Over the weekend I was preparing for a presentation I’m giving next week on the cost of the death penalty. The lengthy post-trial proceedings that follow nearly every death sentence likely make the death penalty more costly than a life sentence without parole. I say likely because Ohio has yet to study the cost of the death penalty, but other states have, and those studies conclude that the death penalty costs more.
As I was trying to determine the average length of time that 140 men and one woman have been on Ohio’s Death Row, my wife pointed out that, by default, our death penalty system has turned into a series of life sentences without the possibility of parole. Let’s look at the numbers to understand what she means.
Of the 141 offenders on Death Row, 28 have been there for at least 15 years. Twenty-four have been on Death Row for at least 20 years, and 22 have been on Death Row for at least 25 years. There is no duplication in these numbers.
The average age at death for an offender serving a life sentence is 59 years. The average age of the 22 offenders who have been on Death Row for at least 25 years is 55, and the state has put a moratorium on executions until 2016. Some of these offenders might die of natural death before the state can execute them, which prompted former Speaker House Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina to say, when discussing a shortage of the drugs used in executions, “This is something that we cannot leave in abeyance, otherwise we’re going to have people who pass away prior to execution.”
While many Death Row inmates might be spending almost as much time on Death Row as the offenders, sentenced to life without parole, are serving, the big difference is the enormous difference in expense. Millions of dollars are consumed in 15 to 25 years of post-trial proceedings. We keep repeating the process for each Death Row inmate. To what end?
In the business world, a corporate executive might ask, what’s our return on investment? What’s the comparable question for the time and money we spend trying to execute offenders? Why aren’t our legislators asking this question?
Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com
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