Time for Texas to kill death penalty

Many people have the false impression that the death penalty is more beneficial to society than life imprisonment for dangerous criminals.

The argument, which is wholly false, is both misconstrued and spoon-fed to uninformed people. The costs and social implications are both negative when compared to life imprisonment, and there’s plenty of research to back it up.

The most significant examples are in Texas, where the death penalty is king.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Texas executed more prisoners than any other state in 2009. There were 24 executions, which is four times as many as the next-closest state on the list, Alabama.

As the state that executes the highest number of criminals, it stands to reason that Texas also spends the most money to do so.

Some people argue that it costs more to incarcerate a prisoner than it does to execute them. This is simply not true.

In a Dec. 13 article from the Lubbock-Avalanche Journal, reporter Logan Carver quoted a spokeswoman from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, who said that “the average cost to house an inmate in Texas prisons is $47.50 per day.”

This is far less than politicians and pro-capital punishment groups lead people to believe.

“That means it costs more than $17,000 to house an inmate for a year and $693,500 for 40 years,” Carver wrote.

These numbers appear to be steep, but when compared to the legal costs associated with each case — which are the most expensive part of cases in which the death penalty is sought — the numbers make life imprisonment look like a better solution and highlights certain problems with the system.

“From indictment to execution, the trial costs alone for death penalty cases are estimated at about $1.2 million,” said Jack Stoffregen, an attorney with the West Texas Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases.

This means that the average cost of an execution case could pay for two prisoners’ life sentences, provided the prisoners live for 40 years in prison.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Web site, “the average time death row inmates spend on death row prior to execution is only 10.26 years.”

The costs alone are significant enough to demand the system be fixed to reduce costs, but there are other factors as well that are not financial.

The ethics behind the death penalty are flawed.

Many people hear this and automatically assume that it’s an argument being made by some sort of liberal or intellectually arrogant person, but people who believe that should reconsider.

The legal system is plagued with misconduct, which has resulted in the wrongful deaths of innocent people. This is the fundamental reason why the death penalty should be done away with or, at the very least, heavily regulated.

Factors such as police misconduct, faulty crime lab results and eyewitness remissions are common occurrences in the legal system.

Law enforcement officers, district attorneys and judges can have tunnel vision or biases that result in quick sentencing and inaccurate verdicts. Such distractions can convince juries of something that may not be accurate.

To be clear, justice is something everyone wants. No perfect system exists, but Texans should demand solutions from their elected officials within the state on how to fix the broken system and reduce the financial burdens of executions.

It is not fair to taxpayers, and it creates an illusion that our justice system works well, or properly for that matter. If one person is wrongly executed, that’s one too many.

Andrew Taylor is an economics senior and may be contacted at [email protected]


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