As a general rule, the death penalty cost studies are worthless. Those that purport to compare life without parole costs to death penalty costs are, in most cases, comparing apples to kangaroos not apples to apples.
There is no reason that the death penalty, in general, should be more expensive than LWOP and, in many, if not most cases, the death penalty should be less expensive.
1) Virginia: How the death penalty will save money over life without parole (LWOP).
Virginia executes in 5-7 years. 65% of those sentenced to death have been executed. Only 15% of their death penalty cases are overturned. (Source Virginia AG)
With the high costs of long term imprisonment, such a system, as Virginia’s, a true life sentence will be more expensive than such a death penalty protocol. All states could duplicate this protocol, with the major exception that you can’t transfer Virginia jurisdiction judges to other states.
2) Texas cost study – I have told the Dallas Morning News, for many years, to stop using their totally inaccurate cost review. They still use it.
They found that it costs $2.3 million per average death penalty case (for 5 cases), more than 3 times more expensive than a $750,000 life sentence. (C. Hoppe, “Executions Cost Texas Millions,” The Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992, 1A)
The death penalty costs are for pre trial, trial and appeals and incarceration. Yet, the life cost is only for confinement for life. Big problem.
In addition, an academic review, by a neutral academic, found that the verifiable costs in the DMN article actually found the death penalty was cheaper.
Almost exclusively, this study is presented, by media and anti death penalty folks, as the best example of the death penalty being much more expensive than a life sentence. Fact checking reveals just the opposite.
This study has been so distorted in the media and within anti death penalty literature that it really should be mandatory teaching in journalism schools as a fact checking disaster. I cannot find one example where the authors of the study ever corrected these distortions, thereby reflecting poorly on them, as well.
Prof. Cook, one of the authors, has a new study out, which claims an $11 million savings for NC, by ending the death penalty. I haven’t read it yet. Based upon the previous study, maybe it really finds the death penalty saves money.
A general review of some of the study problems and corrections for them.
See Dudley Sharp comments to article, after article at
Cost, Deception & the Death Penalty: The Colorado Experience
December 24, 2007 6:50 AM
“Investigating the Costs of the Death Penalty in California: Insights for Future Data Collection in California, RAND Corp., 2/2008
Sincerely, Dudley Sharp
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, 713-622-5491,
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
Pro death penalty sites