Death Penalty Costs Capstone Project

Length: 7 pages Sources: 6 Subject: Criminal Justice Type: Capstone Project Paper: #6087793 Related Topics: Plea Bargaining, American Exceptionalism, Murder, Sentencing
Excerpt from Capstone Project :

¶ … Enforce the Death Penalty for Murders Over a Life Sentence

Cover Letter

This paper addresses the question: Is it more cost effective to enforce the death penalty for murders over a life sentence? Several topics will be covered such as why it could be cost effective and why it has not been cost effective. Several articles point to the need for prisons to carry out death penalties in order for death penalty sentencing to be cost effective. The introduction will highlight why the death penalty has been regulated more so than enforced.

Other articles will also show how death penalty sentencing can be used a means of creating persuasive plea bargains as criminals do not want to experience death row. Another article states how expensive maintenance of death row inmates are vs. inmates who received life sentences. It also shows how many inmates were killed on death row vs. The ones that were not. Shockingly, very few executions occurred on death row in the state of California. In fact, most of the prisoners on death row died of old age or other circumstances before they were executed.

Introduction/Problem Statement

Many times people have pondered over whether or not it was necessary to kill criminals that have committed heinous crimes. In fact some even question if the death penalty is at all useful in delivering justice. However, another problem arises that comes from enforcement of the death penalty. The problem is cost. Many times people wonder if death row inmates cost more to keep than criminals with a life sentence.

If one closely examines the fact surrounding the death penalty, not many people sentenced to death get killed. Many end up dying before they are executed. In essence, death row inmates are like life sentence inmates, except the cost of keeping someone on death row has shown to be just as, if not more costly than, criminals receiving a life sentence. What are the origins of the death penalty in the United States? Why has the death penalty become life in prison?


An article by Steiker & Steiker reveals the history of the Supreme Court's decision to reinstate the death penalty. "The Supreme Court's re-authorization of the death penalty in 1976 led to a raft of new capital statutes and a rising ride of executions. The Court's approach to the death penalty in the post-1976 'modern era' of American capital punishment diverged" (Steiker & Steiker, 2012, p. 211). Capital punishment exists in America. However, it is not in the way it is meant to. People instead try to regulate it and make it so that way prisoners are not killed right away. Instead they are kept in prisons for years, if not decades until they eventually or most of the time, never, get executed.

"The United States became the first and only one of its peers nations to move not from formal retention of the death penalty to abolition, but rather from retention to regulation" (Steiker & Steiker, 2012, p. 211). Instead of taking the inmates and dealing with them in a cost effective manner, they use the death penalty to get plea bargains, faster guilty verdicts, and provide a sense of closure for the public. The death penalty has become less death and more penalty. The penalty has now reached farther than the prisoners condemned to execution. Now the government, the taxpayers, and prisons have taken the penalty of expense as they shoulder the costs of these lifelong prisoners.

Another article by Steiker shows the same kind of ineffective carry out of the death penalty. "Although the size of the nation's death row has swelled, many of the condemned face no realistic prospect of execution. Popular support of the death penalty appears more tenuous" (Steiker, 2012, p. 329). People convicted and sentenced to death are simply not being killed. With more and more death penalty convictions, the problem becomes obvious that it is creating a financial burden rather than solving one. Sure killing prisoners would reduce the prison population and thus reduce the costs of running said prisons, but because no one is getting executed, it is just another way of say life sentence.

In 1968, the Court for a brief moment was indecisive over judicial abolition, making all prior statutes over Eighth Amendment grounds appear invalid. However there was backlash among the legislative concerning increasing rates of violent


"The Court affirmed the basic constitutionality of the death penalty four years later and sought to cure its acknowledged defects through a web of regulation, inaugurating what we now regard as the 'modern era' of capital punishment" (Steiker, 2012, p. 329). There was an attempt to change the way America handled and dealt with the death penalty, but the government and the public resisted. Instead opting for regulation of the death penalty instead of actual carry out.

Purpose Statement/Body of the Proposal

The death penalty is meant to cut the costs of prisons in terms of maintaining prisoners. Inmates require daily food, clothing, bathroom facilities, and some form of entertainment. However the death penalty system appears to not be cutting down the costs. "California's death-penalty system cost the state's taxpayers $4 billion more than a system that has LWOP as its most severe penalty" (Alarcon & Mitchell, 2012, p. 221). LWOP or life without parole is a typical sentence given instead of the death penalty. It would stand to be illogical that the death penalty system would cost more than LWOP. The reason it costs more is simply because death row inmates are not being executed in a timely fashion or at all.

…to maintain the current system will cost Californins an additional $5 billion to $7 billion between now and 2050. In that time, roughly 740 more inmates will be added to death row, an additional fourteen executions will be carried out, and more than five hundred death-row inmates will die of old age or other causes before the state executes them (Alarcon & Mitchell, 2012, p. 221).

Instead of prisoners meeting their fates in a sensible time frame of around 1-5 years, they most of the time never get executed. Not to mention people will often fight for an alternative to the death penalty once convicted. Since they have the time to fight the decision, sometimes the convictions get overturned or never carried out. Ideally the death penalty is meant to be a solution to dealing with heinous criminals who have repeatedly raped and killed others. But instead, it is being used in ways it was not originally intended to.

