Death Penalty Is More Expensive Than Life In Prison

When people argue for the death penalty, they often say that the death penalty saves money. In a struggling economy where every social service is competing for limited funds, death penalty supporters would rather see some money devoted to rehabilitating young offenders, instead of paying for a lifetime of jail for people who won’t ever make parole.

However, that argument doesn’t have the research to back it up. Studies and evidence show that the death penalty is more expensive than life in prison.

Could that be? Could it actually be less expensive to jail someone indefinitely than to put them to death? This is thanks to appeals that can drag on for years and expensive red tape that is supposed to ensure that an innocent person is never executed.

As a country, we must take care to see that justice is done, but that often means the pre-execution process can go for twenty years. This results in millions of dollars in legal fees.

Taxpayers pay either way.

Many state budgets are in crisis mode and many states are exploring the idea of ending the death penalty purely for economic reasons. New Jersey made that connection and it seems as if Maryland, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, New Hampshire, Washington and Kansas may soon follow.

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico has supported capital punishment for years, but thanks to budgetary pressures, he is considering a change.

What about Wisconsin?

Wisconsin was the first state to abolish the death penalty over two hundred years ago. As a result, Wisconsin hasn’t had any executions since, although capital punishment continues in other states.

Those who want the Wisconsin law to stay in effect remark that the death penalty hasn’t any advantages over life in jail for the prisoner. They also dispute the common belief that life imprisonment is more expensive than the death penalty.

When Wisconsin legislators debated reinstating the death penalty in the early 1990s, according to the Legislative Bureau, they announced that each capital case would cost up to $285,000, each new prison death row would cost $1.4 million and to build a prison death row and to staff it would cost an additional $550,000.

In 2009, these numbers have only gone up.

We must think about price in today’s climate. Those cities where most of the murders occur would bear the brunt of the costs associated with trying, convicting, and appealing these capital punishment cases.

This is money that could be better used helping to fund social services and preventing these kinds of crimes in the first place.

Other arguments against the death penalty

We are a nation founded on the principal of freedom and that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. Yet we still execute people in surprisingly high numbers. We are in the same category as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

Do we really want to be in the same category?

If a doctor performs death by injection, he or she is violating medical rights.
Arguments suggest that our current method of lethal injection is so cruel that veterinarians won’t even use it to put down animals to sleep.

Aren’t prisoners punished worse by having to live every day of the rest of their lives in prison?

Since the late 1970s, over a hundred people have been set free from death row after their innocence was proven. They cannot possibly be the only ones.

There are racial and economic biases in capital punishment cases. Non-white prisoners who were executed make up 43% of total executions even though they are only around 25% of the population as a whole.

Inmates on death row don’t usually have the money to receive proper legal assistance.

Catherine Durkin Robinson is a contributing writer for, your information resource and community for money-saving tips and offers so you can shop, compare, and save money on just about everything.