Today's Austin American-Statesman carries the editorial, "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.
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.
"Death penalty: Cost of execution drugs -- and executions -- rises," is the title of Molly Hennessy-Fiske's Los Angeles Times report. It's also available via the Chicago Tribune.
Texas prison officials say they have enough of the drug to carry out the five executions scheduled this year, but they declined to comment about how much of the drug they have or what they plan to do if supplies run low.
Prison officials are seeking a ruling from Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott before releasing execution drug records, Clark said.
“We're not releasing information on our supplier, the amount we paid for specific drugs and the amount of drugs on hand,” Clark said. “The agency is seeking an AG's opinion to keep the information confidential.”
The price increase in execution drugs is also being felt in Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio, Mississippi and South Carolina.
Oregon purchased $18,000 worth of the drugs last year, but the execution for which they were planned was ultimately called off by the governor -- who said he would approve no others. Corrections officials in other states had hoped they might be able to buy some of the leftover pentobarbital, but Oregon officials said last month that they had returned the drug to a wholesaler.
The execution drug shortage was highlighted earlier this month in a report in the Guardian about an investigation by the London-based human rights group Reprieve. Maya Foa, with the group’s Stop Lethal Injection Project, estimated the remaining stocks of pentobarbital in Georgia and Texas based on public records.
Foa calculated that Texas had 27 vials of pentobarbital left. The state needs four vials per execution -- two to inject the prisoner, two as backup -- meaning the state has enough for at least six executions, she estimated.
She estimated that Georgia had 17 vials of pentobarbital, enough for four executions.
The AP report, "New drug sparks sharp increase in execution costs," by Michael Graczyk is via Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
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 one of the three used in the lethal injection process.
With sodium thiopental, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said the cost of the 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.
A dozen executions have been conducted with the new lethal cocktail in Texas and at least five are scheduled in the coming months.
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.