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Drug drives up cost of executions.
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Joined: 15 Nov 2007
Posts: 3103
Location: Chichester

Post Drug drives up cost of executions. Reply with quote
Drug drives up cost of executions--Price tag went from $83 to almost $1,300; previous substance no longer made

As Texasprison officials face the likelihood that 1 of the 3 drugs used int he nation's busiest execution chamber may no longer be available, they are facing another reality: The cost of executions is skyrocketing as well.

A year ago, it cost the Texas Department of Criminal Justice $83.35 to carry our an execution.

But since the state was forced to switch from one powerful sedative to another, the cost in now $1,286.99.

That means that the 12 executions so far with the new drug have cost taxpayers about $15,400, instead of $1,000.

"The cost of all 3 drugs has gone up, but the overall increase is because of pentobarbital," Jason Clark, a spokesman for the corrections agency, said Thursday.

Nearly a year ago, in March 2011, the state replaced sodium thiopental with pentobarbital in its 3-drug execution cocktail after the maker of sodium thiopental stopped producing it amid international protests over its use in executions in the United States.

Now, the manufacturer of pentobarbital says it will seek to block its use for executions.

And while Texas prison officials say they have enough of the drug to carry out the 5 executions scheduled so far this year, they are not discussing any details concerning their suppliers or exactly how much of the drug they have on hand -- or what they plan to do next.

Other states are grappling with the same issues.

Officials in Oklahoma, Ohio, Mississippi adn South Carolina have confimed they are paying higher prices for execution drugs, just like Texas.

Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, said that because of the higher-priced pentobarbital, his state's cost for an execution has risen from $200 to about $1,800.

"We have enough for 4 executions," with 2 currently scheduled, Massie said.

In several states, the switch from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital triggered litigation and lengthy regulatory hearings.

In Texas, the change was made with relative ease after lawsuits challenging its use were turned aside by courts.

But officials agree that changing to a new drug would probably spark the same opposition from condemned convicts and their attorneys and could possibly delay executions.

Corrections officials in Texas and other states are saying little about what drug they might switch to if the supply of pentobarbital dries up.

But propopfol is frequently mentioned in private conversatinos.

That is the power sedative that was blamed in the death of entertainer Michael Jackson in June 2009.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:56 pm View user's profile Send private message
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Joined: 15 Nov 2007
Posts: 3103
Location: Chichester

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Lethal injection costs increasing

The switch to a substitute drug for executions has driven up the cost of capital punishment in Texas.

A year ago, the European supplier of sodium thiopental, bowing to pressure from death penalty opponents, stopped making it.

When no other vendor could be found, the drug was replaced by pentobarbital as 1 of the 3 used in the lethal injection process.

With sodium thiopental, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said the cost of lethal injection cocktail was $83.35.

It is now $1286.86, with the higher cost primarily due to pentobarbital, officials said. The other drugs are pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

"Our responsibility is to carry out carry out the executions and when sodium thiopental was no longer available, we had to find another drug with similar properties and this is it," agency spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Friday. "And it's more expensive."

The increase in drug cost first was reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

"In the grand scheme of things, it's a very small amount when compared with our entire budget," Lyons said. The department's budget for 2012 is just over $3 billion.

A dozen executions have been conducted with the new lethal cocktail in Texas and at least 5 are scheduled in the coming months, including 1 next week.

According to the new numbers, Texas has spent more than $15,400 -- versus $1,000 -- to carry out those 12 executions.

Prison officials have declined to identify the state's drug supplier and the specific amount for each drug and are awaiting an opinion from the Texas attorney general on whether they can keep that information confidential.

(source: Associated Press)

Sun Feb 26, 2012 3:19 pm View user's profile Send private message
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Joined: 15 Nov 2007
Posts: 3103
Location: Chichester

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Add cost of drugs to death penalty debate

Add to the list of topics for public discussion the high cost of dying.

The American-Statesman's Mike Ward reported last week that the cost of chemicals used to execute condemned inmates has jumped from $83.35 to $1,286.86 each.

The high cost of the drugs used to make the lethal injection is one concern Texas prison officials face. A related one is the shrinking availability of pentobarbital. That chemical, combined with pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, is an ingredient in the fatal cocktail used in executions in Texas and other states.

The manufacturer of pentobarbital announced that it will try to block the use of drugs in executions. The maker of thiopental — which had been one of the 3 ingredients used in making the lethal cocktail — stopped producing it in the aftermath of international protests over its use in U.S. executions.

While capital punishment might be unpopular elsewhere, Texans strongly support it. A recent poll conducted by the University of Texas and The Texas Tribune showed a solid 77 percent support for the death penalty in Texas. That number, combined with the rising cost and availability of the chemicals used in executions, poses a dilemma for cost-conscious lawmakers.

Prison officials are using those developments to try to keep information about the availability and drugs under wraps — a move that can't be adequately justified. Withholding information impedes a fully informed discussion on this topic.

Though the cost of the drugs is steep on a percentage basis, the overall impact on the state budget is minimal. Nonetheless, the shrinking availability of pentobarbital will steer a discussion about alternatives that are cheaper or in greater supply or both.

While public support for the death penalty is strong, Texans are also demanding less government spending. Death penalty opponents have always had a tough way to go in Texas and while the rising cost of executing inmates may give them another argument, the poll numbers show they still have a steep hill to climb.

Mitigating the rising cost is the fact that more Texas jurors are opting for life-without-parole sentences as an alternative to the death penalty. Since the law was passed — over the strenuous objections of state prosecutors — Texas executions have been steadily decreasing. A prison system report issued in December showed that 13 Texas inmates were executed in 2011; 17 were executed in 2010. In 2000, 40 Texas inmates were executed.

The decrease is attributed to a variety of reasons, including the overall cost of prosecuting capital punishment cases.

No one should expect that the cost of the drugs alone will motivate Texas legislators to even consider making the death penalty of thing of the past. William "Rusty" Hubbarth, vice president of Justice for All, a staunch pro death penalty group told Ward: "There are ongoing attacks to try to frustrate the process, and since opponents could not overturn the death penalty in court, they are bringing pressure on the drug manufacturers — and this pressure goes beyond America. As for the rising cost, what price would you put on justice?"

The tone and tenor of Hubbarth's reply confirms that this ongoing discussion is going to be as robust as ever and that's as it should be. An informed discussion, however, demands that relevant information about the cost of drugs and the supply be public.

Prison officials are avoiding questions about most aspects carrying out executions, citing the fear of driving up costs and impeding their drug supply.

Prison authorities want Attorney General Greg Abbott to allow them to keep most information about the execution drugs — where they come from and how much they cost — secret.

An informed discussion is vital and not knowing about the drugs and their costs works against that. Texans have a right to know how their money is being spent.

Abbott should open up those books, not close them.

(source: Editorial, Austin American-Statesman)

Mon Feb 27, 2012 7:06 pm View user's profile Send private message
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