"Has the death penalty become too costly to administer in America?" is commentary by Meg Penrose for the Gazette Xtra and WCLO-AM/WJVL-FM of Janesville, Wisconsin, a state without capital punishment. She's a professor at Texas A&M Law School in Fort Worth.
We live in a constitutional democracy that provides due process in criminal prosecutions. These constitutional protections are afforded all criminal defendants, regardless of the heinous nature of the alleged crime or even admission of guilt.
Any suggestion that we could lessen the expense of the death penalty by forgoing investigations or legal processes, such as limiting appeals or habeas corpus, is simply not a constitutionally supportable option. We cannot abandon our constitutional principles to save money.
The Idaho Legislature undertook an extensive review of death penalty costs in 2014. The operational costs, the actual costs needed to execute the inmate—not the costs of litigation and housing—averaged over $50,000 per inmate for the two inmates Idaho executed.
A 2008 study of Maryland’s death penalty concluded that a death-eligible prosecution costs $1.8 million per individual and a successful death-penalty prosecution, where the death penalty is secured, costs in excess of $3 million per individual.
Beyond the direct financial costs, a true economic model would demand that states consider the opportunity costs of placing massive financial resources behind the death penalty.
Related posts are in the cost category index.