Kansas is considering moving its execution chamber from Lansing to El Dorado.
The state has not executed anyone since the 1960s, but the death penalty was reinstated in 1994 and a future execution remains at least theoretically possible.
Currently, Kansas would conduct any executions by lethal injection at Lansing Correctional Facility. The state Department of Corrections is pushing to rebuild the prison, prompting talk that the agency may move its execution site.
“We have not decided that. There is a group that would maybe like to look at doing that at El Dorado where death row is, but that has not been finalized,” Mike Gaito, KDOC director of capital improvements, told lawmakers on Thursday.
Some 10 men in Kansas have death sentences against them, but their cases remain in the appeals process.
The current lethal injection site at Lansing will be affected if the state chooses to rebuild a portion of the prison. That’s led to fresh discussion about the viability of the death penalty in Kansas, where individuals have been sentenced to death but the penalty has not been carried out in decades.
“Not only does it cost us half a million dollars anyway just to have the death penalty on the books – this would add an additional cost in having to build a new chamber,” said Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.
Lawmakers have come close to advancing a death penalty repeal before. A 2010 repeal bill failed in a 20-20 Senate vote.
A 2003 study by state auditors found that cases where the death penalty was sought and imposed could cost about 70 percent more than cases where the death penalty wasn’t pursued. The estimated median cost of a death penalty case was $1.2 million compared to $740,000 for a non-death penalty case.
“It’s something that we should think about if we’re talking numbers and how much it costs to run government. That’s another area that we could address,” said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.
On Thursday, Gaito also revealed that KDOC is in negotiations with two companies to rebuild Lansing: CoreCivic and GEO Group.
Both are private prison companies, though KDOC has emphasized that the rebuilt facility would be state-operated. Previously, the agency had declined to reveal the names of the bidders, though the Kansas Department of Administration had released the names of companies that had expressed interest.
A third company that had been named earlier, Lansing Correctional Partners, is not a bidder. Little was known about the organization.