything is coming down to money very soon. Period. For school boards, municipalities, states, the nation, other nations, too, as this is a worldwide depression deliberately created by Republicans (they did the same thing in the 1920s, but those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it!).

Second, the USA is the only nation in western civilization that still has a death penalty. The other western nations have eliminated it because it's cruel and barbaric. The great USA shares the distinction of a death penalty with China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and various African nations. But killing by the government is still killing. Canada, Australia, Great Britain, all of Europe, all western nations, have long since stopped killing by the government. Besides, the idea that the death penalty deters crime is absurd. No research, no statitstics, nothing supports such an absurdity.

But hey, Americans love punishment!! Even though the field of psychology determined decades ago that punishment is rarely, rarely effective, this hasn't stopped Americans from supporting killing by the government! And not knowing whether someone is truly guilty never stopped Americans from killing them, anyway, especially if black or Latino.

Republicans never understood that children at risk are likely to end up a possible menace to society. Republicans never want to fund Head Start (proven to be very effective!) or job programs or tutoring programs or anything that will prevent kids from ending up in prison. But then, many Republicans have become richer providing services to prisons which is huge business, as well as exploiting prisoners as cheap, very cheap, laborers. Using prisoners as laborers, as all major corporations do, and paying them $.50 an hour beats paying immigrant labor $5.00 an hour any day, right, Republicans?! Personally, I think this is the main reason behind the Republican "immigrant" problem. Get rid of immigrants and use prisoners instead for much less money. That's the goal, nor do Republicans have any ethics or morals, anyway!

Meanwhile, the real crooks, the dirtiest, most corrupt criminals are in Wall Street, Congress, and corporate offices, educated people for the most part. What's their excuse for raping the public and looting the national treasury with the help of Bush and Paulson in October 2008? They've ruined the lives of countless families, many with children who will literally grow up malnourished, ruined businesses, ruined everything for millions of human beings.......but gosh darn it, keeping the goddamned death penalty is important, right? What a country!!
Rated. Death penalty is nothing but community revenge on people who do horrid things- it's been proven to not deter other criminals. At least we don't do it as a public entertainment anymore...
holmescc:
I think you're missing my point. If we can justify spending $10 million extra on keeping the death row component of punishment alive, we should be equally ready to justify spending on things that are proven to help reduce the need for it in the first place - things that address poverty cycles, and improve education.
The reason the death penalty costs so much is that the first moment the case is called a death penalty case, a slew of lawyer get involved....and the appeals etc last at least 15 years. Life without parole could save each state that still has the death penality millions and millions of dollars. And still keep the bad guys locked up. Oh, and yeh, we wouldn't execute any innocent persons....
i can do blackflon one better... let's get rid of trials too. those jurors should be at work, maximizing their utility to their employers. those lawyers could be defending the property or bank account of some taxpayer instead of dancing around those accused people. it's just a colossal waste of resources.

incidentally, i saw him kill 3 people. blackflon, please report to your nearest facility for punishment...
I find this hard to believe. How on earth can it cost that much to kill someone?

Someone should investigate where that money goes. People shouldn't be getting rich because of death sentences, and I'd bet somebody is.

Why not just put the ones to be killed each month on a government airplane and push them out over the ocean? That shouldn't cost more than a few hundred dollars and would get the job done more efficiently.

Whoever authorized this kind of spending (if this is true) to get somebody executed should be in prison.
Very well said.

So long as we feel great about the giant punishment band-aid we've slapped on the crime problem, who cares if we actually deterred any future crime?
Beth,

Government spending has never reduced poverty cycles in the US. Look at the poorest places in the country. They never get better and never will. Too many people think that more entitlement programs and more money will make it better. It all sounds good but, our Government has always had it wrong. We should be giving the fishing pole, not the fish. Has throwing money at education made it better? I have been in education all my life. Schools that are run right, with good administrators and good teachers do better with the same amount or less money. It's not the money in education. If politics were not what every every decision was made on we would not be in the mess we are in now. When the jury speaks carry out the sentence. Money saved.
Excellent piece. I heard some coverage of this issue, too. It costs a lot more to maintain a state-funded death penalty program than it does to maintain life without parole. And many of the inmates upon whom that money is spent--to the tune of several million dollars per case--are not executed anyway. So, with a lifespan of 30 years behind bars, that is a million dollars, given a present-day cost of about $25,000 per year. When you add this to the issue of DNA-based conviction reversals, it convinces even diehards like former Texas Governor Mark White.

Here's White on NPR yesterday: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114012319&ft=1&f=1003
Stellaa,

No, I have lived it for over twenty years. More money does not create smarter kids. I did not say anything about the creation of institutions. I said that just throwing more money at a situation has never made it any better. I'll give you a great example. The junior college in one state gets less funding than the high schools and universities, but teaches more students than the universities. Not only that, but students that come out of these junior colleges do as well or better than the students that go to 4 year institutions straight out of high school. Also, those students on average enter junior college at a lower level than the ones who go straight to the 4 year schools. Government spending is the problem not the solution. No stereotypes or misconceptions here, just statistical facts. Go take a look at poverty in the US. Then look at the increase in government spending to TRY to fix that. You will see that in the past twenty years, the change is worse in most cases and minimal in some. Life experiences and statistical facts back up my beliefs.