Economics of the Death Penalty

Teaching My Topic Project by Meagan McNicholas

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History of the Death Penalty in U.S.

  • Started in America when settlers came over from Britain
  • Death penalty is still being utilized in the U.S. today
  • There have been many trials throughout history to limit the situations the death penalty can be used in
  • Support for the death penalty has gone up and down
  • The death penalty is sought as punishment in fewer cases than ever before currently
  • 300 executions in 1998, 49 executions in 2015
  • As of July 1st, 2015 19 states in the U.S. have abolished the death penalty opting for an alternative punishment: life in prison
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My Thesis

Abolishing the death penalty in all states would be economically beneficial for the United States, considering the national debt and deficit, because alternatives to the death penalty are much less costly.

Debt Crisis in the U.S.

  • "The United States of America's national debt is spiraling out of control." --Representative Tom Price of Georgia
  • National debt: 19.4 trillion dollars and growing
  • U.S. budget deficit: more than $500,000,000,000 and growing

Capital Punishment Costs More!!

  • Over time, costs associated with the death penalty have risen in all aspects from trials to incarceration of the person being tried
  • "Every time a killer is sentenced to death, a school closes." --Fox News
  • In North Carolina, a case in which the death penalty is sought after as punishment costs about $2.2 million more than in a case where it is not sought after
  • In Maryland, a case in which the death penalty is sought after as punishment costs about $1.9 million more than in a case where it is not sought after
  • ^^^^ These figures do not even accurately show the true extent of the death penalty costs because these numbers are in cases where the death penalty was sought after and not won
  • The cost rises exponentially in cases where the death penalty is sought after, won, and implemented

What Drives the Costs of the Death Penalty Up?

  • multiple trials and appeals
  • extensive investigations
  • special restrictions on the incarceration of the person being tried

Misconceptions About the Economics Behind Death Penalty

  • Many who believe that the death penalty is a better option economically than life in prison think that it is less expensive than life in prison because lethal injection is less expensive
  • People don't take into account the extensive number of trials that are involved in a case where the death penalty is being sought after as punishment

Cut the Death Penalty to Save Money

  • Taxpayers and already struggling governments are having a hard time paying for the expensive death penalty
  • California: 670 inmates on death row = $63.3 million per year that tax payers spend on these people
  • New Jersey: tax payers have spent over $250,000,000 in the past 20 years on a capital punishment system that hasn't executed a single person
  • Kansas: estimated that the state will save $500,000 per case in which the death penalty is not sought after
  • States in prolonged recession could benefit from cutting the death penalty because it would save money
  • Colorado and New Hampshire are leaning towards cutting the death penalty to reap the economic benefits
Cost of death penalty: Life in jail cheaper


  • The death penalty is more costly than alternative punishments, namely life in prison
  • People sometimes think that the death penalty costs less than life in prison, but that is not true
  • Right now, only 19 states have abolished the death penalty
  • States could save exponential amounts of money by abolishing capital punishment
  • The U.S. is in a bad situation financially, so it makes sense for the entire country to be rid of the death penalty because any way that the country can save money will help turn the economic atmosphere around