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Costly

The death penalty costs more to implement than sentences of life in jail without parole. At a time when Kentucky’s government is experiencing a financial crisis–causing it to cut your services–does it make sense for your tax dollars to be squandered in this way?

  • “The Death Penalty Information Center study found that death penalty costs can average $10 million more per year per state than life sentences. Increased costs include higher security needs and guaranteed access to an often lengthy pardon and appellate process.” [CNN]
  • “The state Department of Public Advocacy estimates that Kentucky spends as much as $8 million a year prosecuting, defending and incarcerating death-row inmates, even as state-ordered budget cuts impair other aspects of the judicial branch of government.” [Louisville Courier-Journal]
  • “[Former Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph] Lambert said death-penalty cases often become ‘legal monsters,’ and that while a decision about whether to abolish capital punishment is a ‘political question … it’s impossible to streamline death-penalty litigation to justify the cost, because doing so would dramatically increase the risk of wrongful executions.’” [Louisville Courier-Journal]
  • “States waste millions of dollars on winning death penalty verdicts, which require an expensive second trial, new witnesses and long jury selections. Death rows require extra security and maintenance costs.There is also a 15-to-20-year appeals process, but simply getting rid of it would be undemocratic and would increase the number of innocent people put to death. Besides, the majority of costs are in the pretrial and trial. According to the organization, keeping inmates on death row in Florida costs taxpayers $51 million a year more than holding them for life without parole. North Carolina has put 43 people to death since 1976 at $2.16 million per execution. The eventual cost to taxpayers in Maryland for pursuing capital cases between 1978 and 1999 is estimated to be $186 million for five executions.” [The New York Times]
  • “Kentucky is spending millions of dollars each year on a capital-punishment system so ineffective that more death-row inmates are dying of natural causes than are being executed.” [Louisville Courier-Journal]
  • “Studies show that administering the death penalty is even more expensive than keeping someone in prison for life. The intensive jury selection, trials and appeals required in capital cases can take over a decade and run up a huge tab for the state. Death row, where prisoners facing execution are kept in separate cells under intense observation, is also immensely costly.” [The Economist]
  • Since 1976 Kentucky has spent more than $100 million to maintain a death penalty system that has executed three people. [Testimony of Ed Monahan, public advocate, given to Kentucky Judiciary Committee in August 2009]
  • From “The Cost of the Death Penalty in Maryland”: “An average capital-eligible case in which prosecutors did not seek the death penalty will cost approximately $1.1 million over the lifetime of the case. A capital-eligible case in which prosecutors unsuccessfully sought the death penalty will cost $1.8 million and a capital-eligible case resulting in a death sentence will cost approximately $3 million. In total, we forecast that the lifetime costs to Maryland taxpayers of these capitally-prosecuted cases will be $186 million.” [Urban Institute]

For more evidence that Kentucky’s death penalty is costly, read our blog.



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