SPECIAL REPORT: WASTE WATCH: The Cost of Capital Punishment
Updated: Tuesday, February 4 2014, 10:56 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Those who oppose capital punishment and those who support it don't usually agree on much but both sides say the real waste in regard to capital punishment in Tennessee stems from the lengthy appeals process that keeps inmates on death row for decades.
Tennessee's Department of Correction estimates it spends almost $64.72 to house and feed one inmate for one day. The cost is for a death row inmate is $103.74 per day, almost $2.9 Million annually to house 76 death row inmates.
Many of them stay on death row for decades.
"Since 1960 we've executed six people,” said Stacy Rector, of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. “If you described any other government program that is that ineffective and that costly to taxpayers, I think people would be asking a lot of questions."
The department of correction declined Fox 17’s request for an interview but a spokesperson says that extra $39 per day pays for heightened security.
Rector says the additional expense in housing a death row inmate is only the tip of the wasteful spending iceberg.
"It’s actually the capital trial that's most expensive part of the process,” Rector said.
Capital trials cost 48 percent more than trials where prosecutors seek life without parole, according to a 2004 state comptroller of the treasury study.
Rep. Barrett Rich, (R) Somerville is a strong supporter of capital punishment, but he does agree with Rector's group on one thing.
"I think in some ways they're right,” Rich said. “What we need to do is speed up the process, allow them to make their appeals, expedite it, put time limits on the books and get it done."
Rector says the best solution is to get rid of the death penalty altogether.
"Wouldn’t our money be better spent being to support murder victims family members in the wake of homicide, or to give more resources to our law enforcement community,” Rector said.
Tennessee planned to execute Billy Irick in January but postponed the date until October.
Irick has been on death row since 1986, when he was convicted of raping and killing a 7-year-old girl.
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