Monday, June 04, 2007


The Money Pit

An article in yesterday's Tennessean entitled "U.S. violent crimes rise for second straight year" (also found in The Washington Post) caught my attention as I was skimming over the headlines. According the the article, the number of violent crimes nationwide rose for the second straight year in 2006. Criminologists and law enforcement theorized various reasons for the rise: an increase in the juvenile population, growing numbers of released inmates, and the rise of serious gang problems in smaller jurisdictions. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Senate crime subcommittee, is quoted as saying, "It's time to get back to crime fighting basics--that means more cops on the streets, equipped with the tools and resources they need to keep our neighborhoods safe." This morning a similar news story ran on a local news station with a focus on cities like Memphis which are struggling with high rates of violent crime and a lack of resources to maintain the number of officers needed to curb the violence.

So, these stories got me to thinking:'s an idea...instead of spending the $2,000,000 plus over and above what it costs to incarcerate someone for life by seeking the death penalty, let's take the money saved by a sentence of life without parole and pay for the additional police officers that our communities need to limit the violence before someone takes a life.'s another idea (I'm on a roll)...let's imagine the money the state of Tennessee, with the 9th largest death row in the country (102 people), could have saved over the last 40 years by not having a death penalty. Now I am the first to admit that math is not my strong suit, but, if you multiply 102 by 2,000,000 plus, I am pretty sure that the product equals a lot of money! With the abolition of the death penalty, Tennessee would see savings in the millions, money which can go to our police, early childhood programs, schools, health care (particularly mental health care), and to help victims of violence truly access the support and resources that they need to begin to heal.

I continue to be amazed at our short sightedness. We execute people. Violent crime rates rise. The state scrambles for enough resources. We pour our money into the black hole of the death penalty. Are we safer?

Comments :
It's actually even more money than that. The 102 do not include those trials where death was sought but not granted by the jury and those cases where the senetnce was overturned and the eventual outcome was less than death. You did get one thing spot on - that's a lot of dinero!
anonymous, it is finally enlightening to notice that agree with TCASK on this. I niver thought it would happen/
If courts would stop making up constitutional rights out of whole cloth, it would cost a lot less. There are more 4 executions schedule in Tennessee this year. That will help things.
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