It has been 12 years since Pennsylvania executed a killer, says the Allentown Morning Call. In that time, death row has still cost taxpayers more than $27 million. Every year, the state spends an estimated $10,000 more for each inmate on the nation’s fourth largest death row compared to other prisoners. That’s despite a de facto halt on capital punishment in Pennsylvania. The last person put to death against his will was in 1962, half a century ago. The most recent execution, in 1999, was torture-murderer Gary Heidnik — and only because he waived his appeals.
The $27 million is a small fraction of capital punishment’s cost, given the staggering legal bills also tied to putting someone to death. Other states have reconsidered capital punishment in part over its expense, including New Jersey, New Mexico, and Illinois, which have repealed the death penalty in the past four years. “There’s either going to be a retreat on the death penalty, or an effort to put more of these people to death, depending on the political will,” said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, a backer of capital punishment. “Something’s got to give.” Marc Bookman, a former public defender who runs the nonprofit Atlantic Center for Capital Representation in Philadelphia, dubs Pennsylvania’s death penalty “the biggest waste of money imaginable,” draining away funds that could be better spent on more police officers, improving education, or building playgrounds and keeping libraries open.