The Death Penalty - Is it Cheaper to Keep Inmates Alive?


More and more states are abandoning the death penalty, not because of moral reasons   but because it costs too much. They have found out that it is cheaper to keep death row inmates in prison for life than to execute them. Tens of millions of dollars could be saved in a time when people are losing their jobs and the economy is slowing down.

One of those in favour of banning the death penalty is a Californian judge who has sent nine men to death row. Only one of them has died - of a heart attack in prison. "It's a waste of time and money", says the 82 year old retired judge. "Convicted inmates are on death row for about twenty years. It takes that long for a case to go through the whole system of appeals. It only makes the victims suffer longer".



In 2007 New Jersey banned executions because of money. The state spends about 4 million dollars for every death sentence but hasn't executed anyone since 1963.

Another reason why capital punishment is being discussed is that more and more convicts have been found out to be innocent because of modern DNA testing. The worst cases happened in Illinois around the year 2000. Governor George Ryan banned executions and turned 163 death sentences into life imprisonment when it turned out that some of the accused were innocent.



Death penalty trials are very expensive for many reasons. The lawyers who handle such cases are often more experienced and cost more money. DNA testing also makes a death penalty case more expensive than a normal one. After that costs continue to rise. Inmates must be put into special buildings. More guards are needed.



Many famous Californians have asked Governor Schwarzenegger to get rid of the death penalty in a time when 40 billion dollars are missing in the state budget. But it seems that Schwarzenegger is not prepared to do that soon.

In the meantime the number of death sentences across the country has gone down too, from 284 in 1999 to 111 in 2008. Those in favour of the death penalty say that crime rates have dropped and executions are showing some effect. Abolitionists say that judges and juries are afraid of executing a criminal if future tests may prove them to be innocent.

There are many, however, who will not change their minds and still insist that the death penalty is the only form of justice. They say that capital punishment only costs so much because it takes far too long to execute inmates. But courts argue that you can't go through the whole process so quickly. Everything takes time, especially if your life depends on it.



Related Topics


  • abandon = to do away with, get rid of
  • abolitionist =here: person who says that capital punishment should be forbidden
  • accused = people who are said to have committed a crime
  • appeal = to ask that the decision of a court is changed
  • argue = to give clear reasons about something
  • ban = forbid
  • billion = a thousand million
  • capital punishment = the death penalty
  • convicted = it is proven in court that a person is guilty
  • death row = part of a prison where prisoners are kept who will be punished through execution
  • depend on =here: you need the help of ...
  • drop = to go down
  • especially = more than ever
  • execute = to kill someone as a form of punishment
  • experience = better qualified and with more practise
  • get rid of= do away with
  • guard = a person who looks after prisoners
  • heart attack = when your heart suddenly stops beating
  • however = but
  • in favour of = to be for something
  • inmate = prisoner
  • innocent = not guilty
  • insist = to say over and over again that something is true, even if other people don't think so
  • issue = topic
  • judge = a person who is in control of a court and decides how criminals should be punished
  • justice= the system by which people are judged in courts
  • lawyer = a person who defends someone in court
  • life imprisonment = when a criminal spends his whole life in prison
  • prove = to show that something is true
  • retire = to stop working because you are too old
  • trial =a judge and a jury try to find out if a person is guilty or not
  • victim = here: a person whose relatives have been killed