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News Opinion Readers Respond

Where are savings in death penalty repeal?

I read Gerald Stansbury's postulation ("Unrepresentative committee blocks Md. death penalty repeal vote," Jan. 2) that the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee doesn't include enough "people of color," by which he means African-Americans. Can't take issue with that. He may be right, and it certainly isn't the first time that something failed to be representative — take, for instance the recent gerrymandering of the Western Maryland congressional district.

But what I do question is his math. He further postulates that repeal of this long-standing deterrent would "save Maryland millions of dollars and prevent future murders." How does that work? As far as I have been able to determine, it costs many thousands of dollars annually (more than many family household budgets) to house and feed prison inmates, particularly since prisons have to comply with progressive interpretations of "cruel and unusual punishment" to mean that we must give them access to the outside world (telephone, television, publications, Internet), physical conditioning (exercise equipment), free access to the latest medical care and to legal representation. All things that many of us in the outside world simply cannot afford. If we have more inmates, we have to have more and larger prisons with a commensurate increase in staff.

So ignoring for a moment the philosophical argument about "an eye for an eye," how do you save money by maintaining death row inmates for many years instead of eliminating them from the prison budget? And exactly what resources do you free up to prevent further murders? The writer's argument might be more palatable if he could clear this up.

Kenneth Kent, Cambridge

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