The Conservative Case Against the Death Penalty

Why conservatives should oppose capital punishment.


As I said, it's hard to turn your back on innocent people whose lives have been destroyed.

It's becoming harder to justify the death penalty in the face of evidence that our system is flawed. It's also becoming difficult to defend financially. According to various published studies, California's death penalty system costs taxpayers anywhere from $63 to $114 million a year more than the costs of locking up prisoners for life. The cost to California taxpayers per execution: $250 million. In Florida, it's $24 million per execution. In Texas, it's only $2.3 million per execution, but that's about three times the cost of solitary confinement in maximum security for 40 years. Given the millions spent each year on litigation, appeals, and extra security for death penalty cases, it's far cheaper to lock the guilty up for life without parole. Think of the better ways we could use that money, including helping the victims and using DNA to find the criminals who remain at large when the wrong guy is convicted.

For years, people like me thought that being tough on crime meant supporting the death penalty. Times have changed, and it's time for conservatives to get on the right side of the death penalty argument. One can oppose the death penalty and still be in favor of a tough, affordable, accurate, and fair criminal justice system. Knowing what we know now, it just feels like the right thing to do.

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