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LRC: Repealing Death Penalty Won’t Increase Prison Costs

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.


  1. Steve Hickey 2014.02.19

    Bill will be heard this Friday at 7:45 AM in House State Affairs.

  2. interested party 2014.02.19

    Has it been determined that the last lethal injection administered in southern Dakota was paid for in cash at The Apothecary Shop in Oklahoma?

  3. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.02.19

    With any luck, one of the most outspoken advocates of the death penalty, based on his own beliefs and the opinions of his own pastor, but ignoring some of the advice of others in his own synod, Stace Nelson will change his mind and speak out in favor of the repeal. This would help his electability in the general election in showing that he is not intransigent.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2014.02.19

    A discussion on the judicial and appellate costs of the death penalty has to be a part of the hearings.

    The costs to fight death penalty appeals in financially strapped counties is tremendous and the state ends up picking up the tab.

    I'm curious how much it has cost Pennington County and the State of South Dakota in Rhines case?

  5. barry freed 2014.02.20

    Everyone has been told: "You look just like someone I know".
    Thus, people are wrongly convicted and killed.
    A life mistakenly taken, can never be given back.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2014.02.20


    It is not just an identity problem that is a problem with death penalty cases, it is more often a case of homicide detectives and prosecutors that operate with tunnel vision and perverted forensics or no evidence what so ever. Death penalty cases should never be built on circumstantial evidence alone.

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