When it comes to ongoing values debates, the death penalty is one issue that rates right alongside abortion and gay marriage for its ability to incite controversy and heated chatter. As states like California grapple with deficits and accumulated debt, discussions regarding the cost of the death penalty versus lifetime imprisonment are beginning to emerge.
California, a state that finds itself in dire financial straits, is facing some tough choices. According to CNN, the state currently finds itself with a $26 billion deficit. With leaders looking to cut costs wherever possible, they have begun to examine the expenditures associated with executing criminals.
Since 1978, the state has spent $4 billion in taxpayer funds to execute 13 criminals; this works out to about $308 million per execution. CNN Money has more:
…without substantial changes, the state’s total bill will expand to $9 billion by 2030, according to a new study by federal appeals Judge Arthur Alarcón and Paula Mitchell, his law clerk and a professor at Loyola Law School.
The situation is now so severe, voters must choose to pay higher taxes or abolish the death penalty, the authors say.
In case you were wondering, the backlog of inmates on death-row is staggeringly large. Currently, 714 people are awaiting execution. In addition to insanely-long wait times, the aforementioned study also finds that prosecuting death penalty cases costs $184 million more each year than handling those cases that seek life without parole. Watch below for more on this important issue:
While costs are certainly a factor, one must understand that the primary death penalty debate surrounds the morality of the procedure itself. When someone takes another human being’s life, does that person, regardless of cost, deserve to suffer the same fate?
It is certainly easy to look at finances to weigh whether the death penalty is or is not cost effective, but it is an entirely different undertaking to analyze the moral imperatives some believe lay present when murder takes place.
Where do you stand on the death penalty? If it is cheaper to simply keep people in prison for life, do you think that’s the way to go?