Study: Neb. saves millions without death penalty

Posted at 5:41 PM, Aug 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-15 19:39:53-04
A Creighton economy expert says $14.6 million will be saved annually if the death penalty is eliminated from Nebraska.
Death penalty supporters say the study, paid for by a political canvassing group, is inflated.
Dr. Ernie Goss, a fiscally conservative professor at Creighton, studied U.S. Census data on justice expenses by state and found $14.6 million is about half of what other states would save if they eliminated the death penalty. 
Darold Bauer is the campaign manager for Retain a Just Nebraska, the organization that paid for the Creighton study.
He says much of the $14.6 million is saved through litigation that doesn’t have to happen.
“The cost comes from appeals, years and years of court mandated appeals,” Bauer said. “The state has their set of appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court has another set of appeals. A death penalty conviction triggers a years’ long series of appeals.” 
Former Chief Deputy Attorney General Steve Grasz says Goss’s findings are exaggerated.
Eliminating the death penalty wouldn’t save Nebraska tax payers money because inmates file appeals during the length of their prison sentences regardless of whether or not they are on death row, Grasz said.
“Those numbers are not only inflated, they simply don’t make sense,” Grasz said.
Bauer disagrees.
The money saved could be used to help what Bauer said is an understaffed prison system.  
“They’re under paid,” Bauer said. “They’re under staffed. They’re under trained. That would be a good place to start spending this $14.6 million.”
Regardless of money saved, eliminating the death penalty sends a message to killers that they might one day get out, Grasz said.
“It’s a public safety issue and not an economic issue,” Grasz said. “There have been some very horrendous murders right here in Omaha where the killer killed one family member, and once they've done that they're eligible for life in prison.”
Independent studies done in the past find eliminating capital punishment doesn’t save money, Grasz said.
The Creighton study released Monday is compiled from 19 studies in 50 states, Bauer said.