Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CNN off by a factor of at least 10,000 on execution costs

CNN.com had this bit at the end of a story last week:
Texas, which has executed more prisoners since 1976 than any other state, pays $86.08 to execute a death row inmate, or the cost of drugs used in a lethal injection, the state's Division of Criminal Justice reports. That compares to the $17,338, on average, that it costs to jail a Texas inmate for 12 months, according to 2009 data from the National Institute of Corrections, which is below the national yearly average of $28,689.
Of course, executions actually cost a lot of money, primarily because of the legal process involved in a capital case. There's a fair amount of state-level research on this. It's reviewed in a 2009 report by the Death Penalty Information Center, Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis. It's hard to put an exact number on it, but executions cost millions, if not tens of millions, each. (The numbers get particularly high in the states that have executed few people.)

Texas is likely at the low end, if not the lowest, for cost per execution. But even there, execution is almost certainly more expensive than life in prison.


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