Death Penalty Not Worth the Economic–or Moral–Cost to Society

While one can argue for or against the death penalty on purely moral grounds (“eye for an eye” misinterpretation of a bible quote versus only God should put people to death), from a legal standpoint the arguments should focus on whether it performs any sort of positive for the criminal justice system (deterrent affect on crime) and whether or not it is an economically sound program. In both of these situations, there are few positives.

The state of the death penalty in America (courtesy of The Economist)
The state of the death penalty in America (courtesy of The Economist)

Only two states have yet to put a man to death since the United States Supreme Court provided a constitutional death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia (U.S. 1976): Kansas and New Hampshire. Kansas has an opportunity to revisit their dusty capital punishment regime in a recent case involving convicted murderer Kyle Flack. While there are two camps to this argument, some evidence should stand out:

In 2003, a legislative audit examined the state’s death penalty expenses in the previous decade. Kansas, the audit found, had spent or would spend almost $20 million on its 14 death penalty cases, including cases where the death penalty was sought but not granted.

With a punishment that’s so empirically unproductive for the criminal justice system, one has to wonder why so many citizens–especially those who claim to be conservative–would support such a penalty.

Other experts dispute his conclusion. The Kansas murder rate is 3.5 per 100,000 people, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In Missouri, it’s 7 murders per 100,000. Both have the death penalty, but only Missouri has carried it out in recent years.

Iowa has no death penalty. Its murder rate is 1.3 per 100,000 people.

We’ve beaten this dead horse enough, but the evidence is glaring. I hope the sovereign states continue to excise the death penalty from their law books. It’s time for legislators to take some economic–and moral–responsibility here and get rid of capital punishment. Quotes courtesy of The Kansas City Star, Dave Helling, The Kansas Death Penalty Has Cobwebs, May 17, 2013. For the original post of the above graphic, visit The Economist.