A bill that Idaho Governor Brad Little signed into law in March 2023, authorizing the use of the firing squad as a method of execution, went into effect on July 1, 2023. This law grants the director of Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) the authority to determine if lethal injection is available and, if deemed unavailable, to carry out the execution by firing squad.

Included in the new law is an estimated cost of $750,000 to renovate a cell block at Idaho Maximum Security Institution suitable for the new execution method. According to Senator Doug Ricks (R-Rexburg) a co-sponsor of the bill, much of this cost stems from “the mandatory area so observers can witness an execution… If that was not there, it’d be much, probably less expensive….” Critics argue that the increased cost will hurt taxpayers in the long-term, but Ricks claims the bill does not increase IDOC spending. He argues that since Idaho taxpayers already pay approximately $36,500 a year to house each death row prisoner, many for more than two decades, the one-time renovation cost, already in the IDOC budget, represents a fraction of what taxpayers spend on lengthy appeals processes and prison sentences. 

Death penalty cost analysis from two of Idaho’s neighboring states, Washington and Oregon, however, demonstrate an increase in all costs associated with using capital punishment. The study from Washington state, released in 2015, reviewed 17 years of data and concluded that the average capital case cost $3.1 million, compared to $2 million spent to pursue a non-capital case. Using 13 years of data, the Oregon study, released in 2016, concluded that the average costs of a death penalty case neared $2.6 million, while the pursuit of a non-capital case cost on average $1.7 million. There is also an erroneous belief that life imprisonment costs more than the death penalty. A 2017 study prepared for the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, that used 16 years of data, determined that across the country, seeking a death sentences costs, on average, $700,000 more than seeking a life sentence. Deborah Denno, an expert on capital punishment and law professor at Fordham University told the Idaho Statesman that she does not “know how anybody could possibly argue with these statistics or even question them at all. It’s across the board, across the country, different states, but across different times, too, given the length-of-time cost studies conducted.”

In 2014, Idaho researchers attempted to study the economic costs of the state’s death penalty but were unable to address the true costs associated with it because of limited data. Rakesh Mohan, the director of Idaho Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations wrote that “collecting comprehensive data would require a considerable amount of effort and resources for stakeholders but would likely not result in anything different than what we already know from national and other states’ research.” His office’s study found that capital cases take longer than non-capital cases because of the complex statutory requirements. Idaho has not carried out an execution in over a decade and many critics question how the state uses taxpayer dollars to maintain capital punishment. The public is generally unaware of how this money is spent, and according to Ritchie Eppink, an Idaho civil rights attorney, “regardless of one’s views on the death penalty, the public should be able to weigh in on this and weigh in on this in a fully informed way, which [they’re] still not able to do.”