In a short debate this week the Senate considered SB 61, a bill that would require the State Auditor to examine the cost of the death penalty compared to alternative sentences.
Sponsored by Senator Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis), the original bill would have required that the state pay the costs of the financial review; however, in Senate committee, the language was changed so that the cost (about $150,000) would need to come from private sources. In floor debate, Senator Keaveny offered the original language as a floor substitute.
Several senators spoke in support of the private funding, noting that private groups were the only ones concerned about cost. Some acknowledged that the death penalty likely costs more, but that the cost doesn’t matter. The debate was eventually ended without a vote on the substitute language.
The MCC is disappointed that Missouri lawmakers do not recognize their fiscal responsibility when it comes to the death penalty. Capital punishment has been law in Missouri since 1977, but no study of its cost has ever been done. The State of Missouri has paid for fiscal reviews of other state programs, it should be no different when it comes to the public policy of the death penalty.
At this time it is unclear if the bill will be brought up again for debate.