"Given its severity, the death penalty may play a unique role in plea bargaining, unlike that of a lesser maximum sentence of life without parole, which involves the defendant's loss of his freedom but not the loss of his life" (Ehrhard-Dietzel, 2012, p. 89). Discussions with defense attorneys and prosecutors within a state where the maximum penalty for murder is execution and a state where the maximum sentence for homicide is life without parole are analyzed in order to discover the part death penalty plays as influence in plea bargaining, as likened to the part of a maximum verdict of life without parole. The article by Ehrhard-Dietzel suggests prosecutors are not automatically persuaded to charge capital homicide in order to encourage a guilty plea, assumed deliberations including morals and monetary cost, reflections that are principally lacking from resolution making in cases where the maximum potential sentence is life without parole.

Another article by Liebman & Clarke also reveal a number of expenses the capitally disposed to minority enforces on the majority of populaces and locales that are not in need of the death penalty, together with more crime, a burdensome process for revising methodically inconsistent death sentences whose implementation is of less attentiveness to the death sentences' instigators than their imprisonment. Furthermore, there is inconsistency deterrent methods and high occurrence of re-incarceration regardless of existence of death penalty or not. Studies of changes in, "police presence, whether achieved by changes in police numbers or in their strategic deployment, consistently find evidence of deterrent effects. Studies of the deterrent effect of increases in already long prison sentences find at most a modest deterrent effect" (Nagin, 2013, p. 83).

That is why in order to avoid problems in regards to implementation and verdict execution, research must be applied to certain areas. Four high-priority areas for upcoming research was identified by Nagin: "developing and testing an integrated model of the effects of the threat and experience of punishment, measuring perceptions of sanction regimes, developing and testing a theory of criminal opportunities, and estimating the deterrent effect of shorter prison sentences and identifying high-deterrence policies" (Nagin, 2013, p. 83). Researching these areas will not only help with actual management of prisoners within the prison system, but also help deal with the ongoing problem of over population in prisons. This coupled with the problem of the death penalty leads to a…

Sources Used in Documents:


Alarcon, A.L., & Mitchell, P.M. (2012). Costs of Capital Punishment in California: Will Voters Choose Reform This November. Loy L.A.L. Rev., 46, 221. Retrieved from

Ehrhard-Dietzel, S. (2012). The Use of Life and Death as Tools in Plea Bargaining. Criminal Justice Review, 37(1), 89. Retrieved from

Liebman, J.S., & Clarke, P. (2011). Minority Practice, Majority's Burden: The Death Penalty Today. Ohio St. J. Crim. L, 9, 255. Retrieved from

Nagin, D.S. (2013). Deterrence: A Review of the Evidence by a Criminologist for Economists.Annual Review of Economics, 5, 83. Retrieved from
Steiker, J.M., & Steiker, C.S. (2012). Entrenchment and/or Destabilization - Reflections on (Another) Two Decades of Constitutional Regulation of Capital Punishment. Law & Ineq, 30, 211. Retrieved from
Steiker, J.M. (2012). American Death Penalty: Constitutional Regulation as the Distinctive Feature of American Exceptionalism. U. Miami L. Rev, 67, 329. Retrieved from

Cite this Document:

"Death Penalty Costs" (2014, June 26) Retrieved May 27, 2022, from

"Death Penalty Costs" 26 June 2014. Web.27 May. 2022. <>

"Death Penalty Costs", 26 June 2014, Accessed.27 May. 2022,

Related Documents
Death Penalty the United States
Words: 1676 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 67004188

Murder cannot be a decried and yet practiced by the same entity without being hypocritical. Innumerable individuals on death row have been wrongfully convicted due to any number of reasons. The appeals of death row inmates sometimes never get heard. Those inmates who cannot afford to fight a good appeal are the worse off of all. Because DNA testing and more traditional forms of evidence can be used to

Death Penalty -- Part One "The Death
Words: 665 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 53486141

Death Penalty -- Part One "The Death Penalty Costs Too Much" -- George Sjostrom: The arguments presented by Sjostrom follow other similar lines of argument by those who oppose the death penalty. He doesn't take the ethical line or the line that putting a criminal to death doesn't deter crime. He is concerned with dollars and cents. And he alludes to the emotional price society pays for putting a person to

Is Capital Punishment Cruel and Unusual
Words: 2391 Length: 6 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 95315335

Capital Punishment Is Capital Punishment Cruel and Unusual? What is cruel and unusual punishment? Does the definition of cruel and unusual punishment change with time and changing social mores? Does the determination of whether or not a punishment is cruel and unusual depend on the crime committed, the criminal being punished, or both? These are all very important questions, which must all be examined before one can determine whether or not capital

Debate Capital Punishment
Words: 1003 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 13161201

Capital Punishment Debate The United States is one of the few industrialized nations in the world that still practices capital punishment. Most European nations and our northern neighbor Canada do not have the death penalty and in fact will not send wanted criminals to the United States because of their opposition to capital punishment. Proponents of the death penalty say that it can be a deterrent to crime, that it can

Right to Counsel and the Death Penalty in Michigan
Words: 4461 Length: 15 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 13682228

Death Penalty in Michigan There are, at present, 38 states with the death penalty and 12 without ( 2004). Michigan is one of the 12. From 1976, there have been 906 executions in the U.S.: 517 were white, 310 blacks; 57 hispanic; and 22, other races. More than 80% of these cases involved white victims, although only 50% of murder victims were white. Case studies on race showed that 96% had

Argument for Abolishing Death Penalty
Words: 2594 Length: 9 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 9140475

Capital punishment is defined as the legal infliction of death as a punishment, or the death penalty. The United States is one of a decreasing number of countries who still practice capital punishment, using methods such as lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the first known execution in the United States was carried out in 1608. During the Revolutionary War,