Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Should Justice Be Rationed?

In an editorial regarding the prospects of abolishing the death penalty, I ran across this comment:

“Justice is not a cost-benefit analysis. Justice is doing the right thing, no matter how much it costs,” Joseph Cassilly, a state’s attorney in Harford County, Md., testified at a public hearing of the Maryland study commission in August.


I am struck by the contrast in willingness to spend limitless sums of money on "justice" and the reality of how funds are actually distributed. Is Mr. Cassilly willing to expend limitless funds for indigent defendants? Can they at least have the same budget as the State in order to hire mitigation specialists, forensic experts, investigators, social scientists, and competent legal representation?

This comment from a prosecutor also raises an interesting question regarding "doing the right thing, no matter how much it costs." Don't we ration housing, food , medical care, education, and other necessities in our society? Isn't making sure that children don't go to bed hungry or that people don't die because they can't afford medical treatment "doing the right thing?" But we limit spending on these and other items, so how can we justify unlimited spending on capital punishment while limiting spending on life's necessities?

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