Imagine you own a business with zero customers. How long will you keep paying your employees to look busy? In the private world, owners of failing businesses quickly change their strategy or shut down to minimize their losses. In contrast, an ineffective government program can operate for decades and cost the taxpayers billions of dollars.
The Death Penalty Is A Government Program
It is easy to forget that the death penalty is a program run by the state. The last time the department of death did anything was in 1999, when they put deranged serial killer Gary Heidnik out of his misery after he asked to be executed. Even though they have not had anything to do for the past 18 years, the state employees responsible for the death penalty practice executing a fake prisoner five times a year. I suppose they need to maintain their skills just in case they need to execute someone on short order. Is this really a good use of your money?
The Death Penalty Is Expensive
In addition to keeping the death house running in Centre County, Pennsylvanians also pay for the high cost of prosecuting capital cases. A Maryland study found that due to the lengthy and complex appeals process, death penalty cases cost taxpayers approximately $2 million more to prosecute compared to standard murder cases. A review by the Reading Eagle of all the capital cases in PA from 1978 to 2016 concluded that the additional cost of seeking the death penalty vs life without parole is in the neighborhood of $1 billion. During that time three people were executed. Can I get a refund?
Does The Death Penalty Make You Safer?
Pennsylvanians pay for this “service”, but does the threat of death by the state deter murderers? It seems not. A study comparing Hong Kong, which has no death penalty, to Singapore, which has a death penalty, found no significant difference in the murder rates. In the US, people who live in the 31 states with the death penalty are no safer from murderers than the people in the 19 states without it. Apparently the threat of the death penalty does not deter psychopaths from going on a murderous rampage any more than the threat of life in prison without parole.
The Death Penalty Is Immoral
The worst part of the death penalty is the risk that the state will execute an innocent person. Since 1978, PA courts have sentenced 408 people to death. Of these 408, six people were later freed after an appeal. The odds of being wrongfully sentenced to death in PA is about 100 times more likely than winning the Powerball jackpot. One of the six people wrongly convicted includes Nicholas Yarris, who was freed after 21 years on death row when DNA testing proved his innocence. Eventually, if PA continues with the death penalty, an innocent person will be executed. Vengeance is not worth this risk. Death is final, and the courts make mistakes. No government agency should be empowered to take a life.
What You Can Do
There are two bills currently before the PA legislature that will end the death penalty. State Representative Christopher Rabb of Philadelphia sponsored house bill 1466 and State Senator Daylin Leach of Delaware and Montgomery counties sponsored senate bill 703. The bills are currently before the house and senate judiciary committees respectively. Please contact your state representative and senator and ask them to support the bills. The leaders of the Judiciary Committees are Stewart Greenleaf of Montgomery County and Ron Marsico of Dauphin County. Ask them to put the bills forward for a vote. It’s time to finally put an end to this barbaric and wasteful practice.