Dr. Ernie Goss, professor of economics at Creighton University, and author of studies for a conservative think-tank founded by Governor Pete Ricketts, said today he was surprised when his study revealed how expensive the death penalty is compared to life in prison.
At a news conference today in Lincoln, Dr. Goss presented a study that revealed Nebraska’s maintenance of the death penalty cost the state, in 2015 dollars, approximately $14.6 million annually above what the state’s cost for life without parole would be, and each additional death penalty arraignment costs the state almost $1.5 million, also in 2015 dollars.
“Through our study, we show that the State of Nebraska has spent $14.6 million annually by having the death penalty. These are costs above and beyond the costs of having life without parole,” Goss said. “To put it in other words, if the death penalty stays repealed and we leave in place life imprisonment, the state will save approximately $14.6 million annually.”
“There are five main parts of capital cases that make the death penalty so much more expensive than life without the possibility of parole. These are: defense costs, pre-trial costs, court length, incarceration, and then decades of appeals,” Goss said.“I am confident in our findings that the state would save $14.6 million annually if the death penalty is replaced with life imprisonment with no chance of parole. Our study analyzed comprehensive data from U.S. Census data on justice expenses by state, and also used the economic process of meta-analysis, which equipped us with the data from over 19 studies.
These methods gave us sophisticated and statistically rigorous results about Nebraska costs.” Goss said. “As a matter of economics, our study shows that the death penalty is costing Nebraska an extra $14.6 million annually,” he said.
Other conclusions from the study:
Between 1973 and 2014, there were 1,842 murders in the State of Nebraska.
Of these, prosecutors obtained 281 first degree murder convictions.
Of these, prosecutors sought the death penalty (DP) in only 119 cases, or approximately 2.9 cases per year, resulting in only 33 death sentences.
Of Nebraska’s 33 individuals sentenced to death.
Nebraska courts commuted 13 sentences.
Six individuals died in prison.
One individual’s sentence was vacated.
Three individuals were executed, the last in 1997.
Attorneys are currently appealing 10 sentences.
The Executive Summary and the entire study is available to download at RetainAJustNebraska.com
Ernie Goss, Ph.D., is the Jack MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University and is the initial director for Creighton’s Institute for Economic Inquiry. He is also principal of the Goss Institute in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Goss was a visiting scholar with the Congressional Budget Office for 2003-04, and was appointed by the Nebraska Attorney General to head a task force examining gasoline pricing in the state in 2005. He served as a faculty research fellow with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1991 and 1992. Dr. Goss has conducted studies for the Platte Institute for Economic Research, a free market research and educational think tank, founded in 2008 by Pete Ricketts, now Governor of Nebraska.
Retain a Just Nebraska is a public education campaign to urge the retention of LB 268, the Nebraska Legislature’s vote to end the death penalty. Supporters include fiscal conservatives, law enforcement officials, faith leaders, murder victims’ families, and Nebraskans from all walks of life. It is a statewide coalition conducting public education on the smart alternative of life in prison without parole, which protects society without the many problems of our death penalty system.
Paid for by Retain a Just Nebraska, 440 Regency Pkwy, Suite 234, Omaha NE 68124