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
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
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
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)