Cost Savings

All studies conducted on the cost of the death penalty have concluded that a death penalty system is more expensive than a system handling similar cases with a lesser punishment, such as life without parole.

Delaware Repeal believes that the millions of dollars being spent on the death penalty in the state should be redirected. We believe that the death penalty should be repealed and that the savings should be put toward improving services for victims of crime, especially victims who have lost a loved one to murder. Savings should also be redirected to improve public safety.

Did You Know?

Police chiefs consider the death penalty the least efficient use of taxpayers’ money to reduce violent crime. They prefer training for police officers, community policing, programs for drug and alcohol abuse, and neighborhood watch programs.

Death Penalty Cases Cost More

Many people are surprised by this information. How can housing someone in prison for 20, 30, or even 50 years cost less than executing them? The answer is, when analyzing the costs of the death penalty, one must look at the cost of the system as a whole.

Death penalty cases cost more than other murder cases the moment the prosecutor decides to try the murder as a capital case. Most of the cost of the death penalty cases come up front, at lengthy trials and appeals, while life imprisonment cases are costly over a range of an inmate’s life (the average is approximately 40 years).

Another factor is that the cost of the prosecution (and usually the defense) is paid by the state even if the accused is found not guilty, or if a conviction is overturned on appeal, or a sentence is eventually reduced to life without parole.

In reality, only a very small number of death penalty cases ever result in an execution. But the cost of pursuing the death penalty is paid up front, as many as 20 or 30 years before an execution is carried out.

Cost Estimates

The facts below were prepared by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty:

  • Various state governments estimate that a single death penalty case, from the point of arrest to execution, ranges from $1 million to $3 million per case.
  • Other studies have estimated the cost to be as high as $7 million per case.
  • Cases resulting in life imprisonment average around $500,000 each, including incarceration cost.
  • 82% of cases where the prosecution seeks the death sentence are converted to life without parole, meaning that they accrue death penalty-like trial costs and all the costs of a life sentence in the end.
  • In Texas, where the death penalty system is “most efficient,” in that the highest percentage of cases that seek the death penalty actually end with execution, the state still estimates an average additional cost of $2.3 million per case for the death penalty cases.
  • In North Carolina, a study showed that the average cost per case for a system with a maximum penalty of death was $2.16 million.

Amnesty International also publishes extensive information on the cost of the death penalty.

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