DEATH PENALTY – Why Does It Cost So Much?


I’m writing this article because I have some personal questions.  I’ve always believed that if someone murdered someone else and were found guilty in a court of law … that person should be put to death.  Personally, I have no problems with the death penalty for cases involving the death of another innocent person on purpose by a human being.

Some might say, “But what if the person doing the killing is insane and needs mental help?”

To that I would say anyone who can purposely take the life of another is insane (if only for an instant), unless that person is taking a life during an act of way or in self-defense; and if it was in self-defense, then I don’t believe it was a purposeful act.

I also always believed that putting a person to death would be a least costly way of dealing with the culprit.  To me a Life Sentence without parole does not seem to be the lowest cost way to deal with a murderer.  However, in my studies, I have found that is not necessarily the case.  What you are about to read some may not agree with and you have that right.  I will not judge you for your beliefs and expect you not to judge me for mine.  Also, please understand that the research to put this article together came from the internet – and as such – I cannot verify if it is true or not.  I am not the first to tell you that what you read in the internet is not always true.

As you read through this information the opinion you now have about the death penalty in some states may or may not change.  It is not the purpose of this article to change anyone’s mind.  I learned a long time ago for me to get a person to change their mind I would first have to get them to admit they were wrong from the start … not an easy task.  However, if you have had questions yourself about this controversial topic … perhaps having more information is what you need to make a decision once and for all about what you believe and where you stand on the topic.

Finally, I am not now nor have I ever been a law enforcement officer, a lawyer, nor have I ever worked in the legal profession in any way.  I am simply a guy who was out on a walk one day thinking about various things and asked myself why they commit a person to prison for life without parole, to live off taxpayers, for some heinous act that the court system does not believe he/she can ever be cured of and put back out in the public.  Why don’t they just get rid of them since they are of no use to anyone?  Is it inhumane or simply politically incorrect to put a person to death for killing another person?

It should also be clarified that I have never had any family member found guilty of any such heinous crime and don’t know just how I would feel if that ever happened.  I really feel sorry for family members who have had a loved one do something like this and hope that I never have to feel the pain they must feel.  My prayers go out to the family of the killer as much as the family of the killed.

2018 Death Penalty Results

In 2018 there were 25 executions in the United States.  Of these executions we know the following so-called facts from

  • Average Age of Person put to death = 54 (oldest was 83 and youngest was 31)
  • Number of Males (no females last year) put to death = 25 (100%)
  • Number of Whites put to death = 14 (56%)
  • Number of Blacks put to death = 6 (24%)
  • Number of Latinos put to death = 5 (20%)
  • Number of people murdered by these 25 put to death = 33 (total dead that we know of 58. A total of 25 murderers and 33 murdered)
    • Number of White Females = 14 (42%)
    • Number of White Males = 9 (27%)
    • Number of Black Females = 3 (9%)
    • Number of Black Males = 1 (3%)
    • Number of Latino Females = 3 (9%)
    • Number of Latino Males = 2 (6%)
    • Number of Asian Males = 1 (3%)
  • Number of Executions in the South = 22
  • Number of Executions in the Mid-West = 3
    • Number executed in Alabama = 2 (by Lethal Injection)
    • Number executed in Florida = 2 (by Lethal Injection)
    • Number executed in Georgia = 2 (by Lethal Injection)
    • Number executed in Ohio = 1 (by Lethal Injection)
    • Number executed in Nebraska = 1 (by Lethal Injection)
    • Number executed in South Dakota = 1 (by Lethal Injection)
    • Number executed in Tennessee = 3 (2 by Electrocution 1 by Lethal Injection)
    • Number executed in Texas = 13 (by Lethal Injection)

A few things to Note:

  1. First, no females were executed while 26 (or 79%) of those murdered were female.
  2. Texas executed more than all the other states combined (13 vs. 12).
  3. In 2018 it seems like White Males were put to death more than all other races shown.
  4. The South tends to execute more than any other part of the country (at least they did in 2018).
    1. If you visit the website above you can get information for all years dating back to 1986 or write to me at and I will be happy to send the downloaded version.

