Sunday, March 1, 2009

Death Penalty Debate

The other day they kept doing one of those news previews saying that the death penalty here in Texas could be in trouble. Of course, we never caught the actual newscast, so if anybody has any further specific information on how that's going, let me know. ^_^ In the meantime, here's an article from the Dallas news.

High costs figure into death penalty debate, but Texas holds firm

12:00 AM CST on Friday, February 27, 2009

By DIANE JENNINGS / The Dallas Morning News

Death penalty opponents across the country are using the plight of strained state budgets as an added reason to abolish the final sanction. The argument appears to be gaining traction in some states – but not in Texas, the nation's leading death penalty state.
"I don't think it's driving the effort in Texas the same way we're witnessing in other states," said Kristin Houlé, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Legislators in eight states are considering abolition bills, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, and the issue of money has been raised in all of those discussions.
The cost of the death penalty includes not just the cost of high-security incarceration and the execution itself, but years of appeals. The issue of expense has been raised before but "resonates a lot more" because of the fiscal crisis, Dieter said.
But "that doesn't mean it's the only issue people are considering."
State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, co-author of an abolition bill, said the cost issue is not his primary concern. "We're doing this on moral grounds," he said.
But he believes capital punishment is "not worth what it costs. Our money could be better spent in the correctional system."
He doesn't expect the cost issue to change many minds because, he said, state policymakers are more interested in vengeance.
"It disappoints me that the very people that will talk about, 'We need to be rational and look at the cost-benefit analysis of everything we want to do,' are pandering to an emotion," he said. "And it's a bad emotion."
Dieter said numerous studies show "the bottom line is, it's costly," but death penalty advocates are not convinced. They say such studies don't take into account the deterrence effect of the death penalty or the money saved through plea agreements spurred by fear of the death penalty.
And even if capital punishment is more costly, expense "should not be the primary factor," said Dudley Sharp, who monitors death penalty legislation. "It's like saying, 'Incarceration costs more than probation, so we should get rid of incarceration and only probate people.' It's ridiculous."
The primary reasons to retain the death penalty have nothing to do with cost, he said. "First is, it's just and deserved, and the second is that it helps protect us. And so those two things take precedent over cost savings."

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