One way to get Republicans behind the stimulus

Some states, strapped for cash, are considering abolishing capital punishment as a cost-saving measure.

By Alex Koppelman

Published February 18, 2009 7:15PM (EST)

Talk about cognitive dissonance, at least for some Republicans: A decrease in federal money directed to the various states could eventually mean the abolition of the death penalty in some of them.

"[S]everal US states are weighing whether to abolish the death penalty as the execution process proves too great a drain on dwindling resources," Agence France-Presse reports. "States as diverse and far-flung as Montana, Kansas, New Mexico and Maryland are among those actively considering abolishing capital punishment in a bid to overcome ballooning budget shortfalls."

Now, some of the states pondering this move aren't big capital punishment states anyway, and rarely -- if ever -- execute anyone. Even so, just deciding not to seek the death penalty will save money; death penalty cases are much more expensive than a typical trial, and there are more appeals involved as well.

Maryland, the state that seems closest to abolition, has executed five people over the past 30 years. The Death Penalty Information Center, which is an anti-capital punishment group but is the best source for this kind of data, estimates that it cost taxpayers $37.2 million to put those five inmates to death.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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