Back to News & Commentary

Life in Prison is No Bailout

Share This Page
September 30, 2008

Here’s an angle to the economic bailout-rescue-panic package that you probably haven’t thought of: the exorbitant cost of capital punishment to death penalty states. From California, to Maryland, to Tennessee, to New Jersey, the taxpayer burden to execute a prisoner is significantly higher than the cost of a life sentence. Jack Payden-Travers of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project writes today in the Pasadena Star-News:

In Maryland, the Urban Institute study of March 2008 noted that it costs the state three times more to try a death penalty case than a non-death penalty case. The report stated that “an average capital-eligible case resulting in a death sentence will cost approximately $3 million, $1.9 million more than a case where the death penalty was not sought.”

…Since 1977 we’ve carried out over 1,100 executions in this country to the tune of what is conservatively estimated over $1 billion…

That money has only purchased a system that doesn’t work. In the last 3 decades, 129 individuals have been released from death row because they were innocent. That’s one exoneration for every 9 executions. Would you buy a car that failed to start one time out of 10?

Jack points out that there are approximately 3,300 men and women on death row right now. That’s billions of dollars to execute these prisoners. The death penalty is a morally and fiscally bankrupt policy, and it’s time to abolish it.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page