The Right Coast

March 20, 2005
The Costs of the Death Penalty
By Mike Rappaport

As long as people are talking about the death penalty, I have a question. Does it save or cost money? Some of the posts in response to Eugene Volokh's provocative post simply asserted that the death penalty costs more.

On the one hand, it saves money. Imagine that under the death penalty a 25 year old man would be executed, but without it, he will serve a 50 years sentence in prison. My understanding is that it costs a lot of money to house criminals in prison. I remember reading a $30,000 per year figure, but maybe it is more. Assuming that figure, life imprisonment costs $1.5 million.

On the other hand, death penalty appeals, etc, cost money. Do they cost the system this much? I doubt it, but I don't know.

Update: Gary Becker's most recent post says the costs of imprisoning someone is $40,000 per year. So that makes it an even $2 million to imprison the 25 year old for life.