Based on the information I was able to find; since 1986 there have been about 1,496 executions.  As for the race of the executed people … 830 of were white, 511 were black, 127 were Latino and other races made up the other 28.  Of all the people executed only 16 were females (4 of them were black and the other 12 were white) meaning that 1,480 were male.

When it comes to regions doing the executions since 1986 … 4 were executed in the North, 83 in the West, 184 in the Midwest, and 1,204 in the South.

As for those convicted while of juvenile age and tried as an adult … a total of 22.

What may surprise some, is that 148 of these souls volunteered to be put to death.

As for foreign nationals (aka people from other countries living here) a total of 37 were put to death since 1986.

Finally, the youngest person put to death since 1986 was 22 — Scott Carpenter, Native American, killed one white male and was executed in Oklahoma on May 8, 1997 by lethal injection. The oldest person put to death since 1986 was 83 – Walter Moody, White Male, killed one white male and was executed in Alabama on April 19, 2018 by lethal injection.

What does it cost to use the death penalty?

There are literally thousands of pages on the internet (6,320,000) that you can read about the cost of convicting with the death penalty vs. using life without parole in 1st degree murder cases.  In fact, the information below was pulled from this Fact Sheet1  (website in footnotes) at website.

  • Oklahoma capital cases cost, on average, 3.2 times more than non-capital cases. (Study prepared by Peter A. Collins, Matthew J. Hickman, and Robert C. Boruchowitz, with research support by Alexa D. O’Brien, for the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, 2017.)
  • Defense costs for death penalty trials in Kansas averaged about $400,000 per case, compared to $100,000 per case when the death penalty was not sought. (Kansas Judicial Council, 2014).
  • A study in California revealed that the cost of the death penalty in the state has been over $4 billion since 1978. Study considered pre-trial and trial costs, costs of automatic appeals and state habeas corpus petitions, costs of federal habeas corpus appeals, and costs of incarceration on death row. (Alarcon & Mitchell, 2011).
  • Enforcing the death penalty costs Florida $51 million a year above what it would cost to punish all first-degree murderers with life in prison without parole. Based on the 44 executions Florida had carried out since 1976, that amounts to a cost of $24 million for each execution. (Palm Beach Post, January 4, 2000).
  • The most comprehensive study in the country found that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution over the costs of sentencing murderers to life imprisonment. The majority of those costs occur at the trial level. (Duke University, May 1993).
  • In Texas, a death penalty case costs an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years. (Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992).

So, it would seem that if the cost is more for a death penalty case than a life in prison without parole case … most of it would have to be in upfront court and investigation costs.

Is the court system racist?

  • Jurors in Washington state are three times more likely to recommend a death sentence for a black

defendant than for a white defendant in a similar case. (Prof. K. Beckett, Univ. of Washington, 2014).

  • In Louisiana, the odds of a death sentence were 97% higher for those whose victim was white than for those whose victim was black. (Pierce & Radelet, Louisiana Law Review, 2011).
  • A study in California found that those convicted of killing whites were more than 3 times as likely to be sentenced to death as those convicted of killing blacks and more than 4 times more likely as those convicted of killing Latinos. (Pierce & Radelet, Santa Clara Law Review, 2005).
  • A comprehensive study of the death penalty in North Carolina found that the odds of receiving a death sentence rose by 3.5 times among those defendants whose victims were white. (Prof. Jack Boger and Dr. Isaac Unah, University of North Carolina, 2001).
  • In 96% of states where there have been reviews of race and the death penalty, there was a pattern of either race-of-victim or race-of-defendant discrimination, or both. (Prof. Baldus report to the ABA, 1998).


Even with all that being said in the Fact Sheet I suggested before … the fact sheet also shows this:

Death row by raceI don’t know about your feelings but it looks pretty evenly split to me with 42% of the death row prisoners being white and 42% being black.

In addition, as I showed earlier, since 1986 there were approximately 1,496 actual executions (I have no idea how many death penalty cases there were being tried during this time).  Of these 830 or 55% were white males or females while 45% were Black, Latino and other races.  So, I have no idea why the facts above are being twisted by various universities.  I would say the courts are not that prejudicial or racists.


Are there innocent people on death row?

