Debating the death penalty's cost

Posted by Stefanie on February 5th, 2010

My new post on Care2 about the death penalty has been getting a lot of comments.  One of the most common sentiments expressed in the comments is that we should try to make the death penalty process cheaper and faster.  In response to this, I posted a comment myself about why this is simply not possible.

Stefanie F. says
Feb 2, 2010 10:26 AM

California would save more than $125 million per year by replacing the death penalty with the punishment permanent imprisonment. This is a severe, swift and certain punishment.

Death penalty cases are more expensive for a variety of reasons, including: there are two trials instead of one (guilt phase and sentencing), there are more lawyers and experts on both sides, there are constitutionally mandated appeals to make sure we don't execute an innocent person, and the housing is more expensive because they have to be single-celled if they are on death row, unlike other prisoners who share cells. Death row prisoners are usually not allowed to work to offset their housing.

There is no way to make the death penalty cheaper without risking the execution of many innocent people. It has been tried for the last 30 plus years and it has failed. It cannot be done.

By sentencing prisoners to permanent imprisonment, we are taking them out of the media spotlight, reducing harm to the victims' families who don't have to be dragged through years of appeals, and guaranteeing that these individuals will be severely punished and never be released to harm another person, all at a lower cost to the state.

The cost of the death penalty is one issue that is extremely complex and there is often quite a bit of confusion about how and why the death penalty costs more than locking up prisoners for life.  

Hopefully my note above sheds some light on the issue, but also check out our resource page on COST for more in depth info. 

Still not a believer? Post your questions and comments here.

Posted in Blog, Cost


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