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March 5, 2005

The costs of capital (punishment)

A few months ago I noted here a new attentiveness to the extraordinary economic costs of administering a system of capital punishment.  Thanks to How Appealing, I see that the Los Angeles Times, in this fascinating article in Sunday's paper, has calculated that

the California death penalty system costs taxpayers more than $114 million a year beyond the cost of simply keeping the convicts locked up for life and not counting the millions more in court costs needed to prosecute capital cases and hold post-conviction hearings in state and federal courts.

The article then calculates that, with "11 executions spread over 27 years, on a per-execution basis, California and federal taxpayers have paid more than a quarter of a billion dollars for each life taken at state hands."

The LA Times article includes a lot of other interesting California capital sentencing information, including the notable decline in the number of death sentences imposed: "In 1999, [California] juries imposed 42 death sentences.  In 2004, the number dropped to nine."  This datum provides yet more evidence, as detailed previously here and here and here, that the death penalty is in decline.

March 5, 2005 at 09:58 PM | Permalink


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No system on earth is perfect. Is the decision whether to occasionally treat the odd innocent citizen to a state-sponsored death something that we should evaluate in financial terms rather than moral or human rights terms?

Slavery was pretty cost-effective for the south, but we got away from that anyway. www.spiritualdiablog.blogspot.com

Posted by: Paul M. Martin | Mar 26, 2005 5:18:09 PM

I am a career broadcast journalist with a new book on capital punishment based largely on my ten years in Huntsville, Texas as well as related experiences before and after. I have witnessed 185 lethal injections in two states and think some of you reading this might be interested in the book. It's titled WATCHING DEATH: Capital Punishment in America by V. Wayne Sorge. It is available through PublishAmerica.com and other web-based book retailers.


V. Wayne Sorge

Posted by: V. Wayne Sorge | Apr 26, 2005 9:09:36 PM

Thank you. THis is enlightening.

Posted by: C | May 23, 2005 12:20:29 PM

i think that this is very interesting. i am a pupil doing an essay on Capital Punishment and am shocked at my discovery. this website has really helped, thanks

Posted by: melody | Feb 7, 2006 1:33:00 PM

Michael Strimling, a Bay Area attorney is running in the Democratic Primary for Governor of California. The purpose of the candidacy is to have a place to cast a vote against the death penalty, against corporations or billionaires having the benefit of Proposition 13, for schools and against jails, against the war and against wiretapping or any other invasion of privacy.

His candidacy is about issues, not personalities, but by way of biography, he is a graduate of Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley. He first did a research paper on capital punishment as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, 33 years ago.

His website is at www.MichaelStrimling.com We urge you to compare that website to the website of any other candidate, for substance and taking a principled position on the issues.

As far as we are aware, this is the first credible candidate for Governor in California that has taken a principled stand against the death penalty in at least 12 years.

Our email is [email protected]

Posted by: Michael Strimling 2006 | Feb 27, 2006 8:08:56 PM

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Posted by: | Oct 14, 2008 8:34:56 AM

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