Naturally there are.  No system is perfect – and this is why many are against the death penalty – fear that an innocent person will be executed.

Since 1973 more than 160 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.  From 1973 – 1999 there were an average of 3 exonerations per year and from 2000 – 2011 there was an average of 5 exonerations per year.

It seems that as technology improves … those exonerated from death row improves.  I would also have to believe that this new technology will keep folks that are innocent from going to death row in future court cases.

The number of death sentences are dropping drastically on a year by year basis.  In 1998 there were 295 death sentences and in 2018 there were only 42.  The lowest year was 2016 when there were only 31.  Keep in mind … these are death sentences … not executions.

Just a few more so-called facts!

Here’s a couple of charts you need to look at that you will also see in the FACT SHEET I recommended:

Death Penalty Graphic

Based on this pie chart it looks as though only 33% of the people polled agree with the death penalty.  While 6% had no opinion one way or another 61% feel that there should be a life sentence mandated some with and some without parole.  Some with parole plus restitution.  How on earth can you have restitution for a dead person.  You cannot resurrect them!

And I just love the bar chart … when you read the caption is states … the Police Chiefs also considered the death penalty the least efficient use of taxpayers’ money.  However, it does rank “Insufficient use of the death penalty” a 2.  But it says at the top, “What interferes with Law Enforcement.”  Are we also supposed to take this as “Sufficient Use of the Death Penalty” would not interfere with law enforcement?  How does the death penalty have any effect on Law Enforcement?

I can see where lack of resources would affect law enforcement.  I can also see where crowded courts and ineffective prosecution could affect law enforcement.  I cannot see where the actual crimes would interfere with effective law enforcement.  And I certainly don’t understand how a death penalty (if we have one or if we don’t) has anything to do with interfering with effective law enforcement.  I think this is a good example of a bad pole designed to get the answers they entity putting this information out was looking for.

Then I ran across this misleading (though possibly true) chart on the FACT SHEET I mentioned at the beginning of this article:

murder rates per 100k

It could be that the southern part of the United States, which is less densely populated than other parts could have the higher murder rate per 100,000 people … but that does not mean it has the highest murder rate overall.  Again, because the writers of this FACT SHEET are trying to make the southern states, who use the death penalty the most as shown earlier, the villain by also having the highest death rate … they publish nonsense such as this to fit their story.

Here’s the words that went along with this chart: “A report by the National Research Council, titled Deterrence and the Death Penalty, stated that studies claiming that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on murder rates are ‘fundamentally flawed’ and should not be used when making policy decisions (2012).  Consistent with previous years, the FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that the South had the highest murder rate.  The South accounts for over 80% of executions.  The Northeast, which had less than 1% of all executions, had the lowest murder rate.”

Then I did more research on the various city murder rates (North, South, East and West) and looked into Chicago’s Murder Rate since Donald Trump recently referred to it as the “Murder Capital of America” and low and behold this is what I found …

City Homicide rates

Notice that while the Blue Bar Chart above shows the whole South with 6.4 murders per 100,000 and the Midwest with 5.7 murders per 100,000 – New Orleans alone has 39.5 murders per 100,000 and that is dwarfed by St. Louis that has 66.1 murders per 100,000 people in 2017.  In fact, if you study the cities on this chart you will find 5 in the south; New Orleans, Memphis, Tulsa, Atlanta and Nashville.  All the rest are in the North, Mid-West, West, or Eastern part of the country.  I was really surprised New York City did not hit the list but according to this they had less than 300 homicides in 2017.

I don’t know about you, but I have a few questions:

Yes, the more I researched to find answers to my questions … the more answers I found, the more questions I came up with … like the ones below.

QUESTION:  First, how much does it cost to keep a person in prison?

ANSWER:  According to the Vera Institute of Justice, incarceration costs an average of more than $31,000 per inmate, per year, nationwide.  In some states (New York) it is as much as $60,000.  However, another article stated it cost as much as $167,731 to feed, house and guard each inmate in New York City in 2013 (and that was just in a city jail).  In 2012 there were 12,287 inmates shuffling through the city jails in New York City (but very few of them apparently were murderers).

