Life in prison: Less expensive than the death penalty?

State budgets increase due to Executions


(Courtesy: WCBD)
(Courtesy: WCBD)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The defense team for Dylann Roof made it very clear this week. Their client wants to keep his life, even if it’s behind bars.

Lawyers told the court Roof would plead guilty to all charges to a sentence of life without parole.

The solicitor, Scarlett Wilson, said she will seek the death penalty.

“I can’t imagine a more appropriate case for the state to seek the death penalty,” former attorney general for South Carolina, Charlie Condon, said.

A Columbia School of Law study found executions cost between $2.5 and $5 million. A sentence of life without parole costs less than a million dollars.

“If you let cost be the depository factor, that leaves aside what the court should be about,” Condon said.  “Justice can be very expensive.”

Some states have decided it’s just too expensive.  New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007. The state spent $254 million over 21 years with executing a single person.  New Mexico followed in 2009.  In August of this year, Connecticut’s highest court ruled the death penalty is unconstitutional.

Right now there are 43 inmates awaiting death in South Carolina. The last was executed in 2011.


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