Death Penalty Question

So regardless of the opinion on the death penalty I keep hearing that having the state (or State) kill someone costs more then keeping them in jail for the remainder of their life.

Does anyone have a cite for this? It is just so hard to believe the prosecution and jail costs for say 50 years would be more then killing a man.

Please lets keep this out of the Pit, I am just trying to find out the fact on this one. :smack:

I think its going to be hard to find a definite answer for this one. Opponents of the death penalty are going factor in costs that the proponents will say shouldn’t be factored in.

Here’s an offical study by the state government of Tennessee which analyzed cases only within that state, and found that death penalty cases were in fact more expensive than life imprisonment. This accords with what’s been found in other states and nationwide. Cases where the death penalty is sought are more complicated, require a lot more legal attention, and last longer. The legal costs for the state reach three to four million per case on average. Imprisonment for one year is usually around $20,000, so even fifty years imprisonment would cost just one million.

Here’s a summary of more studies on the subject.:

Also you cannot ignore the time value of money! $20,000 paid over a 50 year period is a million dollars paid out, but worth only $200,000 today if you use a 10% cost of capital (interest rate on investment). IOW, I could pay $1,000,000 over a 50 year period if I had $200,000 today and could find a reliable investment that returned 10% (half the S&P 500 return over the last fifty years). Those extra legal fees for a death penalty case are paid immediately, whereas a life sentence is an annuity.

I ran across a site that listed US executions. I took a look at the details for the month of September 2003.

Four executions took place a year ago. The time period between the first death sentence was pronounced to execution was 12, 18, 4 and 9 years. The best I could tell from the narratives, the 4 year one the convict was able to stop the appeals and in the 9-year one the convict didn’t even want an appeal at all.

I don’t know if that is typical, but if it is, it might be indicate a very costly legal process.

From a pure incarceration standpoint executions are cheaper.

The actual price of an execution is extremely cheap. I think the drugs cost something like $90. And the costs of personnel and such surrounding the procedure aren’t that high an increase from the day-to-day operations of a prison.

Typically death rows are prisons where each prisoner has his own cell, and is under almost total isolation from other prisoners.

They receive all their meals delivered directly to their cell, and have individual work out areas.

This arrangement means that for the average of 8-12 years (rough average for states that have the death penalty and are truly active in its use) a prisoner is on death row he costs more per year, just in incarceration costs, than a regular prisoner.

Over a life sentence, though, the lifer in prison serving say 30-40 years costs more in pure incarceration costs.

The cost of lawsuits imo isn’t really something we need to factor into the issue. Nor is the price of executions.

If you believe that the government has a right, or that justice requires, a death sentence then the cost shouldn’t really mean anything.

Furthermore if you are against the death penalty for moral reasons trying to base that decision on the cost of the process is fairly shallow in my opinion.