While we wait for House State Affairs to pick a day to hear House Bill 1183, Rep. Steve Hickey's effort to end South Dakota's use of the death penalty, the Legislative Research Council has weighed in with its analysis of the fiscal impact on South Dakota's prisons. According to the LRC, ending the death penalty would have no impact on incarceration costs.
The LRC finds that the seven men South Dakota has sentenced to death since 1979 have spent an average of 9.8 years on death row. The LRC notes that two of those cases skew this very small sample: Eric Robert gave up his appeals and goaded us into killing him within a year of his sentencing, while Robert Leroy Anderson denied us the satisfaction of killing him by committing suicide just four years after his death sentence. Removing those outliers leaves us with an average South Dakota death row stay of 12.8 years, still two years shorter than the national average.
The LRC notes that in complying with state law, their fiscal impact statement considers only the fiscal impact in the corrections system and "does not validate, or calculate any potential costs or savings associated with the judicial or appeals process." Ending the death penalty won't make us spend more on prisons; include cost savings from a shorter sentencing and appeals process, and fiscal conservatives in Pierre may find themselves compelled to vote for HB 1183.