This page2 (website in footnotes) will provide information for 2015 for 45 states in the U.S. on number of inmates, total cost to the state and average cost per inmate.  I suggest you take a look at it … it may surprise you to find out that in 2015 — 1,288,818 people were in prison or jail; States (rather tax payers of those states) spent a total of $42,883,573,590 (yes more than $42 Billion) in 2015 – which averages about $33,274 per inmate.

For crying out loud … I really wonder how much of this money is going to waste and how much is finding its way into the pockets of those that want us to believe the cost of death is more expensive than the cost of life?

QUESTION:  Why do we spend more money to go to trial when a case is recommended for the death penalty that when a case is recommended for life without parole?

ANSWER:  I have no idea but I would think that all trials involving murder should cost the same and be ran the same.  How unfair is it to the criminal and the victim’s families to spend less on one trial because it is life without parole vs. another that is seeking the death penalty?

QUESTION:  Why on earth would a court sentence a man convicted of 13 murders to 408 years in prison (or in this case change his sentence from death to 408 years).  The person I am speaking of is Robert Lee Yates, Jr. who agreed to plead guilty to get out of the death sentence and settle for the 408 years.  Why couldn’t it have simply been life without parole?  Special Note:  He got the death sentence for two murders and 408 years for the other 13.  His murder spree started in 1975 and this story3 came out in 2014 and he is still on death row because the now governor of Washington has stated he would not sign a death warrant for anyone on death row while he is in office.

Answer:  I have no freaking idea.  Seems to me we could lower cost a lot by simply carrying out the executions in a timelier manner.

QUESTION:  How long, on average, does a person stay on Death Row?

ANSWER:  According to Wikipedia in 2010, a death row inmate waited an average of 178 months (almost 15 years) between sentencing and execution.  It should also be noted that nearly a quarter (25%) of inmates on death row in the U. S. die of natural causes while awaiting execution.  Therefore, all the money spent was truly a waste.  At $33,274 per inmate just the 15 year stay on Death Row – not including the additional costs to prosecute a death row sentence – is close to a half million dollars ($499,110).  Keep in mind this is coming from you tax payer pockets … the government and states pay for NOTHING!  It all comes from US.

QUESTION:  What happens to a prisoner’s money and other assets when he/she goes to jail?

ANSWER:  The prisoner does not have use of it.  Depending on the crime in most cases it is frozen by the government or banking institution.  A follow up question might be … if it is a wealthy person is their money used to support them in prison?  I don’t know the answer but I’d be willing to bet it is “No.”

I mean let’s get serious … if Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, get some prison time for the on-going College Education Admissions Scandal (or any of the people mentioned in this article4), why should tax payers have to foot the bill.  If they can afford to pay $500,000 to get their daughters into college it would seem to me that they could pay their way through prison.  Sure, there will be a fine … but will that find its way to their prison costs?

QUESTION:  Are prisoners paid to work on various projects?

ANSWER:  Yes, and some people are not happy with how little they are paid.  Talk Poverty5 for example feels it is time to stop using inmates for free labor.  This is a story about a Louisiana Sheriff railing against a new prisoner release program because it cost him “free labor from some good inmates he used daily to wash cars, change oil in cars and cook in the kitchen.”  A few days later news broke that 40% of the fire fighters fighting the fires in California was prison inmates working for $2 per hour.  The story goes on to say that more than half the people in prison do work but only make a few cents an hour.  To this I say … so what do they do with it?  They use if for their own personal needs at the “commissary” in the prison.  Why isn’t it being used to help tax payers support them?  It should be noted that most inmates work at their own prison facilities in jobs such as maintenance and food service.  They get paid an average of $0.86 per hour and this is designed primarily to keep the prison running at a low cost – yea right!  You can get a breakdown by state and how much each prisoner can earn by following this link6.  Before you get frustrated over how low it is … remember it does not go to help them pay their cost of being there and regardless of how measly the income is, it also actually paid by taxpayers.

QUESTION:  Is it this bad in other countries?

