The Cost of Life Without Parole - Mountain News : Crime Log

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The Cost of Life Without Parole

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Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2011 9:03 am

When jurors opt for life without parole-known in the justice system as LWOP-rather than the death penalty for convicted defendants, there are financial consequences for taxpayers.

According to statistics provided by the office of California's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, the current annual cost for maintaining an inmate in a state prison is $47,102. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, however, places the number at $44,563.

But the alternative-the death penalty-may cost taxpayers even more. Published reports by both the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and USA Today say it costs an additional $90,000 a year, including the cost of appeals, to house prisoners on death row than in the general inmate population.

But those numbers are not without their doubters, for two principal reasons. First, in its analysis the ACLU notes that in California, prisoners typically spend 20 years on death row before they're executed, their waits extended by mandatory appeals.

Rather than recognize that the political and legal climate in the United States can evolve to reform the appeals process, the ACLU appears to accept the legal status quo, advocating LWOP because its costs are lower.


Second, nowhere in the article does the ACLU acknowledge that as prisoners age and become infirm they can cost taxpayers two to three times as much to house and care for as younger, healthy prisoners, as the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports.

Jonathan C. Holeman and Samuel C. Wright, both convicted recently in a nine-year-old Lake Arrowhead double murder, are both 31 years of age. Using the Legislative Analyst's numbers, if both were sentenced to life without parole and lived to the age of 65, the 34-year cost of housing, feeding and keeping them secure would amount to $1.598 million a piece, without factoring in the effects of inflation.

But $1,612 a year might be eliminated from the annual cost, assuming prisoners who could never be paroled are not enrolled in rehabilitation programs.

However, at an annual cost of $137,102, a prisoner who sits on death row for 20 years could cost taxpayers a total of $2,742,040 in that time.

Adding to the total cost of LWOP is that the California's prison population is aging. According to an Associated Press story published in July 2008, California housed 4,805 inmates 60 and older at the end of 2007, about 3 percent of all prisoners.

A decade earlier, the article states, slightly more than 1 percent of prisoners were in that age bracket. State prison officials expect the number of over-60 inmates to jump by 80 percent by next year, the article says.

Tougher sentencing laws, whose effect is to mandate longer sentences for convicts, are part of the cause.


According to the Legislative Analyst's figures, it currently costs $19,663 to provide security for inmates each year; $12,442 to supply them with health care; $7,214 for prison operations like maintenance and record-keeping; $3,493 for administration; $2,562 to feed inmates, clothe them and provide activities for them, including spiritual programs; $1,612 for rehabilitation programs and $116 in miscellaneous costs.

Some argue it would cost less than incarceration to take at-risk youth and put them through college, and some statistics bear that out.

According to the website, the current total four-year cost to attend the University of Southern California, exclusive of personal expenses, is approximately $175,000, or $43,750 per year.

Depending on how long they live, prisoners on death row may easily cost taxpayers far more than those held behind bars until they die. But in an economy where citizens are demanding efficiency and economies from government at all levels, the possibility of changes in the legal system that could shorten stays on death row and expedite executions no longer seems unrealistic.

No matter how the situation ultimately plays out, those who suffer at the hands of violent criminals are their initial victims. However, after these criminals begin their incarceration, the citizens whose tax dollars support their incarceration for decades become their victims, too.


  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Indy posted at 5:30 pm on Tue, May 8, 2018.

    Indy Posts: 10

    Well written article, thank you Glenn Barr.

  • Ray Wojnar posted at 2:38 pm on Mon, Feb 20, 2017.

    Ray Wojnar Posts: 10

    Let me Tweet @realDonaldTrump to see if we can put everyone of these,so incarcerated,to work for 16 HOURS PER DAY while they wait it out.
     Saudi Arabia seems not to have this problem. They take care of it on Fridays outside the mosque.

