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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: May 9, 2017 03:33 PM
From: Representative Christopher M. Rabb
To: All House members
Subject: Death Penalty Repeal
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to repeal the death penalty in Pennsylvania. The death penalty is not only an ineffective deterrent, it is an incredibly costly and flawed system of punishment.

Although Pennsylvania has the country’s fifth highest death row population, currently at 171 inmates, only three executions have occurred in recent decades, and the state has not executed anyone who did not voluntarily give up their appeals in more than 50 years. According to a Reading Eagle analysis, those three executions have cost taxpayers $816 million. Additionally, the Urban Institute’s study on the cost of the death penalty in Maryland estimates a death penalty case costs $2 million more than a non-death penalty case. I believe this to be an irresponsible use of our state’s limited resources.

Additionally, since 2010, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 18% or higher than in states without it. Therefore, it is clearly not an effective deterrent to criminals. Furthermore, we know that when a person is sentenced to death, the appeals process will last decades, making it more likely that they die of old age rather than lethal injection.

There are also incredible risks and irreparable injustices of having the death penalty. Of the 408 Pennsylvania prisoners sentenced to death since 1978, 169 were re-sentenced to life, 16 were re-sentenced to a term of years, and 6 were exonerated. Therefore, the state has not only freed twice the number of people it has executed in recent decades, there is a risk of executing an innocent person every time we have an execution as long as the death penalty remains on the books. Taking one innocent life at the hands of the state is too many. Moreover, according to a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences, at least 4.1% of all defendants sentenced to death in the United States in the modern era are innocent. For this reason, the risks of continuing the death penalty far outweigh any possible benefits.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation to eliminate the risk of executing an innocent person and put an end to this expensive and ineffective system.

Introduced as HB1466