ANSWER:  That is going to depend on the country, of course, but take a look at Australia.  In 2015 the average cost to put a person behind bars in Australia was $110,000 and incarceration rates are growing rapidly.  There were 36,000 people in prison in Australia in 2015 and that number was up 39% over the past decade.  And talk about special prisons, like a supermax.  Ivan Milat (an Australian serial killer) if imprisoned at Goulburn Supermax for life – according to the daily telegraph the cost would be $824 per day (in 2009) which is $300,760 per year out of tax payers pockets with no way to ever get it back since it is a Supermax and outside work programs do not exist.

QUESTION:  Why do prisoners seem to love prison?

ANSWER:  I have no idea … but according to Bureau of Justice Statistics … An estimated two-thirds (68 percent) of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years.

More than a third (37 percent) of prisoners who were arrested within five years of release were arrested within the first six months after release, with more than half (57 percent) arrested by the end of the first year.  You can read the entire article here7.

Perhaps, and this is just my opinion, since they get three meals a day, a place to sleep and a lot of entertainment (Library, gym, Movies) and no real hard work … they find prison a pretty nice place to live!

I could ask a lot more questions … but already have more questions than I have answers for and the more I think of the more frustrated I become.

My Opinion (and my opinion alone right or wrong)

With a cost of more than $42 billion dollars being robbed from taxpayers to pay for college scam artists, robbers, drug lords, rapists and murderers to live a life in prison – we need reform.

In America we have 327,200,000 people.  Of these there are only 140,900,000 that are paying taxes.  Now even though it is constantly changing at the end of 2016 it was estimated in one of my searches that there was 2,298,300 people in prison in America.  The same article that told me this8 told me the cost to keep them there was $74 Billion (in 2007).  I just love how with modern technology we can’t get any more current than 2007 (or perhaps someone does not want us to get more current).

However, to err on the conservative side I will stick with $42 Billion as a cost.  This means each taxpayer paid an average of almost $300 to keep a person in prison for one year.

While this may not seem like a lot … consider how much you spent assuming a 7% return on capital from age 21 through assumed death at age 85 (64 years).  The answer à $321,239.76 of your money goes to keep some fool in prison so that they can read books, watch movies, get an education and do about anything they want to but real work.

How do we fix this???

First, thing is to reorganize and streamline the court system.  If a person admits guilt … no court … straight to sentencing at that hearing (do not delay it).  Your there … Just do it.  You don’t need to wait weeks or months to get them back on the calendar.

Secondly, if a person admits guilt … absolutely no appeals.  A person admitting guilt does not need an appeal.  They are guilty and at the mercy of the judge on the sentencing.

Third, if the police through interrogation techniques force a person to admit guilt when they are in fact not guilty, then the police doing the interrogating should have to spend some time behind bars.  In other words, if the criminal is expected to tell the truth … the police should not be allowed to lie in the interrogation just to get someone to admit guilt so that they can close the case and send an innocent person to jail and possibly to his or her death.

Fourth, all persons who plead innocent or not guilty and that go to court and are found guilty by a jury of their peers should be allowed to have one (no more) appeal and this appeal must be completed within one year of the original sentencing.  No more stretching these appeals on for years and decades.

Fifth, Jury of Peers should mean exactly that.  A peer is someone at your own level.  Peer comes from the Latin word “par” which means equal. When you are on par with someone, you are their peer.  A laborer with little education, for example, being tried by a jury of professional people with a lot of education is not being tried by a Jury of his peers in my opinion.  Or on the flip side … a doctor on trial for malpractice being heard by a jury of housewives/husbands, plumbers, carpenters and teachers are not being tried by a jury of his/her peers.  There should only be doctors on the jury if it is truly to be a jury of one’s peers.  If not … strike the word peer from the law and simply state they will be “tried by a jury of people from all walks of life.”

Sixth, if one is found guilty of a crime that get them the death penalty, they like everyone else, has one year to make their appeal.  If still found guilty and the death penalty holds … it should be completed within one month after the appeal unless a “stay of execution” or “pardon” is granted by the proper governing body.  Like a pardon there should only be one “stay of execution” allowed.

