Insane Fact: The Death Penalty Costs More than Life in Prison

It would seem like a really obvious thing that an inmate that is executed costs the State less than an inmate that lives out the rest of his life in jail. In what might be one of the more puzzling realities of the modern justice system, this is actually not the case. At all:

It’s true that the actual execution costs taxpayers fairly little: while most states remain mum on the cost of lethal injections because of privacy concerns from pharmaceutical companies, it’s estimated that the drugs run about $100 (the Texas Department of Criminal Justice put the cost of their drug cocktails at $83 in 2011). However, the outside costs associated with the death penalty are disproportionately higher.

The article goes on to break down the higher costs: from nearly double the court costs, 44 times the appeals costs, and more than double the imprisonment costs. All of this points to the dangers of trying to have it both ways. The prison system should itself be dismantled. If a person has damaged property or someone’s livelihood, let him repay what he has stolen or destroyed. No jail time necessary. If he has taken a life or struck at the very heart of stable society, let him be executed. And do it quickly. Find two witnesses or let him go.

The death penalty is so cruel, though, right? That’s what opponents say. But you know what is so much more cruel? Life in prison. It’s cruel to the victims who pay for it. And it’s cruel to the prisoners who are treated like less than animals. This is not just my opinion. Take this guy’s word for it:

We can, however, glean a little perspective from someone who has experienced both sides. Gordon “Randy” Steidl lived on death row and in the general prison population after his sentence was commuted to life. Wrongfully convicted, his sentence was eventually overturned. Today, Steidl has strong feelings about prison life, saying, “If you really want to kill someone, give them life without parole. It’s worse than dying.”

Right. Which means that even in Steidl’s case, he would rather have been executed wrongly than wrongly imprisoned for life. That’s a strange reality, but it’s probably more often than not the case. I really wish our justice system would figure that out. It’s stupid to me that people point to wrongful executions as proof that the death penalty is always wrong, but they never seem all that concerned to apply that same standard to wrongful and nearly ubiquitous imprisonment.

It’s also very troubling to me that we are willing to dismember, for any reason, the most innocent of all our citizens without a trial, but we’re shedding tears over the painless execution of serial child molesters. What gives, America?

You can’t dismantle the overblown prison system without the death penalty. And without a prison system to fall back on, the death penalty would necessarily become more efficient. There would be kinks to work out, for sure, but isn’t that always the case? It would definitely be better than the current system. No doubt about it.