The Real Cost Of The Death Penalty: A Response From Our Reader

In response to the recent conversation about the costs of incarceration and costs of the death penalty, I want to offer the attached report from the Death Penalty Information Center, a  national non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. The website is As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the sister of a murder victim, I find the Death Penalty Information Center particularly helpful in getting past knee-jerk responses and sorting through the complexity of issues surrounding the death penalty. One of the issues they offer analysis on is the cost of the death

penalty Their 2009 report “Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis” indicates that the death penalty is a wasteful public policy. It does little to make us safer. The costs of the death penalty far outweigh those of life without parole. The death penalty wastes money that could be spent on programs that could reduce crime and help crime victims.

From the Executive Summary:

“The death penalty in the U.S. is an enormously expensive and wasteful program with no clear benefits. All of the studies on the cost of capital punishment conclude it is much more expensive than a system with life sentences as the maximum penalty. In a time of painful budget cutbacks, states are pouring money into a system that results in a declining number of death sentences and executions that are almost exclusively carried out in just one area of the country. As many states face further deficits, it is an appropriate time to consider whether maintaining the costly death penalty system is being smart on crime.

The nation’s police chiefs rank the death penalty last in their priorities for effective crime reduction. The officers do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder, and they rate it as one of most inefficient uses of taxpayer dollars in fighting crime. Criminologists concur that the death penalty does not effectively reduce the number of murders. 

Around the country, death sentences have declined 60% since 2000 and executions have declined almost as much. Yet maintaining a system with 3,300 people on death row and supporting new prosecutions for death sentences that likely will never be carried out is becoming increasingly expensive and harder to justify. The money spent to preserve this failing system could be directed to effective programs that make society safer.”

I encourage everyone who has an interest in criminal justice reform, supporting victims, and cutting wasteful spending to take a look at the DPIC website and the various reports it offers.


By: Kristin Froehlich, LCSW

SJS Member Submission


Kristin in the Board President of the Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty. For more information visit

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