In the United States, the death penalty is an enormously wasteful and expensive program that has no clear benefits whatsoever. All the studies done in regard to capital punishment costs conclude that the program is far much expensive than life sentence systems, as the maximum penalty. During the painful cutbacks of the budget, many states in America are pouring more financial resources into a system that leads to a reducing figure of executions and death sentences that are exclusively done in specific regions of the state. Many states in America are facing further deficits, and it is, therefore, a proper moment to consider whether sustaining the death penalty system that is so costly is smart on crime (Dieter). Hence, this paper will try to answer the question “does the death penalty affect the American economy?”
Defending a death penalty is very costly in America, and it costs four times as protecting a case where the demise fine is not sought. The cost of defense, according to a study by Judicial Council in Kansas, averages from $395,762 per case. When the case of the capital punishment is not sought, the amount is estimated to $98,963. Death penalty cases spend much time as well compared to other cases, and this also affects the economy (Fava). In average, the trials of the jury are 40.13 days in cases where the death penalty is being sought, and when it is not an option, it is estimated at only 16.79 days. Kansas Supreme Court Justices were assigned to give their opinions, and they estimated spending twenty times more hours on appeals of the death penalty than on appeals of non-death. Housing death row prisoners costs $ 49,380 which is more than twice annually as compared to prisoners in general whose cost is $24,690 annually.
These costs on the death penalty program are very high and have a great impact on the American economy. Using too much money for the death row cases will lead to a negative effect on the taxpayers. The police in America rank the cases on the capital punishment last in their key priorities of reducing crime effectively. The government defends the maintenance of death penalty cases by claiming that it assists in reducing future crime. However, the police do not believe that the capital punishment can act as a strategy to deter murder. They rate this approach as one of the inefficient ways of using taxpayer dollars in the name of fighting crime. Criminologists also concur that the approach of the death penalty does not reduce murder effectively.
Since 2000, death sentences have reduced to 60% and the executions have become less as well. However, it is becoming harder for the United States to justify, and becoming increasingly expensive to support 3,300 individuals who are on death row and also giving support to new prosecutions for capital punishments that probably will never be carried out. The money the American government uses to preserve this system (that is considered failing) could be used for other effective programs that would enhance the economy and make the society safe (Levy, Leonard, Kenneth, Karst, and Adam).
A study on the death penalty costs in Colorado showed that capital proceedings need much more days in the court and take a longer time resolving than cases of life without parole (LWOP). General cases use at the mean 24.5 days while death penalty cases need 147.6 days to complete. Jury selection in the LWOP case can take a whole day and a half; however, jury selection in a capital case can take up to 26 days. The comparative time used in charging a defendant in LWOP case to the final sentencing is 526 days to complete. Cases of death take almost four years longer amounting up to 1,902 days. This clearly shows that death penalty cases consume more time and money, and this is not safe for the economy. That time could be used to do better things like working on other available cases to reduce the time and also reduce the use of government resources (Dieter).
Maintaining the death penalty in the states of America especially those that rarely use the program is becoming more costly. In the year 2005, the death penalty in California was estimated to cost the taxpayers almost $114 million annually in comparison to the cost of incarcerating life prisoners. The amount of the death penalty differs from state to state in America; however, it is more expensive in the United States than the life imprisonment punishment even without the parole prospect.
The funds used in death penalty cases can have a more significant effect on the rate of murder if they were put towards increasing the apprehension probability and policing, rather than the death penalty application afterwards (Macaulay, Stewart, Friedman, and John).
It is obvious that the high cost in cases of the death penalty is quite complicated especially reflecting on the involved stakes. The selection of the jury is more involved thus making the cases more complicated and longer. There are also many more motions that are filed by the defense and other States, and also thorough, intensive use of investigators and experts. Besides, there are also extensive appeals in federal and state courts if the conviction is obtained.
Individuals who are on assessment for their life should create an energetic defense since the appellate process and detailed trial in cases of death penalties have grown out of alarm for justice and the consequences of a conviction that is a mistake. Such kind of protection is not cheap for anyone, and therefore large sums of money are required.
Financial resources are insufficient, and it is important to ask whether the death penalty is a good and wise idea with the scarce resources that could be of more use in reducing and preventing crime effectively. People wonder at what stage and why the process of the capital punishment is expensive. The major upfront expenses result from more pre-trial time, pre-trial motions, hiring of experts, twice as many attorneys for the defense, individual interviewing of jurors, longer trials, and two trials instead of one.
The criminal justice system is facing the same financial downturns just like other economic sectors in America. The departments of police are cutting back, employees of the state being furloughed, trials being put on hold as public defenders, and courts run out of finances and prisoners being released before their time. The system of justice was already overburdened even before adding the high costs of death penalties that are pushing the system to the point of breaking (Dieter).
On the general and state point, there are efforts to remove government programs that are not working, and address the deficits through layoff programs, government services for shorter hours and higher fees. However, so far the death penalty has for the most part escaped the scalpel of budgetary. Large resources are used by capital punishment on few cases, and they have little to show for it. Due to the above reason, the Colorado legislature decided on one vote to pass the bill and remove the system of the death penalty and instead use the money saved to solve other cases.
It is obvious that the States using millions of dollars on death penalty cases are the same facing severe cutbacks in other areas of justice. This reason has led to delay in trials, courts being opened less and police being furloughed. It is true that doing away with death penalties does not mean that all the problems will be solved. However, the savings will be very significant, and the money can be used in funding the justice department for additional workers so as to secure a better society.
To sum everything up, it can be stated that although the issue of death penalty is rather controversial, the research has shown that it really has a negative effect on the American economy. Many states are going through shortfalls of budget, and it is inevitable to cut the state spending. It is, however, clear that doing away with systems of the death penalty can result in more savings that can be used in solving some of these financial problems. As a matter of fact, death penalty cases do not reduce crime in the future, but encourage more use of state resources and time which would have been used to cater for more important things in the society.
Dieter, Richard C. SMART ON CRIME: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in A Time of Economic Crisis. PDF. Washington DC: Death Penalty Information Center, 2009
Fava, G.a.. “Physicians, Medical Associations and Death Penalty.” Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 69.5 (2000): 231-231. Print.
Levy, Leonard W., Kenneth L. Karst, and Adam Winkler. Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000. Print.
Macaulay, Stewart, Lawrence Meir Friedman, and John A. Stookey. Law & society: readings on the social study of law. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1995. Print.