Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The US is even more strapped for cash than we thought

They're so broke it's starting to cut into their ability to kill people:
The United States executed fewer people this year, in part because there is a shortage of the drug used in lethal injections and because executions are too expensive in tough economic times, a report released Tuesday said.

The Death Penalty Information Center said in its annual report that executions decreased 12 percent this year and new death sentences stayed near the lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

From the London Free Press. The death penalty, paradoxically, is far more costly than imprisoning someone for life. The thing is, even societies that accept the death penalty don't feel comfortable if they get it wrong, so if someone's going to be executed they have to make sure they get it wrong as little as possible. And that means a lot of appeals, making sure that the accused has proper legal representation right up to the point when the last appeal is exhausted. Indeed, in some US states a person who is sentenced to death gets an automatic appeal whether they want it or not. Needless to say, that gets expensive.

What's striking, though, is that the US is one of the few modern democracies that has stubbornly clung to the practice of capital punishment. It's almost a fine old tradition there, and they don't give up their traditions easily. So for them to loosen their hold on it now is a sign that they're really broke.

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