Sunday, December 5, 2010

Arizona's Two Death Penalties

Thomas Riggins

First, I am not picking on Arizona, just using it as one example; it is standing in for any state that uses similar methods to try and balance its budget. Arizona currently has 126 felons on its death row awaiting execution. The national average cost for each prisoner from sentencing to execution is $2 million-- about 10 times the cost for life imprisonment.

But the 126 people on death row are not the only people the state of Arizona has sentenced to death. Arizona has cut its medicaid budget due to the on going collapse of the world capitalist system. To reduce its budget deficit low income people in Arizona will no longer receive organ transplants that had been paid for by the state.

The New York Times (12-3-10) refers to this as "Death by budget cut." The deaths of poor people due to the cut in medicaid is every bit as premeditated as those of prisoners given lethal injections by the state. The NYT reports that Francisco Felix, 32, will not get the liver transplant that would have saved his life. He is in the process of dying. The cost of the transplant was $200,000. It was his turn on the list but he was refused after the state ended this part of medicaid for the poor. If the governor commuted just one of the 126 people condemned to death he could have sentenced Francisco Felix to Life with his family and had $1,600,000 left over to save 9 more people as well; that what's left after the cost of transplant plus the $200,000 that the prisoner's life sentence will cost the state.

There are many other cases like that of Francisco Felix. These new rules took effect in October and no one has died yet. But the poor sick and needy are sitting on their own death row just as real as the 126 people legally under the sentence of death. They two have been legally given a death sentence. Sentenced to death not for murder but for being poor. A capital offense in Arizona.

If Arizona really wanted to save money the state would commute all 126 death sentences to life imprisonment. With the savings they could help save the lives of all their sick and poor citizens and residents who are in need of life saving medical procedures such as organ transplants. It is the only thing a civilized state can do.

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