The death penalty has been fervently debated among people for decades. However, a recent jury decision in South Carolina has brought the topic back into the limelight of social and mainstream media.
Dylann Roof, the 22 year old who brutally executed nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was sentenced to death by a federal jury on Tuesday. His sentence was given in the very city in which he committed his crime.
The trial has reignited the debate of whether the death penalty is ethical or necessary. Death is a highly morbid topic, and the loss of any life is tragic. After research and review, I do believe the death penalty is not necessary in our society, however I am looking at this topic specifically from a fiscal perspective.
Money is what makes our society function. It impacts us every day in large and small ways. We use money to buy food, enjoy entertainment and pay for education, perhaps the biggest way money makes an impact is through our federal spending and distribution of that spending.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, sentencing prisoners to the death penalty is actually more expensive than the alternative: life in prison. This is typically because most inmates sit on death row for 20 years on average before they are executed.
In California, one of the most expensive states in relation to imprisonment costs, keeping someone on death row is increasingly expensive. Glenn Barr, a reporter for Mountain News, writes, “At an annual cost of $137,102, a prisoner who sits on death row for 20 years could cost taxpayers a total of $2,742,040 in that time.”
The typical cost for taxpayers to support a prisoner with life without parole is roughly $90,000 less for taxpayers than supporting a prisoner on death row.
Extra costs for death row prisoners include accommodations such as heavily guarded, segregated cells. Inmates on death row must have multiple guards to keep them secure and properly monitored. According to NBC News, legal costs are also extremely high for death row prisoners:
“They often require extra lawyers; there are strict experience requirements for attorneys, leading to lengthy appellate waits while capable counsel is sought for the accused; security costs are higher, as well as costs for processing evidence.”
In the case of Dylann Roof, we will likely pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more, maybe even millions more, while he waits on death row. The New York Times points out “the verdict confers no certainty that Mr. Roof will ever be put to death.”
It could be a very long time, if ever, before Dylann Roof or many other prisoners on death row will ever actually be put to death. In the meantime, more money will be spent, and the families of the victims will wait in agony.
I do see both sides of the argument; the death penalty could be an efficient system. We only need to fix the process by which it is ran.