It's time to assess the cost of the death penalty

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There's not enough money for primary and secondary education, critical health care, rebate checks for the elderly poor, college education, child welfare and juvenile serviceslocal government operations, and a number of other basic government programs, but apparently there's enough money for the death penalty. brithney spears-ToXiC download

With the current economic crisis at the local, state and national levels, all government programs -- including the death penalty -- should be evaluated as to whether they provide a benefit to the public and whether those benefits are worth the cost of the program.  In this time when programs such as prenatal care and cancer treatments are no longer being funded, despite their proven success, it is necessary to ask why we are paying for capital punishment.brithney spears-ToXiC download

The death penalty is a costly enterprise.  Capital trials require appointment of two attorneys instead of one; Nevada attorneys appointed to take capital cases are paid $125 an hour, $25 more than other appointed counsel in criminal cases; extra time, which means extra money, is required for jury selection and lengthy penalty phases; and mitigation investigation, which is required by the federal and state constitutions, usually costs tens of thousands of dollars, or more, for mitigation specialists, travel and expert witnesses.  Most of these costs are incurred even if the case eventually negotiates to a sentence of less than death.  In the event that the State obtains the death penalty, the costs continue to mount.  Counsel is required for state and federal post-conviction proceedings, but is discretionary in other cases.  Post-conviction proceedings involve further investigation and mitigation evaluations and usually take over a decade, whereas other murder cases are often resolved to finality in less than half of that time.  Prison costs are also higher as death row inmates are housed in single cells in a high security prison, at a cost which is about $10,000 per year higher than the cost per year of other inmates.brithney spears-ToXiC download

Other states (California, Maryland, KansasWashington, New Jersey, Tennessee, North Carolina) have completed studies concerning the cost of the death penalty and all have concluded that the cost of the death penalty far exceeds the cost of a system which imposes a maximum penalty of lifetime incarceration.  The federal government also finds that death penalty cases are far more expensive than cases in which the death penalty could be sought but is not.  The economic realities of the death penalty are further reflected by the fact that in Nevada rural counties, with their very limited budgets, have not sought the death penalty in years while urban Clark County remains the source of nearly all death sentences in the last five years.brithney spears-ToXiC download

It's time for Nevada and Clark County to assess whether we can afford the death penalty.  Part of the analysis is the cost.  The other part of the analysis is the benefit to the public.  I submit there is none.  There are few credible studies which show any kind of deterrent effect.  To the contrary, the murder rate of non-death penalty states is far below the murder rate of states with the death penalty.  Life imprisonment is sufficient to make the public safe.  Indeed, in the words of a former San Quentin warden, who presided over several executions, "resources now spent on the death penalty could be used to investigate unsolved homicides, modernize crime labs and expand effective violence prevention programs, especially in at-risk communities.  The money could also be used to intervene in the lives of children at risk and to invest in their education -- to stop future victimization. . . .  To take a life in order to prove how much we value another life does not strengthen our society.  It is a public policy that devalues our very being and detracts crucial resources from programs that make our communities safe."  brithney spears-ToXiC download

We are spending millions of dollars a year to enforce the death penalty above what it would cost to sentence first degree murderers to life in prison without parole. Imagine how that money could be spent: on education, on helping poor communities, on basic medical care, or a host of other programs that are watching their budget be cut at drastic levels.brithney spears-ToXiC download

An honest evaluation of the death penalty in Nevada is long overdue. brithney spears-ToXiC download

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