Valuing the Death Penalty

28 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2019

See all articles by Brandon Wilson

Brandon Wilson

University of Mississippi, School of Law, Students

Date Written: February 16, 2019


This article addresses the problems of the death penalty, including a lack of oversight, extreme costs and rampant misuse, by arguing for a federal law capping the amount of money states spend on the death penalty. This proposal uses the conditional spending clause to encourage compliance by providing federal money for state law enforcement agencies. This proposal incentivizes state governments to find creative ways to stay beneath the cap without violating defendants’ rights and to take an active approach to imposing the death penalty instead of entrusting the power to localities.

Part I examines the disparity in cost between the death penalty and life without parole, looking at state data from regions across the nation and the federal government. After exploring the larger picture, Part II specifies the death penalty procedures that make it more expensive than life imprisonment. Part III advances the proposal for capping death penalty spending in exchange for federal money to state law enforcement agencies. Additionally, this part examines the constitutionality of the proposal utilizing case law. Part IV explains the benefits of the restriction and redistribution of funds, including funding issues the people want, increasing funding for state law enforcement, scrutinizing capital punishment cases more closely, and furthering the exercise of federal power.

Keywords: Death Penalty Costs, Conditional Spending Clause

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Wilson, Brandon, Valuing the Death Penalty (February 16, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Brandon Wilson (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi, School of Law, Students ( email )

MS 38677
United States

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