Is the Death Penalty Cheaper?

2023-12-20 00:00:00 / episode: 338


Why is it more expensive?

What is it with this story that the death penalty costs more than putting a prisoner in jail for the rest of his life?

That just seems to fly in the face of common sense.

You have to pay for that prisoner's housing, pay for his food—you know all the stuff—to keep them alive for a long time.

Wouldn't it just be quicker to execute them right away in the beginning and save all those costs for the state.?

Well, it turns out it isn't.

In fact, it's quite a bit more expensive to carry out executions than it is to put people in jail for a long time.

let's take a look at some of those reasons

There are:

Legal costs

Pre-trial costs: forensic evidence

Pre-trial detention

Jury selection




Welcome to the Les Perras podcast episode 338. Today’s topic is the cost of capital punishment.

Legal costs

There's always a higher legal cost for trials that have the possibility of capital punishment.

The main reason for this is that most of the defendants can't afford their own lawyer.

This means that the state has to pay for the lawyer.

This means more money from the taxpayer to protect somebody who is possibly quite bad.

Pre-trial costs

Then there's the pretrial cost, which is quite a bit more expensive for big, serious cases like this.

There's in-depth forensic evidence that has to be gathered, and usually it takes scientists, experts, and special policemen to gather this evidence.

in general, preparing for a big, heavy trial like this is a lot harder and you have to be very very detailed and get the fact right because, after all, a person's life is on the line

Pre-trial detention

Then there's the pretrial detention, which costs quite a bit more money because it's longer than for other trials.

The reason for this is the pre-trial costs of getting all the evidence, getting all the lawyers together, and preparing the arguments for the trial.

since that takes longer, the accused is going to be sitting in detention longer, and that costs money

Jury selection

Jury selection is very difficult and costly.

The reason for this is that as you select the juries, you have to ask them questions to learn about their frame of mind.

Now I don't know about the kind of questions that they ask, what kind of juror they're looking for, or the criteria to become a juror.

But it turns out that their beliefs and views about the death penalty can have a major impact on how they vote on the guilt or innocence of the accused.

It is possible that they are so strongly against capital punishment that even if they believe the accused is guilty, they will say he's innocent just to avoid the execution.

This would be a miscarriage of justice regardless of the punishment, so choosing the jurors is difficult.


The trials themselves are usually four times longer on average.

That means that you're paying four times as much money for the judges,

four times as much money for the defense,

four times as much money for the prosecution,

and four times as much money for the cost of the court itself and all the other supporting stuff.

This is a huge cost.


If the accused is found guilty, and sentenced to execution,

they have to go into a special kind of incarceration where they are kept in the room for 23 hours a day.

They have to be kept separate from the other prisoners.

they can't go into a regular place; they need a special facility that costs quite a bit of money


There are usually a series of appeals.

This only makes sense because you really don't want to put someone to death when they're innocent.

You want to give them all the chances you can for a good life.

Unfortunately, there's usually not just one but a series of appeals,

and they all cost quite a bit of money because each one is another trial in fact.

at the end of the day, when all the costs are added up,

the average cost for putting an accused to death

is substantially higher than just putting him in jail for the rest of his life