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Legally Killing People Has Gotten A Lot More Expensive

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 03/30/2012 6:17 pm Updated: 03/30/2012 8:14 pm

Death Penalty Chamber

Legally killing people has gotten more expensive.

The price of execution drugs is now 15 times higher than it was a year ago, according to The Austin American-Statesman. This is most significant for Texas, a state that continues to carry out the largest number of executions while struggling with a $4.1 billion budget gap.

A year ago, it cost the Texas Department of Criminal Justice approximately $83 to execute an inmate by lethal injection, the American-Statesman reported last month. That price has risen to nearly $1,300.

Although the cost for all three of the drugs that comprise each lethal injection have increased, the total price jump is mostly due to the replacement of sodium thiopental with a more expensive substitute called pentobarbital, the Los Angeles Times reports. Hospira, the Italian supplier of the sodium thiopental, discontinued production because the Italian government wanted proof that the drug wasn't used for executions, the Associated Press reported last year.

While death penalty abolitionists are pointing to rising prices as yet another reason to end the practice, the constraint on the drug supply is only increasing. Lundbeck, the Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital, has already tightened its supply amid death penalty opposition from overseas, the Financial Times reported last year.

There is some of that same pressure at home, where more states are closer to a ban on capital punishment. Californians, for example, have made moves to put it on the state ballot, while Maryland and Connecticut are about to abolish the practice, the AP reports.

The United States was the only Western democracy to use the death penalty last year, Amnesty International announced Monday according to the Associated Press. In all, 34 states continue to allow capital punishment, with America executing the fifth highest number of prisoners in the world -- 13 out of last year's 43 executions took place in Texas.

Many U.S. states with inmates on death row have been facing budget woes because of the down economy. With $6 billion of its $87 billion revenue spent on prisons, Texas has been undertaking cost-cutting measures, according to American-Statesman. Last year, the state halted the long-time tradition of giving last meals to prisoners before execution and reduced weekend meals for more than 20,000 inmates.

Nevertheless, Texas appears to have stocked up on about $50,000 worth of execution drugs, enough to stay on schedule for this year, the American-Statesman reported on Thursday.

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