One state looks to cut the death penalty, put money elsewhere - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

One state looks to cut the death penalty, put money elsewhere

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa(KTIV) - The State Legislature in Colorado is looking into the possibility of getting rid of the death penalty, not because of moral issues, but on a budgetary issue.

But would lawmakers in South Dakota consider a similar measure in the face of budget issues.

Right now the state of South Dakota has three inmates on death row.

The cost nationwide runs from $90 thousand in California to $2 million in Colorado.

The national average cost for incarceration of a traditional inmate, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, is $25 thousand a year.

They say that cost goes up the day it becomes a capital case.

"The day that the case is announced as potential capital case means that two lawyers will be assigned to defend the inmate, probably two prosecutors to prosecute, they will then bring in expert," said Richard Dieter, Executive Director at the Death Penalty Information Center

Experts on DNA, mental heath and mitigation all add to the cost, but it doesn't stop when the trial is over.

"You have typically single cell as opposed to multiple people in a cell because it's death row, people have to be watched more closely," said Dieter.

Death row inmates require individual recreation time and meal times in addition to having their own cell.

While cost is an issue in all states, State Senators from South Dakota say they aren't sure if they'll make any changes this year.

"It is perhaps something that states should look at, I don't think our state will be willing to look at that, I don't think that that argument is going to sway the folks that still want the death penalty in our state," said Sandy Jerstad, South Dakota State Senator from District 12.

"During my time in the legislature that proposal has come up at least twice, and I'm totally opposed to repealing the death penalty," said Gene Abdallah, South Dakota State Senator from Sioux Falls representing District 10.

The Death Penalty Information Center estimates that an inmate serving a life sentence costs the state about a million dollars if they spend an average 40 years in jail. For a criminal on death row, the cost jumps to $2 to $3 million even though they spend on average 12.7 years incarcerated.

But some lawmakers think the budget issue is just a ploy to get rid of capital punishment

"They give that it's not a moral issue but a cost issue, I'm not buying it," said Abdallah.

They concede that budget issues are only one factor playing into state's decisions.

"Costs has a new significance, a new urgency about it this year, than it had in other years," said Dieter.

In all there are 4 states that are considering getting rid of the Death Penalty within the next few months because of budget issues, they are: Maryland, Montana, New Mexico and Colorado.

New Jersey already banned the Death Penalty in 2007, to help with their budget.

Online Reporter: Rebecca Sunshine rsunshine@ktiv.com

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