  • ac05jn posted at 11:22 pm on Sun, Feb 7, 2016.

    ac05jn Posts: 1

    Shawn_OBrion wrote "On another note, we need to do something about the meth problem in the mountains. It's time to take a hard line on the recycling plant owners who keep buying these stolen goods.
    Someone needs to make a log of every recycling plant owner within an hour of the mountains, and start scrutinizing them fully. I'm sick of all these metal thefts by these scumbag junkies in the mountains, and if law enforcement isn't going to crack down on these methheads, it's time we go after their source of income. "

    to shawn, and to all:
    and then what. put them in prison for $45k/year + police + judge + lawyers + trial + bureaucracy?
    they have a criminal record now; so no one will hire them when they get out.
    has their life improved thus far? has experiencing prison made them happier and more content? are they less likely to be a junkie now?
    or are they trapped in an ever deepening pit of h-ll, in and out of prison for the rest of their life until they either overdose, or kill someone in a botched armed robbery.

    i completely understand and share your resentment for thieves, but your anger is blinding you to simple truths and simple solutions: legalize drugs. ALL OF THEM.

    the "incense of Satan":
    "A man by the name of Rodrigo de Jerez sailed with Columbus on this same voyage, and in November of 1492, saw the natives smoking the same strange leaves that had been gifted. From them, he learned the art of smoking tobacco, and brought it back to Spain. His smoke exhalations frightened everyone, as they believed only the devil could blow smoke from his mouth, and the Spanish Inquisition captured and held him for seven years."

    the “devil’s drink”:
    "Should drinking alcohol be illegal? Even asking that question today seems absurd, but only 75 years ago it was illegal to drink alcohol in the United States.
    I’m talking about Prohibition, of course, which lasted from 1920 to 1933. It was a massive social experiment that failed and is a lesson for us as we think about other victimless crimes like drugs, gambling, and prostitution.
    Prohibition was a massively failed attempt at legislating morality. The government’s role is to protect citizens and their property — not legislate what people are allowed to do for recreation, who they can love, or what kind of s-x they can have.
    We spend billions of dollars a year on “the war on drugs” and have only defeat to show for it. Meanwhile, the police and courts are tied up with people whose only crime was enjoying or selling a recreational drug. They were hurting no one, except possibly themselves. And what business of the government’s is that?"

    just 5 years later,
    "New Billion-Dollar Crop appeared in the February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics Magazine. Just as this article went to press The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 took effect, which effectively killed the hemp industry." because “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men”

    what about 'hard drugs', they're just too dangerous, right?
    "Occasional cocaine use does not typically lead to severe or even minor physical or social problems … a minority of people … use casually for a short or long period, and suffer little or no negative consequences." -WHO

    'Drugs Are Bad, Mmkay" is that why we force-feed them to children?
    Ritalin C14H19NO2
    Cocaine C17H21NO4
    Adderall C9H13N
    Methamphetamine C10H15N

    in the 1980s, when Partnership for a Drug-Free America advertises the claim that 9/10 rats use cocaine until they die.

    meanwhile, Simon Fraser University conducted the same kind of experiment, except the rats were let out of their cages, and allowed to live in a 'rat park' with friends and toys and space to play. can you guess the results?

    "[more] research that supports the result of the Rat Park does exist [1]. Studies have found isolated mice are less resistant to addiction compared to those living in stimulating and social environments [2][3]. Another study found that rats isolated in key parts of their development are more prone to alcohol and amphetamine addiction in adulthood [4]. Based on the latter example, the effects of environment on addiction may be more nuanced that the Rat Park experiment would suggest."

    "Further studies failed to reproduce the original [rat park] experiment's results.[5][6] One of those studies[5] found that both caged and "park" rats showed a decreased preference for morphine" wikipedia suggests this is due to a genetic difference. i suggest it is due to PDFA lying.

