Read the Executive Summary Here
Read the Full Report Here
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Celeste Fitzgerald November 21, 2005 973-635-6396 or 973-495-5302
NEW REPORT FINDS DEATH PENALTY COST NEW JERSEY TAXPAYERS $250 MILLION SINCE 1982
Resources diverted from law enforcement and other critical services
Trenton: New Jersey’s death penalty cost taxpayers at least $253 million since 1982, or $10.9 million a year, according to a report released today by New Jersey Policy Perspective. The $253 million is a net cost to the state as of today - over and above the costs that would have been incurred had the 1982 statute required life without parole instead of death. The authors called their figures “very conservative.”
Celeste Fitzgerald, Executive Director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives the Death Penalty, which commissioned the report, noted that one year’s cost of the death penalty alone could be used to hire 150 police officers, among other things. “New Jersey taxpayers have shelled out at least $250 million on a death penalty system that is plagued with problems, that Courts have invalidated, that risks executing innocent people, and that has never even been used,” said Fitzgerald. “That’s more than $10 million every year we’re not investing to hire police officers, help families, help victims, or anything else.”
The study examined costs of death penalty cases to prosecutor’s offices, public defender offices, courts, and correctional facilities and noted that there are other significant costs uniquely associated with the death penalty that are not accounted for because the data was unavailable. The report takes no position on capital punishment itself, but the authors write, “From a strictly financial perspective, it is hard to reach a conclusion other than this: New Jersey taxpayers over the last 23 years have paid more than a quarter billion dollars on a capital punishment system that has executed no one.”
The cost study was released as the New Jersey Legislature is considering A-3569/S-1212, bipartisan legislation that would replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. “If there is a way to keep our communities safe that provides finality for families, that doesn’t risk executing innocent people, and that frees up money to be used helping victims’ and their families, we should do that,” said NJADP member Eddie Hicks, whose daughter Jamila was murdered. “Life without parole punishes and protects, and doesn’t have the risks or costs of capital punishment. Passing this bill is the right thing to do.”
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“If you were to ask me how $11 million a year could best protect the people of New Jersey, I would tell you by giving the law enforcement community more resources,” said Michael Murphy, former Morris County prosecutor. “I’m not interested in hypotheticals or abstractions, I want the tools for law enforcement to do their job, and $11 million can buy a lot of tools.”
“All of us who live and pay taxes in New Jersey have to ask if our money is better spent on a badly broken system that has yet to even be used or on keeping our communities and children safe,” said Fitzgerald. “I think the answer is pretty obvious.”
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, studies in a number of states including Tennessee, Kansas, and elsewhere find the costs of capital cases far exceeds other trials. Officials in New York estimate they have spent more than $200 million on the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1995. Like New Jersey, New York’s system was recently ruled invalid and neither state has executed anyone in several decades.
As the result of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, death penalty trials are actually two trials, one to determine guilt or innocence and the other to determine the sentence. Since 1982, in New Jersey, there have been 197 capital trials and 60 death penalty convictions of which 50 were reversed. There have been no executions, and currently 10 men are housed on New Jersey’s death row.
The report was commissioned by NJADP, a statewide grassroots organization with over 10,000 members that since 1999 has campaigned for an end to the death penalty in New Jersey. It is the core group of more than 200 New Jersey organizations, representing interests such as labor, justice, education, business, human rights, and virtually every religious denomination in the state.
Copies of the new report are available at www.njadp.org
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