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Costs of Execution vs Life Imprisonment

25 December 2009
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One of the issues that comes up repeatedly in argument about the death penalty is that of the cost of life imprisonment – it costs a lot to keep a person in prison, and many people convicted of capital crimes are young, with decades of life ahead of them.  Especially in states with high poverty levels, tax payers are concerned that ending the death penalty will saddle them with high costs for inmate maintenance for years.  Others argue that the high cost of prosecuting a death penalty case and its numerous appeals cost the taxpayers as much or more.  Occasionally, some comparable data becomes available – as happened in Texas recently.

Two adjacent counties in Texas provided information about the relative costs of a death-penalty trial and a murder trial where the death penalty was not sought.

“Gray County spent nearly $1 million seeking the death penalty against Levi King, even though he pleaded guilty to murder… these costs do not include the cost of appeals. …a non-death penalty murder case in nearby Lubbock County typically costs about $3,000, court officials estimate.”

What about the decades of caring for the prisoner? At the $47.50 cost per day of housing an inmate in the Texas system, 40 years of imprisonment would be $693,500 – much less than the original capital trial.

L. Carver, “Death penalty cases more expensive than lifetime imprisonment, but local CDA says cost never a consideration,” Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, December 13, 2009

One Comment
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