Illinois House Votes to End Death Penalty: Should States Abolish Capital Punishment to Cut Costs?

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Jan. 7, 2011— -- Eleven years after Illinois declared a moratorium on capital punishment, the Illinois House of Representatives has voted to make the ban permanent.

In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan declared the initial moratorium on capital punishment, citing a string of wrongful convictions. But 11 years later, Illinois and other states have been reconsidering the death penalty for an entirely different reason -- tight budgets.

"Illinois has spent over $100 million in 10 years and hasn't put anyone to death," said a sponsor of the Illinois bill, State Rep. Karen Yarbrough, a Democrat. "It's time to put this barbaric practice to rest."

As states struggle to cope with major budget shortfalls and even the prospect of bankruptcy, they're confronting the fact that sentencing someone to death is extremely expensive.

In California, for example, a 2008 report showed that the $137 million annual cost of maintaining the criminal justice system would drop to just $11.5 million annually if the death sentence were abolished.

New Hampshire has also wrangled with the issue, with a commission report suggesting that the state not expand the death penalty, partly out of cost considerations.

Our question to you today: Should states consider abolishing the death penalty to cut costs?

ABC's Maya Srikrishnan contributed to this report.

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