Seventh, those in jail or prison for more than a week should be required to work and be paid by someone other than the taxpayer when possible.  The more severe the crime would signify if one worked outside the prison or inside the prison.  If working outside the prison, for example on a golf course or employment for U. S. Infrastructure (highway building, etc.), or cleaning or painting commercial buildings and things like this they should be paid minimum wage  by the person or entity doing the hiring … and 90% of that pay should go for their own support of being imprisoned.  They should have the right to keep ten percent for their personal needs while incarcerated.  Harder criminals should do all the work necessary in the prison where they can be more closely monitored at all times.  They should not be paid for any of this work other than a few cents per hour to cover personal needs at the commissary.  A prison should never have to hire a plumber, electrician, painter or any other professional craftsman to keep the prison up to date.  Prisoners are capable of doing the work … and if they refuse … solitary confinement for the rest of their time.  It would also be a good idea for those with light white-collar crimes to be able to serve as apprentices to business people while in prison if capable of being released to work daily.  Many of these white-collar criminals were probably licensed in a profession before going to prison and will not be able to be licensed when released.  They will need to learn a new occupation or trade.  Not everyone in prison is a killer, burglar, drug pusher or rapist.  Which may beg to question why they are even in prison.

  • For example: Why are Bernie Madoff (pyramid scheme) and Bernard Ebbers (Worldcom CEO convicted of Fraud) wasting away in prison at tax payer costs.  Why aren’t they being productive working in some jobs out of prison and using the funds they are paid to pay for the prison costs when they report back in each night.  If they run, find them and put them in solitary confinement for the rest of their lives.  They are not dangerous … they are just a couple of liars that got caught hurting people financially and not physically.  Or look at #8 below …

Eighth, consider prison sentences for only the most hardened criminals.  For example, Martha Stewart should have never had to serve a day in prison for lying to the FBI.  Yes, she should have been punished by fines, probation and community service … but not prison.  A waste of tax-payer money for doing nothing more than her accusers have done in the past … falsifying statements.  All she did was a little insider trading (which most lawmakers in congress do daily).  If a person breaks a law and does not hurt someone else physically chances are pretty good that they never will and could be trusted to stay out of expensive prison and pay for their crimes in some other way.  I’ve had 4 relatives that I know of (and this includes me) who spent some time in jail or prison … none of them did anything to hurt another individual physically.  I believe they should have had some form of punishment … but not prison time.  As for me it was not prison or jail but rather reform school for a very short time when I was about 15 years of age.  (That’s a story for another time).

All these people in the ongoing Education Admittance Scandal are rich beyond most prisons.  Don’t send them to jail.  Make them do hours on end of public service instead.  Or, here’s a good idea … force them to “adopt a prisoner” and pay his/her cost of being in prison until they, themselves retire or run out of money.

As for the death penalty … Some will say the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder.  I say … “If the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder then prison is not a deterrent to crime in general.”  A 77% Recidivism rate within five years should prove this to most sane people.  Why have prison for anyone other than the hardened criminal who can’t be trusted on the streets not to harm other individuals.

It may be time to make the punishment fit the crime.  For example …

  • If you murder, you get murdered in the same way. The death penalty may not be a deterrent to murder … but it will stop it happening again from the same person.
  • If you rape, you get raped then chemically castrated.
  • If you steal, everything (all assets) are taken from you the first time. The second time your hands are taken from you.
  • If you deal drugs and are caught you are given drugs until you overdose because you surely caused someone to die or will cause someone else to die by overdose at some point.
  • If you manufacture drugs and are caught, you are blown up in your meth lab because you surely murdered someone.
  • If it’s a white-collar crime … you do blue collar work the rest of your life at minimum wage after forfeiting your nest egg to those in need.

Yes, I know that list of punishments is silly.  But, so is thinking that the death penalty should cost more than keeping a person in prison for life without parole.  All keeping a person in prison for life without parole does is to allow an “animal” to continue living and to allow some folks outside to have a clean conscience with a heavy cost to the rest of us.  It’s time we get serious about the law and law enforcement in America or we will end up in deep trouble.

I still believe the death penalty, if used properly, is good.  I also know that when it comes to our judicial system a wealthy person has a much better chance of beating it than a poor person … but that is the subject of another article at some point in the future.

Have a great week,

Jerry Nix, FreeWaveMaker, LLC

Foot notes


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