The costs of the death penalty have been a burden on various counties in Mississippi for many years. Quitman County was forced to raise taxes for three years and borrowed $150,000 to provide legal counsel to Robert Simon and Anthony Carr, who were sentenced to death for murders committed in 1990. A death-penalty case “is almost like lightning striking,” county administrator Butch Scipper told The Wall Street Journal in 2002. “It is catastrophic to a small rural county.” Simon and Carr remain on the state’s death row.

In 1995, Jasper County spent three times more on one death penalty trial than it did on its public library system. When more money was needed for capital prosecutions, the administration’s solution was to raise property and car taxes in the county. For all of this cost, the state has had ten executions in 30 years, and some in law enforcement believe there would have been better ways of spending taxpayers’ money. Jackson Police Chief Rebecca Coleman said she is “not sure that the average criminal would consider the death penalty before they commit a crime.” Coleman said the death penalty has an adverse economic impact and that funds spent on the death penalty in Mississippi could be better spent elsewhere. “I would look at more proactive means to serve as a deterrent to crime, as opposed to looking at it (reactively)” she said. Coleman would spend the funds in the juvenile justice system, breaking the back of the cradle-to-prison pipeline. “(I would put) programs in place to educate our kids to know the benefits of good behavior as opposed to behavior … that ultimately would have them end up on death row,” she said.

(“The Cost of Executions,” Jackson Free Press, October 28, 2009, citing DPIC’s new report, “Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis.” See also Costs and New Voices.