A recent article in the Tennessean makes a good attempt at beginning to address the unknown costs of the death penalty, citing everything from trial costs to housing and healthcare for inmates. The article reveals what opponents of the death penalty have known for quite some time: The state of Tennessee cannot say for certain what the real, comprehensive cost of the death penalty is to taxpayers, nor do they seem to want to.
In a time when Tennessee cannot afford services that it truly needs, such as funding for persons with intellectual disabilities, or that revenue shortfalls might lead to cuts in higher education, the state maintains a bloated and ineffective capital punishment system. What sorts of resources could we offer victims’ families for all that we are spending to pursue death for a handful of offenders? How many unsolved murder cases could finally be closed if law enforcement had more resources?
Efforts to speed up the process present an untenable solution, as Assistant Federal Public Defender Kelley Henry says in the Tennessean article, “If you just give up the appeals and deny counsel, the number of innocent that you put to death will rise.”
As the most recent Pew poll shows, support for the death penalty is shrinking at the same time that Tennessee plans to resume executions. Perhaps unwittingly, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, has offered a helpful solution to the state’s financial woes, when he states, “We’ve had people on death row since 1986, 1982. We really don’t have a death penalty, to be honest.”
Yes, let’s be honest, Lieutenant Governor. Let’s tell the truth about what the death penalty costs tax payers. Let’s imagine how those funds might go to real needs in Tennessee. Let’s tell the truth about the source of our lethal injection drugs.
If we really do not have a functional death penalty, why not repeal the death penalty so we can stop wasting time and money on a system that is failing.
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