    “I think the war on drugs was a flaming, dare I say joke, frankly” -Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins

    this is why america is going bankrupt - everyone is chasing after small-fry desperate and miserable 'scumbag junkies', when they should be after the gangsters in the churches, hospitals, media, and government.
    how much metal will that junkie need for his meth when it only costs as much to buy it as it does to make it. in north vietnam, ~half a pound of marijuana costs about 80 cents.

    everyone is chasing after small-fry - the weak, the helpless, hopeless, and defenseless - i believe, because we men were taught by example to behave this way - on the day of our birth, when we were tied down, raped with a knife, tortured and mutilated.

  • Pam Simon posted at 2:21 pm on Sat, May 23, 2015.

    Pam Simon Posts: 2

    The life penalty without parole is a serious punishment and it seems that is affects the taxpayers as well, not only the criminal. Of course, he might have been defended by a criminal defense attorney like the ones you can see here but if his crime deserved this kind of punishment, sometimes there's nothing you can do. Anyway, interesting article and point of view.

  • Beverly posted at 12:15 am on Fri, Mar 13, 2015.

    Beverly Posts: 12

    Yes i complete accept with the above post. ax payers always pitiful in facing these financial circumstances all the time. Cost of life without payrole is such a sad thing. I do custom essay writing reviews and i really wanted to have the best essay on this topic.

  • Willis Hanna posted at 2:04 am on Wed, Feb 25, 2015.

    Willis Hanna Posts: 48

    The tax payers do have to face a lot of financial burden, but do not ever refrain from paying taxes on time because it might land you in trouble. However, those have some tax related complications should contact a good tax consultant. These days you can approach a finance professional online because from credit consultants debt services Pasadena to tax consultants in California every one has online presence.

  • negruvoda posted at 12:54 am on Mon, Sep 1, 2014.

    negruvoda Posts: 40

    If the person is found guilty, then he should fulfill his sentence. When somebody is judged, he has the possibility to post a bail bond and to be released during the trial. The ExpressBailBonds Company has the best services in this field. This is the only period when the offender is free and he can enjoy his freedom for a short period of time.

  • Shawn_OBrion posted at 3:29 pm on Sun, May 19, 2013.

    Shawn_OBrion Posts: 9

    I really don't understand why a hostel can charge people to sleep in a room with 4, 6 or even 8 bunks, yet prisons accommodate the scum of the earth by giving them a room with only 2 bunks. 

    Also, they need to get rid of weights in prison- let them do pushups and jog- these violent scumbags don't need to be turning into hulks, on equipment paid for by our tax dollars.

    On another note, we need to do something about the meth problem in the mountains. It's time to take a hard line on the recycling plant owners who keep buying these stolen goods.

    Someone needs to make a log of every recycling plant owner within an hour of the mountains, and start scrutinizing them fully. I'm sick of all these metal thefts by these scumbag junkies in the mountains, and if law enforcement isn't going to crack down on these methheads, it's time we go after their source of income.  

  • Carnut posted at 8:25 am on Sun, Apr 14, 2013.

    Carnut Posts: 2

    We need to build more prisons that will accommodate life sentences and stop releasing prisoners back into society that are likely to harm others. (AB-109) New prisons can be built to run with less operating cost, including health care.

  • CHampshire posted at 4:55 pm on Tue, Oct 23, 2012.

    CHampshire Posts: 19

    I'm hoping the guy that killed my daughter by drinking and driving gets life with no parole. It's a horrible life in prison. You really have to watch your back.

  • Mountain Mates posted at 10:22 am on Thu, Apr 26, 2012.

    Mountain Mates Posts: 2

    The prison system needs to revise the health care program for prisoners. At the current time prisoners have better coverage than the average American.

  • Kelly posted at 7:45 am on Wed, Nov 9, 2011.

    Kelly Posts: 1

    It's discusting it takes that much to keep them alive. I make less than $20,000
    a year and I live very well! The cost of a bullet is about $1.00 each.
    Shoot them both in the head and get it over with!!!!!!!!!!