The death penalty costs millions, but is only successful in a handful of cases. After hundreds of years of application and thousands of executions, why can't we get it right? Perhaps because the death penalty can never work as intended?
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Studies have consistently shown that seeking and imposing a death sentence is 2-5 times greater than the cost of a life sentence without parole. The irony is that even with the greater cost, the the capital litigation system is severely underfunded. For example, of the approximately 660 death row inmates in the California system, over 200 have no legal representation during their appeals. This condition is repeated around the country. Such circumstances undermine the ideal laid out by the U.S Supreme Court in Powell v. Alabama and Gideon v. Wainwright.
When the failure rate of death sentencing is figured in, the financial costs truly escalate. It has been estimated the 60-80% of capital convictions and/or sentences are overturned. What other public policy has such a failure rate and is allowed to survive?
The current capital case expenditures could be redirected toward more effective, proven crime control polices and toward helping victims' families in their recovery if this policy were abolished. New Jersey and the other states without the death penalty will enjoy considerable cost savings as a result of their responsible decision making.