Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Cost of Killing in Idaho

BOISE - Thomas Creech sits and waits on Idaho’s death row.

Creech was already serving a life sentence for a double murder in 1981, when he was convicted of bludgeoning a fellow inmate to death using a sock filled with batteries. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in Ada County. But almost three decades later, Creech still doesn't have an execution date.

And your tax money is keeping him alive.

Through a string of appeals over the decades, many of them mandatory in capital cases, Creech waits. And the relatives of his victims wait. And Idaho taxpayers spend.

For that reason alone, Democratic State Senator Elliot Werk of Boise says it's time to toss out the death penalty in Idaho.

"It's just a huge waste of government money and money that could go to other really beneficial uses," says Werk.


The most amazing quote was provided by Senator Darrington (R- Declo). He states "...the death penalty shouldn't come down to dollars and cents, and feels Idaho would be making a big mistake getting rid of it."

“We do not impose criminal sentences, be it prison sentences or the death penalty, with economics in mind," says Darrington.

Now we know why Idaho has gone from 1 out of 128 adults under some type of correctional supervision in 1982 to out of 18 in 2007. Idaho is second in the nation in terms of this rate. We also know that Senator Darrington will never permit any bill to revise the death penalty through his committee, regardless of the cost or efficacy.

Shouldn't the death penalty and prisons be held to the same standard as any other state policy? Some would say we should not put a price on "justice." But don't we ration other items that are necessary for life, such as health care, education, housing, food, clothing, etc? And does the criminal justice system have unlimited dollars to pursue any policy? Is not the essence of good government setting priorities, tying the budget to intended outcomes, and evaluating whether or not policies are working as intended?

I invite Senator Darrington to reevaluate his stance on capital punishment in Idaho. 11 states considered abolition this year; New Mexico succeeded. One execution in 52 years hardly seems fair to the crime victims' family and friends, to offenders who languish for decades waiting for a sentence that will most likely never be carried out, and to the people of Idaho who have to shoulder the burden of this failed policy.

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