COSTS: Nevada Senate Approves Bill to Study Death Penalty Costs

On May 28, the Nevada Senate passed a bill authorizing an audit of the cost of the state’s death penalty. By a vote of 11-10, the Senate called for the legislative auditor to compare the costs of prosecution and appeals in capital cases to non-death penalty cases, examining the cost of defense lawyers, juries, psychiatric evaluations, appellate and post-conviction proceedings. The auditor would also examine the cost of an execution, including the costs of facilities and staff. The report would be due Jan. 31, 2013. Nevada has not had an execution since April 2006, and has 77 inmates on death row. The bill originally called for a moratorium on executions, but prison officials said they did not presently have the drugs to carry out an execution anyhow. The bill now goes back to the Assembly.

(C. Ryan, “Lawmakers advance bill to conduct audit on death penalty costs,” Las Vegas Sun, May 28, 2011).

Other states have studied the costs of their capital punishment systems and found that implementing the death penalty is very expensive. A report from the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice estimated the annual costs of the death penalty system to be $137 million per year. A New Jersey Policy Perspectives study found that the state’s death penalty cost taxpayers $253 million since 1983, a figure that is over and above the costs that would have been incurred had the state utilized a sentence of life without parole instead of death. Finally, a study in Kansas found that investigation costs for death-sentence cases were about 3 times greater than for non-death cases, and trial costs for death cases were about 16 times greater than for non-death cases. See Costs.