DNA and dollars are killing capital punishment

originally by: smh.com
12th February 2011

The cost of sentencing people to death is changing the minds of cash-strapped states, writes Simon Mann in Washington. America’s financial predicament is having an impact on nearly every aspect of life – and even death.

Cash-strapped states are being forced to rethink their commitment to the death penalty amid evidence that it costs at least three times as much to execute criminals as it does to lock them up for life. The new budgetary imperative is set to keep US execution rates on their decade-long downward path, a trend precipitated by the advent of DNA evidence and a widening acceptance of the judicial system’s fallibility.

Last year 46 people were executed in America, less than half the number in 1999, the peak in the three decades since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment.

Death sentences are also declining sharply: last year 114 people were sentenced to die, a third of the number that were being sentenced in the mid-’90s.

”The death penalty is putting millions [of dollars] into getting one execution per state per year, if that,” says Richard Dieter, of the Death Penalty Information Centre. ”It’s just totally symbolic, totally political and that’s an expensive thing to keep operating just because it plays well in soundbites.”

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