The New York Times published an interesting editorial yesterday on the financial costs of death row. There are many reasons I can think of to abolish the death penalty (including that more than 135 people in the country have been exonerated from death row), but perhaps the millions of taxpayers’ dollars spent on executions will be the one to convince you.
The information in the article comes from the Death Penalty Information Center, which has conducted tons of research on the death penalty. One of the reasons that death row is so expensive is the appeals process, which can take up to 20 years or more. There are often several cases that go along with the death penalty, and each case requires new witnesses and a new jury that undergoes a careful selection process. Money is also spent on higher security of death row inmates. These costs, while all very expensive, vary from state to state.
According to the organization, keeping inmates on death row in Florida costs taxpayers $51 million a year more than holding them for life without parole. North Carolina has put 43 people to death since 1976 at $2.16 million per execution. The eventual cost to taxpayers in Maryland for pursuing capital cases between 1978 and 1999 is estimated to be $186 million for five executions.
California’s cost for death row is the most expensive of all at $114 million more than a life sentence. Each Cali execution costs about $250 million. California also has the largest number of inmates on death row in the U.S.
Why spend so much money on executing people, when that money could be spent on improving our law enforcement or put back into the community toward crime prevention? And especially towards the prevention of wrongful incarceration. It’s somewhat sad for me to think about Cameron Todd Willingham and how millions of dollars were spent to kill him…