The death penalty is a highly costly and highly ineffective government program.
As a Cuban immigrant who lost everything to the Castro government when my family and I refused to denounce our Catholic faith, I am indebted to the United States for its generosity and the freedoms it has extended to me. I, thus, am honored to have served the Department of Defense (US Navy and the US Army) for 23 years in my capacities as an engineer, a principal investigator, and project director. I firmly believe that this country gets so much right; sadly, its continued use of capital punishment is an exception.
As part of my role as a Project Director in the US Army, I managed multi-million dollar budgets and was responsible for identifying financial inefficiencies. Every cost study I have seen conducted on the death penalty* concludes that the death penalty far exceeds the cost of alternative punishments, such as life without parole. We must, therefore, ask ourselves if this is the best way to spend our taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. Particularly at this time when our state and national leaders work to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, we confront the reality that the millions of dollars we would save by ending the use of the death penalty could increase the amount of available emergency management funds or can be redirected to other more fiscally responsible investments.
Public safety is unquestionably a primary role of government. However, when 29 people have been exonerated and released from Florida’s death row since 1973, we must wonder if we can trust the government with executing the most extreme of sentences. The alternative sentence of life without parole can protect society at a lower cost burden to taxpayers and maintains the possibility of correcting mistakes. In the words of Juan Melendez, exoneree from Florida’s death row, “We can always release an innocent man from prison, but we can never release an innocent man from the grave.”
Collins, Peter et al. “An Analysis of the Economic Costs of Seeking the Death Penalty in Washington State.” Seattle University, 2016.
Idaho Legislature Office of Performance Evaluations. “Financial Costs of the Death Penalty.” Evaluation Report 14-02, 2014.
Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau. “Performance Audit: Fiscal Costs of the Death Penalty.” 2014.
Petersen, Nicholas and Mona Lynch. “Prosecutorial Discretion, Hidden Costs, and the Death Penalty: The Case of Los Angeles County.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 2012.
Death Penalty Information Center, “Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis.” 2009.
Cook, Philip. “Potential Savings from the Abolition of the Death Penalty in North Carolina.” American Law and Economics Review, 2009.
“New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission Report.” 2007
American Bar Association. “Evaluating Fairness and Accuracy in State Death Penalty Systems: The Florida Death Penalty Assessment Report.” 2006.
S.V. Date, “The High Price of Killing Killers.” Palm Beach Post, January 4, 2000.
Cook, Philip and Donna Slawson. “The Costs of Processing Murder Cases in North Carolina.” Duke University, 1993.
María C. Knoll, Ph.D., FADP Treasurer, is a retired Project Director for the US Army and former Program Management college professor for the University of Phoenix. A graduate of the University of Miami as a computer engineer, Dr. Knoll earned her doctorate in Industrial Engineering with a concentration in management from the University of Central Florida.
To find out more about FADP’s Board of Directors and why they support ending the death penalty, please visit Who We Are