Death Penalty Cost

Have you ever considered what it costs to carry out an execution? Have you given thought to the fact that you and I pay for our fellow citizens to be executed? That’s right, it is tax payer money which makes it possible to take the life of a convicted prisoner.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons spent nearly $4.7 million dollars on the five executions carried in July and August 2020. With an average annual federal incarceration cost of $37,449.00, the burden to U.S. taxpayers for each execution exceeded the price tag of incarcerating a federal prisoner for 25 years.

Source: ACLU


Book Review – The Sunflower

“The Sunflower – On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness”

by Simon Wiesenthal

Mr. Wiesenthal, a Jew, was a prisoner in concentration camps during WWII. He was treated inhumanely and saw this family killed or starved to death. One day a dying SS soldier who had murdered Jewish families asked him for forgiveness.  

It seems that Wiesenthal was haunted by his response. He wrote this story in “The Sunflower” asking “what would you have done?” He searches for answers from people of many faiths and backgrounds. He is answered by over fifty individuals including Desmond Tutu, Harold Kushner, and the Dalai Lama. 

The answers given vary from emotional, heartfelt, to very intellectual.  The discussion is enlightening on many levels. I recommend Wiesenthal’s book and the responses by those he sought out – theologians, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, political leaders, former prisioners of war, writers and others – to answer his unrelenting question on forgiveness. You will never forget it. 


“The Sunflower” was originally written in France in 1969. It has been translated, revised and had the symposium added at later dates. Wiesenthal died in 2005 at the age of 96.


Sunflower photo by Pixabay


United States

There are over 2,000,000 people incarcerated in the US. This country has 5% of the earth’s population but 25% of those incarcerated. At least 2,500 children under the age of eighteen are in prison for life without the possibility of parole. 


Kentucky is seventh in the US for the number of people in prison. Thirteen percent of children in KY have a parent incarcerated compared to the national average of 7%. At this time there are  24,000 inmates in thirteen prisons, one which is privately run. The annual cost per prisoner is $25,594.

Of note, from 1985 to 2015 the overall crime rate declined by 19 percent, but during that same 30-year period the number of prisoners rose by 271 percent!


It’s called Department of Corrections, but is that a misnomer? Can we say there is “correction” when the recidivism rate is 35-40% and by the ninth year as high as 80%?


What is the purpose of locking people in prison for years? Four possible motives for incarceration include:

  1. Retribution and punishment
  2. Incapacitation
  3. Deterrence
  4. Rehabilitation

If #1 how long is long enough? For #2 being locked away is the only answer. Number three indicates that the threat of prison prevents crime, but if that is so why do we have more people in prison than ever before? How much rehabilitation (#4) actually happens in prison? How does it happen?

It is easy to take imprisonment for granted. People commit crimes. People pay. It is not that simple. Each case, judge, jury and parole board is different. There is no “one size fits all” in corrections. 

We will discuss this subject further in the next posts.     

1 of 3 on this topic


“America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.” George W. Bush


The SOURCE of most of this information is a class at Bellarmine University taught by Gaye Holman, Author, “Decades Behind Bars: A Twenty-year Conversation with Men in America’s Prisons.”

Photo and Graphic by Pixabay