POLITICS

This State's Review Of The Death Penalty Reveals The Shocking Cost Of Executing A Prisoner

An audit conducted by the state of Nevada shows the cost of death penalty cases is nearly twice as much as murder cases where a lesser penalty is sought.

The audit, which focused on 28 murder cases in two Nevada counties between 2000 and 2012, concluded that the death penalty costs about $532,000 more than non-death penalty cases. The report cited the additional time and resources needed when the death penalty is sought as reasons for the escalated cost.

"These cases are more costly because there are procedural safeguards in place to ensure the sentence is just and free from error," the audit stated.

Despite striving for conclusions that are "just and free from error," a 2014 study that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said about one in 25 people imprisoned under a death sentence is likely innocent.

As the Las Vegas Sun pointed out, auditors Paul Townsend and Dan Crossman told Nevada lawmakers the new report's findings are likely limited because some government agencies are hesitant to provide documentation about death penalty cases.

Nevada is just one of several states where the high cost of pursuing the death penalty has been acknowledged. Amnesty International rounded up some findings from the last decade on the cost of pursuing the death penalty in different states, including Maryland, where a single death penalty case can cost up to $3 million more than a non-death penalty case, according to a 2008 report.

Another 2008 report, from the California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice, determined that the state of California could save millions annually by abolishing the death penalty. The report found that changing the sentence of death row inmates to lifetime incarceration would have little impact on the inmates themselves, only changing the location where they would serve their sentences. The change could save the state $27 million dollars each year.

Support for the death penalty has dropped by 23 percent since 1996, according to a February 2014 Pew Research poll. According to the AP, Department of Corrections officials say there are currently 81 inmates on Nevada's death row, and the state hasn't executed a prisoner since 2006.

See the Nevada death penalty audit here.

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BEFORE YOU GO

  • Lethal Injection
    Until 2010, most states used a three-drug combination: an anesthetic (pentobarbital or sodium thiopental), a paralytic agent
    AP
    Until 2010, most states used a three-drug combination: an anesthetic (pentobarbital or sodium thiopental), a paralytic agent (pancuronium bromide) to paralyze the muscle system, and a drug to stop the heart (potassium chloride). Recently, European pharmaceutical companies have refused to sell drugs to the U.S. for use in lethal injections, requiring states to find new, untested alternatives.
  • Gas Chamber
    Gas chambers, like this one pictured at the former Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo., were first used in the
    AP
    Gas chambers, like this one pictured at the former Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo., were first used in the U.S. in 1924. In the procedure, an inmate is sealed inside an airtight chamber which is then filled with toxic hydrogen cyanide gas. Oxygen starvation ultimately leads to death, but the inmate does not immediately lose consciousness.
  • Electric Chair
    The first electric chair was used in 1890. Electrodes attached to an inmate's body deliver a current of electricity. Sometime
    AP
    The first electric chair was used in 1890. Electrodes attached to an inmate's body deliver a current of electricity. Sometimes more than one jolt is required.
  • Hanging
    Hanging was used as the primary method of execution in the U.S. until the electric chair's invention in 1890. Death is typica
    AP
    Hanging was used as the primary method of execution in the U.S. until the electric chair's invention in 1890. Death is typically caused by dislocation of the vertebrae or asphyxiation, but in cases when the rope is too long, the inmate can sometimes be decapitated. If too short, the inmate can take up to 45 minutes to die.
  • Firing Squad
    This Old West-style execution method dates back to the invention of firearms. In a typical scenario in the U.S., the inmate i
    AP
    This Old West-style execution method dates back to the invention of firearms. In a typical scenario in the U.S., the inmate is strapped to a chair. Five anonymous marksmen stand 20 feet away, aim rifles at the convict's heart, and shoot. One rifle is loaded with blanks.
  • Beheading
    Decapitation has been used in capital punishment for thousands of years. Above is the chopping block used for <a href="http:/
    Wikimedia Commons
    Decapitation has been used in capital punishment for thousands of years. Above is the chopping block used for beheadings at the Tower of London.
  • Guillotine
    Invented in France in the late 18th century during the French Revolution, the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/
    Kauko via Wikimedia Commons
    Invented in France in the late 18th century during the French Revolution, the guillotine was designed to be an egalitarian means of execution. It severed the head more quickly and efficiently than beheading by sword.
  • Hanging, Drawing and Quartering
    A punishment for men convicted of high treason,<a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/171149/drawing-and-quarteri
    Wikimedia Commons
    A punishment for men convicted of high treason, "hanging, drawing and quartering" was used in England between the 13th and 19th centuries. Men were dragged behind a horse, then hanged, disemboweled, beheaded, and chopped or torn into four pieces.
  • Slow Slicing
    Also called <a href="http://www.pratyeka.org/books/australian-in-china/" target="_blank">"death by a thousand cuts,"</a> this
    Carter Cutlery/Wikimedia Commons
    Also called "death by a thousand cuts," this execution method was used in China from roughly A.D. 900 until it was banned in 1905. The slicing took place for up to three days. It was used as punishment for treason and killing one's parents.
  • Boiling Alive
    <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1333751/boiling" target="_blank">Death by boiling</a> goes back to the fir
    Wikimedia Commons
    Death by boiling goes back to the first century A.D., and was legal in the 16th century in England as punishment for treason. This method of execution involved placing the person into a large cauldron containing a boiling liquid such as oil or water.
  • Crucifixion
    <a href="http://civilliberty.about.com/od/capitalpunishment/ig/Types-of-Executions/Death-by-Crucifixion.htm" target="_blank">
    Wikimedia Commons
    Crucifixion goes back to around the 6th century B.C.used today in Sudan. For this method of execution, a person is tied or nailed to a cross and left to hang. Death is slow and painful, ranging from hours to days.
  • Burning Alive
    Records show societies <a href="http://iws.collin.edu/mbailey/hammurabi's%20laws.htm" target="_blank">burning criminals alive
    Pat Canova via Getty Images
    Records show societies burning criminals alive as far back as the 18 century B.C. under Hammurabi's Code of Laws in Babylonia. It has been used as punishment for sexual deviancy, witchcraft, treason and heresy.
  • Live Burial
    Execution by burial goes back to 260 B.C. in ancient China, when 400,000 were reportedly buried alive by the Qin dynasty. Dep
    Antoine Wiertz/Wikimedia Commons
    Execution by burial goes back to 260 B.C. in ancient China, when 400,000 were reportedly buried alive by the Qin dynasty. Depending on the size of the coffin (assuming there is one), it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours for a person to run out of oxygen.
  • Stoning
    This ancient method of execution continues to be <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/25/us-afghanistan-rights-idU
    Wikimedia Commons
    This ancient method of execution continues to be used as punishment for adultery today.
  • Crushing By Elephant
    This method was commonly used for many centuries in South and Southeast Asia, in which an <a href="http://books.google.no/boo
    Wikimedia Commons
    This method was commonly used for many centuries in South and Southeast Asia, in which an elephant would crush and dismember convicts as a punishment for treason.
  • Flaying
    Records show <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=pFYy5fcvfMoC&pg=PA116&lpg=PA116&dq=punishment+skinning+alive&source=bl
    Michelangelo/Wikimedia Commons
    Records show flaying, the removal of skin from the body, was used as far back as the 9th century B.C.
  • Impalement
    Records show this execution practice used as far back as the 18th century B.C., where a <a href="http://books.google.com/book
    Wikimedia Commons
    Records show this execution practice used as far back as the 18th century B.C., where a person is penetrated through the center of their body with a stake or pole.