High cost of the death penalty and how life with out parole would be better Essay

Death penalty is a law which has been opposed ever since its first implementation. The adversaries of death penalty believe that death penalty is not only an inhumane practice; it also does not serve the purpose of deterring crime. An added raison d'être of its ineffectiveness is that it imposes huge burden on the economy of any nation that practices this law. This issue of huge amount spent on death penalty cases actually gains more and more concern as well as support of a large number of people, groups, organizations and communities, asking their law makers to replace it with life imprisonment without parole, as it costs less and has more lasting and influential effects on overall societies and communities.

High Cost of Death Penalty

Death penalty is actually “an economic drain on governments with already badly depleted budgets” (NYT, 2009). The process of death penalty becomes complicated and costly as soon as the person is convicted and ordered to be executed by the court. An appeal is forwarded as soon as the execution is ordered. And if that appeal is refused on any basis, a series of appeals starts to different courts until the appeal is accepted at district level or federal level, usually depending upon the financial background of the convicted. In Texas only, one out of every four death penalties is reversed through appeals. In New jersey, a quarter billion dollars have been spent on the death penalties yet not a single person was executed since 1983. The extensive trials, heightened official evaluation and costly appeal procedures of serious offences such as murder not only derails the whole system of justice but also delays it when even the case is very obvious. In fact “the longer death row inmates remain in that legal limbo, the more expensive they become” (Hess, 2011).

McCartin, a former jurist from California, who convicted nine men to death penalty, now opposes this law. Of the nine men he convicted, only one died, that too of a heart attack (msnbc, 2009). The time and money spent on only one convicted person of death penalty can be spent on a number of prisoners of same category if they are convicted to life time imprisonment without parole. Life imprisonment is not only cheaper but it also provides instant justice not only to the criminal but also to the victim’s family. And the ultimate burden of these trials is put on the tax payers i.e. the common man who struggles hard to earn his livelihood, but has to pay a huge amount in the name of taxes which is spent on these time and money wasting trials. In California, people pay around $144 million on annual basis as tax which is spent on the “housing, health care and legal representation” of the convicted criminals (Lane, 2011). If this amount is invested reasonably, its interest will be much more than spending on lifetime imprisonment criminals (Siegel et al 2008). A number of states have conducted research and studies and came to a conclusion that death penalty is 10 times expensive than the life imprisonment sentences without parole. Along with the cost factor is the time factor, which if spent other than the death sentences could solve a number of other long awaited cases to be solved (EJUSA).

Effectiveness of Life without Parole

The process of death penalties involves not only extensive trial periods but a number of witnesses as well as jury members, expert investigators and lawyers. Whereas, the figure of everything involved in life without parole is far less and so involves less money and national funds and so it does not brings an unnecessary burden on the economy of the country (Bellas, 2008). The Quitman county of Mississippi spent a loan of $150,000 along with raising taxes thrice, on a 1990 capital-murder trial involving two men which stretched on for years. The ultimate result of this was hiked prices of everything including property and so naturally the county is facing problems in getting tenants for empty warehouses. The administrator of Quitman County, Butch Scipper naturally believes death penalty to be “catastrophic for a small rural county” (Gold, 2002). A 42 year Ted Bundy was executed by state of Florida in 1989. His trial cost taxpayers more than $5 million (law.jrank).

Life without parole however, is not only far effective medium of punishment for extreme crimes like murders, but it is cost effective as well. Life without parole or “Death by incarceration” is considered as a better way of punishing than death penalty by a majority of people now, as it inflicts more pain than an instant death by a lethal injection or hanging (Jhonson et al, 2008). The life imprisonment not only ensures the safety of public by keeping the criminal in jail, it also minimizes the chances of any innocent execution. The money saved from the long trials on death sentences can then be spent on other more demanding sectors such as increasing the number of law enforcing members as well as providing them with latest technology and conveyances. In California around 3500 criminals including men and women were sentenced for life imprisonment without parole since 1978 and not a single criminal has been released, other than the few who proved their innocence. According to the study conducted by Sacramento Bee in March 28th, 1988, California could save $ 9 million annually if it were to replace death penalty by life without parole (Death Penalty Focus).

The emotional pain inflicted through life without parole is considered worse than actual death by a majority of prisoners. Joseph Parsons, a prisoner at Utah, was eventually executed after he dropped his appeals. For him life in prison became way too hard as compared to death itself and so he chose it over imprisoned life. For him dying was easy but he had no more courage to go on with the life he was leading in prison (Jhonson et al, 2008).

The police officers and judiciary officials are also favoring life without parole as it not only reduces the time consumed in lengthy trials but also saves money that they ask to be spent on increasing police force and to reduce drug abuse. A former death penalty supporter and a police chief in New Jersey, James Abbott, finds “this use of state resources offensive…Give a law enforcement professional like me that $250 million, and I will show you how to reduce crime. The Death penalty isn’t anywhere on my list” (EJUSA). The law enforcers, who are involved in this whole process, agree themselves that the death penalty does not in any way helps in decreasing the crime rates. Even the majority of victim’s families now oppose death sentences because it not only delays the justice and make them go through misery and agony but it also drains them financially.


Life without parole is the best available option, as it not only takes less time in delivering justice but it also reduces the cost of trials which has to be paid by the public through taxes. More death penalties would mean increase in taxes and loans, which will eventually topple the whole economy of any nation. The funds saved through life without parole can not only be invested in strengthening the law enforcing agencies but it can also be invested in other public sectors that need attention such as health care and education.

Work Cited

High Cost of Death Row. The New York Times. Sep 27, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/28/opinion/28mon3.html

Lane, Patty. Is The Cost Of The Death Penalty Too High For California? KPBS. July 11, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.kpbs.org/news/2011/jul/11/cost-death-penalty-too-high-california/

Bellas, Diane et al. Supplemental Statement on Repealing the Death Penalty. June 30, 2008. Retrieved from http://deathpenalty.procon.org/sourcefiles/supplementcaliforniacommission2008.pdf

Wasteful and Inefficient: The Alarming Cost of the Death Penalty. EJUSA. Retrieved from http://ejusa.org/learn/cost#footnoteref7_hdn0w1d

Capital Punishment – The Costs of Capital Punishment. Retrieved from http://law.jrank.org/pages/5002/Capital-Punishment-COSTS-CAPITAL-PUNISHMENT.html

Jhonson, Robert et al. Life Without Parole, America’s Other Death Penalty Notes on Life Under Sentence of Death by Incarceration. Sage, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.realcostofprisons.org/materials/americas_other_death_penalty.pdf

Siegel, Larry J, Joseph J. Senna, Joseph J. Senna, and Joseph J. Senna. Introduction to Criminal Justice. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2008. Print.

Gold, Russell. Counties Struggle With High Cost Of Prosecuting Death-Penalty Cases. The Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2002. Retrieved from http://people.umass.edu/leg485/cost2.htm

Hess, Amanda. Weighing the Death Penalty vs. Life Without Parole. Good News. July 11, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.good.is/post/weighing-the-death-penalty-vs-life-without-parole/

The High Cost of the Death Penalty. Death Penalty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.deathpenalty.org/article.php?id=42

To execute or not: A question of cost? Msnbc.com, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29552692/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/execute-or-not-question-cost/#.TtKJzWO4qsp