Have you ever wondered what the monetary value of an execution carried out by the state might be? Perhaps it is a reflection of the moral fibre within society that we speculate more often on the moral cost of an action, as opposed to its practical cost. However, with the state of California running a sixteen billion dollar deficit, the nation can no longer afford to side-step practical measures its judicial system so clearly lacks.
Since 1978, taxpayers have spent more than four billion dollars on capital punishments in California alone- or $308 million dollars for each of the executions since then. The cost of keeping criminals in prison triumphs economically, the estimated figure for keeping someone in prison for a year being around $20-50,000 dollars. Essentially, a life in jail is cheaper than a life ended.
Thus the strain on resources within Californian judicial system has led to some calls to abrogate the perennial death penalty set for the highest of perpetrators. This is the capital punishment that has been around since 1778 and oversees lethal injection as the default method of death.
For capital punishment to be implemented, a jury specialised to hear a death penalty case is required as well as a special council and then there is the automatic appeal aspect. Such procedures make the process of state execution arduous and subject to questions surrounding its economic practicality.
This coming November, Californians will have the chance to vote on whether to eradicate the death penalty in favour of life without parole.
Perhaps it is un-ethical to prioritise the practicality of such a sensitive issue over the morality of it. Of course there are a myriad of factors to consider, such as the innocence and the inadequate legal representation of those involved. Moreover the international view on the death penalty sheds some light on what the world believes is right for the future. The vast majority of countries in Western Europe, North America and South America (more than 139 nations worldwide) have abandoned the capital punishment either in law or in practice.
Nevertheless, a three-year study by a judge and law professor concluded that the death penalty in California costs $183 million more to administer than life without possibility of parole. This bewildering discovery is simply to significant to overlook, perhaps even more so than moral speculations.
With a future of eye-watering debts and billions of dollars of cuts in welfare programmes, schools and universities, the $1 billion dollars California could possibly save in the next 5 years by abolishing capital punishment, looks ever more appealing.