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The Cost of The Death Penalty

by Hugh McQuaid | Mar 28, 2012 3:13pm
(8) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Courts, Legal

CTNJ file photo

Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven

The debate over whether Connecticut should have a death penalty is usually a morality discussion, but this week the Office of Fiscal Analysis threw a price tag on it.

A fiscal note attached to this year’s bill to prospectively abolish the death penalty attempts to calculate how much the state spends on litigation, incarceration, and the actual execution associated with the sentence. It also tries to identify how much money the state would save in its absence.

The agency estimates that it costs somewhere around $5 million a year to keep the death penalty on the books. Most of that amount, $3.8 million, is spent by the Public Defenders Commission that defends and appeals death penalty convictions. The office spends around $660,000 annually on expert witnesses.

The remainder of the $5 million comes from the Department of Criminal Justice’s efforts to prosecute capital punishment cases. The department spends around $1.2 million a year, with $150,000 of that for expert witnesses.

By weighing the cost of incarcerating someone for life against the total cost of the incarceration and execution of the last person the state executed, OFA also estimates the Department of Correction would save about $455,000 per inmate in the absence of a capital punishment.

However, the bill is written prospectively to only impact future cases, so those savings would only be achieved after the 11 men currently on death row either exhaust their appeals, settle their cases, die, or are executed.

If the bill is adopted, OFA anticipates about $850,000 savings in the next two fiscal years because of reduced litigation costs for future cases.

The bill’s proponent Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, said the fiscal aspect of the debate is often overlooked because it’s easy for death penalty supporters to say it’s callous to have a numbers discussion on such an emotional issue. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered, he said.

“Whenever we argue anything including the death penalty, recognizing how emotional it is, the full panoply of issues should be discussed,” he said. “Listen if we’re going to have a death penalty that we don’t actually use and we’re spending hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, that’s something that people should talk about. It’s important.”

Sen. John Kissel, R- Enfield, disagreed, saying it is wrong to look at the death penalty as a fiscal matter.

“You could look at our entire criminal justice system and start trying to say, ‘Well if we do away with this crime, we’ll save this much money. If we do away with that crime, we’ll save that much money.’ To me that’s an unfair analysis,” he said.

Protecting the public is one of government’s most important duties and having a death penalty on the books helps accomplish that, he said.

“Who’s to put a value on the one life it might save?” he asked.

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(8) Comments

posted by: Noteworthy | March 28, 2012  4:48pm

It’s not about the money, but if you want to save some, limit the appeals and speed up the time in which they have to perfect one in order to stay alive.

On the other hand, if you want to look at through Holder-Winfield’s rose colored glasses, then he better budget even more money for the death penalty cases next year because all 11 of them on there will launch a new round of appeals.

posted by: Upset.Citizen | March 28, 2012  6:05pm

Upset.Citizen

They had a trial, they were found guilty! No appeals… done!  Give them 30 days to get their affairs in order and say their goodbyes…  That’s more than they gave their victims!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | March 28, 2012  8:52pm

One can say it cost more for life in prison.

The Cost Of Life In Prison.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2010/jan/20/cost-life-prison/


Guarding Grandpa

Illinois is spending money it doesn’t have to keep convicts who can barely walk behind bars.
By Jessica Pupovac

By Wendy Fry

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/illinois-prisons-budget-elderly-old-inmates/Content?oid=3013140

posted by: Hoosier@CT | March 29, 2012  9:20am

The reason the costs are so high, is that the legislators have made it impossible to impose the death penalty.  If they were to limit the number of appeals, and the length of time an appeal can be entered, then all those costs would drop to a more reasonable amount of time.  You can’t tell me that it costs more to flip-the-switch that it does to house, feed, provide free medical & dental, free reading material, free entertainment, etc..

posted by: Hugh McQuaid | March 29, 2012  10:34am

Hugh McQuaid

@Threefifths, according to OFA, the cost of the death penalty is $1,728,340, assuming the inmate is executed in 18 years. The cost of life in prison is $1,273,566, assuming the prisoner lives to age 68.

posted by: Irish Loop | March 29, 2012  11:38am

Every time someone says, “Let’s just make it cheaper,” I hear, “You know what the death penalty needs?  A higher margin of error.”  I guess it’s fine as long as it’s not your kid on trial.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS | March 29, 2012  1:22pm

posted by: Hugh McQuaid | March 29, 2012 10:34am

@Threefifths, according to OFA, the cost of the death penalty is $1,728,340, assuming the inmate is executed in 18 years. The cost of life in prison is $1,273,566, assuming the prisoner lives to age 68.

What happens when the medical bills start creeping up on those who are in for life.Look at the case of Sirhan Sirhan who on June 5, 1968 shot Senator Robert Kennedy had has now been in jail for 43 years,Also how about Charles Manson who has been in jail fromm 1969 till present. in the long run as they get older it will cost more money to keep them around.To save money they should do this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBf-pU7znfo

posted by: PsiCop | March 31, 2012  12:57pm

The reason for the high expense is that death row inmates are given unlimited habeas motions, all of them paid for by the state. If you cut off that endless stream of money, and force inmames (& presumably their family & friends, if they have any left) to finance all their habeas motions, the expense would go WAY down and the appeals would no longer be unlimited.

It’s not a coincidence the death penalty works this way in CT. It was specifically engineered to be impossible to impose (except in cases like those of Michael Ross, who gave up his appeals).  Now the people who made it unworkable & expensive are saying, “Gee, this is unworkable & expensive, let’s end it!”

Sorry but that’s a swindle I’m not falling for. The DP in CT can most certainly be made workable ... IF the people in charge can summon the courage to make it workable. Since they are all sniveling cowards, they will never have such courage.

And here we are, falling for their game. Well done people. Well done.