Saturday 12 February 2011

Capital punishment wastes capital

I've never been a supporter of capital punishment, mostly because the legal system does occasionally get it wrong (and while you can pay compensation to someone who has been incorrectly incarcerated for years, the state can't "make things right" when it turns out they executed the wrong person), but also because I can't see that the principal of national "self defence" that could be used to justify the state killing people in acts of war can really be extended to executing convicted criminals rather than just incarcerating them for life in order to protect society.

But I had thought that execution was obviously cheaper than maintaining a prisoner in jail for the rest of their natural life. Apparently that isn't the case though - according to an article in today's SMH, it costs around $3 million per execution, while life imprisonment "only" costs around $1m. It seems sad that some US states may move to eliminate the death penalty for fiscal reasons, when instances of the wrong person getting executed for a crime had failed to see the practice banned.

Subscribe to Enough Wealth. Copyright 2006-2010

1 comment:

Handworn said...

The problem with trying to apply reason to capital punishment is that it's about emotion, and as the old Russian saying goes, "You can't break an axe with a whip." The state executes people because it's a better alternative to lynchings.

Its cost, though, is artificial. $3M is not the real cost of an execution. A piece of rope is. $3M is just what the opponents of capital punishment have managed to drive the price up to with foot-dragging, legal technicalities, arguments about what constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment," endless appeals, and so on. But then again, how much civilization we can afford and who gets to decide is pretty much the Question Of Our Times.