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Editorial: Ridding state of death penalty would spare lives and money

Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

It seems as though Connecticut will become the 17th state in the country to abolish the death penalty. Early yesterday, the state senate voted 20-16 to get rid of the practice of executing criminals of heinous crimes via lethal injection. Gov. Dannel Malloy has said that when the bill comes across his desk, he plans on passing it. What remains to be seen is the fate of the 11 inmates who are currently on death row in the state of Connecticut. The bill does not ask for them to be pardoned but many opponents to the bill are opposed for that exact reason.

This decision comes after a prolonged debate about the use of the death penalty in Connecticut. The debate over this topic between Democrats and Republicans has, for the most part, been a moral discussion. However, a note attached to this year’s bill included a more fiscal voice to the debate.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis attempted to calculate the relative cost of capital punishment versus a system unencumbered by it. Shockingly, they discovered that after factoring in the cost of incarceration, the appeals process and the use of expert witnesses, it was estimated that the state stands to save $455,000 by issuing a sentence of life without parole rather than execution.

While it may seem crass to turn such a tense moral debate into a discussion of nickels and dimes, it is important when dealing with such a complicated issue. Too often in policy-making, people allow themselves to label an issue and not breach all angles that may prove to be a deciding factor. If the capital punishment debate was allowed to remain just a moral issue, it’s not clear where the state would be on this vote. That isn’t to say that the fiscal argument was the deciding factor for senate members who changed their mind on the subject, but the fact that it was there to be considered is important. Any time that policy is not typecast as one type of issue (moral, fiscal, religious, justice, etc.) the doors are open for a true discourse as to which the best possible option can be determined based on multiple facets of the topic that have been researched and considered. Those in government owe it to the voters to consider everything that an issue brings to the table and Connecticut has done that with the debate over capital punishment.  

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