Why Is Maryland’s Death Penalty Debate All About Cost?

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Martin O'Malley, Michael Busch

I could be wrong, but I bet that for the majority of people, the decision of whether to support capital punishment is based mostly on a personal sense of justice and morality. I bet the economics of the practice figures little or not at all.

Which is why I find it interesting that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s central argument for repealing the death penalty in Maryland is an economic one. In her article for Maryland Reporter, Ilana Kowarski lays out O’Malley’s commission’s astounding claim that the state spends three times as much to convict and sentence a Death Row inmate as it does to convict and sentence a murderer to life imprisonment, as well as death penalty advocates’ challenge of those numbers.

But there’s no way this comes down to dollars and cents for anyone on either side of this issue — is there? I mean, whatever you believe about the death penalty, it strikes me as pretty tacky to use a simple cost-benefit analysis to determine whether you should kill someone. Isn’t this inherently a moral issue?

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