Legislators in an August 13, 2020 virtual forum on capital punishment say that the economic impact of the coronavirus on state budgets adds to their concerns about the viability and desirability of the death penalty as a social policy.

In an internet news conference sponsored by Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, three Republican state representatives who have sponsored bills to abolish their states’ death penalty laws characterized the death penalty as a waste of taxpayer money that, with budget shortfalls caused by the economic devastation from the coronavirus pandemic, should be expendable. Georgia State Representative Brett Harrell (pictured), Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani, and Wyoming State Representative Jared Olsen all said that the growing unaffordability of capital punishment was an additional reason the policy was inconsistent with their conservative principles.

Harrell, the chairman of the Georgia House Ways and Means Committee, called the death penalty an “incredibly expensive proposition” that doesn’t work. “Evidence suggests – study after study – that it is not an actual deterrent to crime and we have alternatives, such as life without parole. … As someone who is fiscally conservative and prefers a small government consistent with efficient implementation of government, the death penalty fails on all those measures,” he said.

Antani, who has won the Republican nomination for the Ohio Sixth State Senate District, said the state’s budget currently allocates $3 million per year to capital punishment at a time Ohio faces $300 million in cuts to its education budget caused by pandemic-related revenue shortages. “This is not taxpayer dollars being well-used,” Antani said. “That money could be going to education, to other critical programs and services that would actually save lives.”

Olsen, whose repeal bill passed the state house and a senate committee in the 2019 legislative session, described the death penalty as “insanely costly in the state of Wyoming.” For that same reason, Governor Mark Gordon said last month that he was “very seriously” considering imposing a moratorium on capital punishment in the state. Facing a $1.5 billion budget deficit, Gordon told members of the legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee on July 13, 2020 that a capital case “costs us around a million dollars every time that is brought up. These are just luxuries — luxuries, that we will no longer be able to afford.”

Summarizing the national landscape, CCATDP’s senior national manager, Hannah Cox, said “[m]any state lawmakers are beginning to consider the death penalty as an obvious program to scrap as they struggle to find ways to pay for essential services in their states.” With tax revenues continuing to drop because of the pandemic, “this is an obvious cut,” she said.


Jill Nolan, Georgia GOP law­mak­er makes bud­get argu­ment to abol­ish death penal­ty, Georgia Recorder, August 14, 2020; Elizabeth Crisp, Amid Coronavirus, Some Lawmakers Spot Chance to Abolish Death Penalty, Newsweek, August 14, 2020; News Release, CCATDP Hosts National Press Conference to Address State Budgetary Crises, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, August 142020.

Watch a record­ing of Conservatives Concerned’s August 13, 2020 vir­tu­al press conference