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OGDEN, Utah (AP) — A state lawmaker wants Utah to study the costs of capital punishment and determine whether it’s cheaper to keep an inmate in prison for life.

The proposal came as advocates prepare to make another push next year to eliminate the death penalty in the state.

State Rep. Stephen Handy, a Republican from Layton, plans a bill seeking a detailed price tag on capital punishment.

Handy told the Standard-Examiner that he’s not sure what purpose executions serve, “except for payback or from a vengeance standpoint,” and questions whether they’re worth the money.

Legislative analysts in 2012 estimated that a death sentence and decades of appeals costs $1.6 million more than a lifetime prison sentence, but Handy says that estimate wasn’t thorough enough.

Handy wants to study defense and prosecution costs, including costs to jails, prisons and courts.

An effort to eliminate the death penalty in Utah failed in 2016.

The criminal justice reform group Utah Justice Coalition said it is working to line up lawmakers to sponsor a proposal abolishing the death penalty when lawmakers meet in January.

Handy said a study will help lawmakers make a data-driven decision.

“I look at it also as trying to adhere to mainstream conservatism,” Handy said. “This may not be the best use of hard-earned taxpayer dollars, with the costs of education and social services growing exponentially.”

Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson said he thinks capital punishment is a deterrent and the costs of following through with it don’t matter.

“Nobody says, ‘Gosh, I love the death penalty,'” Thompson said. “But it is important for the most egregious offenses, when lives are taken, changed forever, and people have to live without their loved ones.”

The last death sentence carried out in Utah was in 2010. Nine men are currently on death row.


Information from: Standard-Examiner,