But How Much Will It Cost?

The trial of a Connecticut man convicted of the murders of a Cheshire family save one has brought national media attention to a state which barely makes a blip on the radar.  The most recent news is that Steven Hayes has been sentenced to death by a jury of his peers.  Most everyone has an opinion on the rightness or wrongness; effectiveness or ineffectiveness of such a punishment, but that specifically is not the scope of what I wish to address with this article.  Some argue, as did Hayes attorney, that his client ought to be spared due to the cost of the execution, not because of the morality of it.  Is the cost of carrying out the penalty of a particular crime, a valid argument for considering alternative avenues of justice?

If keeping a man in prison for life is more cost-effective, should that be a mitigating factor when capital punishment is a just sentence?  The financial burden which tax payers shoulder is already significant, when you consider federal income taxes, state income taxes, sales tax, property tax, additional taxes levied on utility bills, nearly half our income ends up in government accounts.  So I can understand the appeal to spare the tax payer any additional burden if at all possible.  But, is this the venue which we should look for savings?

I do not believe so.  I do not think the cost of implementing the death penalty should at all be a factor when making consideration between a life sentence and death penalty.  Some crimes, for the sake of justice, demand the taking of the perpetrators own life.  Sometimes it is the only just and righteous thing to do.  Some have said in regards to this case in particular, if the death penalty was ever justified, it is for a case such as Hayes.

If cost should be a valid consideration, it surely should be a universal consideration.  After all, the cost is greater for a life sentence than for a 20 year sentence.  Greater for a 20 year sentence than 10, and so on ad infinitum.  It sounds silly to suggest anyone convicted of the kinds of crimes Hayes committed ought to be reduced in this fashion, but if cost is a real mitigation, why does it not just mitigate down to release?  After all, any penal action comes with a price tag to the tax payer.  This is similar to those who would argue against the morality of the death penalty with the appeal: “but Jesus would forgive”.  With that rationale, we could never institute any penalty at all.  A lifetime of incarceration?  But Jesus would forgive.  20 years?  But Jesus would forgive, and so on.  The same goes for the argument from financial burden.

However, I believe crimes generally, and disturbingly violent and depraved crimes such as those committed by Hayes, require justice.  Regardless of cost, we cannot tolerate abhorrent acts against our fellow-man.  Our freedoms and our lives are inherently valuable and deserve the protection of our justice system.  Arguing for a lesser sentence based on cost, violates the inherent value and dignity of the lives of the victims.  Would Hayes attorney argue the point if Mrs. Petit and her daughters were somehow present?  Could you look them in the eye and tell them their murderer deserves a lesser sentence because the righteous and just punishment is a bit too costly?  I don’t know, maybe he could, could you?  Crimes deserve punishment.  What is right is right whether or not it is expensive.  Arguing for life in lieu of death for reasons of cost assigns a monitary value to persons.  How much are you worth, your spouse, your children?  I cannot answer that question for you.  But for myself and my family, our value far excedes what any amount of money could buy.


  1. Rich Dunn says:

    Another argument used is: “will putting Hayes to death bring back the Petit women?” Obviously the answer is no. But a sentence of life imprisonment will not bring them back either. The Bible tells us that if a man murders another man, than his lfe shall be taken. ( I can’t quote the verse but I am sure that it is iin the Old Testament. )

  2. Honestly Rich, it is through out the OT. Man has immeasurable value, such that the only remedy is punishment by death, and even then we do not feel as though restitution has been fully made, that is how valuable we are. Nothing is equal to my life, or yours. We cannot place a monitary value on that which is priceless.

  3. I feel the death penalty is one of the biggest examples for man’s distrust in God. It is God who gives life and he is the only one who can give it, so why should man have the right to take it? God has a plan, and he’s just. He is fully capable punishing all of us for our sins. He also made the 10 commandments not only to keep us from sinning, but also to help us not need to live with the burdens that sin brings. Imprisoning a person protects society from further crimes, and gives the perpetrator the reflection time needed to comes to terms with what they have done. And I’m not saying coming to terms with the crime will make everything all better, but for many people (not solely referring to murders, but criminals in general) a prison sentence can serve as more than just punishment.

    I do agree that we should never put a price tag on doing what is right, but like you said the money needs to come from somewhere. Perhaps the Petits would be outraged by the attorney putting a price tag on their justice, but if it was up to Mrs. Petit and her daughters to chose between spending the money on putting their murder to death or spending it on keeping him in prison for life & keeping a battered women shelter open or providing services to trauma victims (causes after all you can’t pay for everything and sadly services that help the living often get cut first) do you actually know the Petits well enough to know what they would chose? I won’t assume to know their beliefs either, but putting this man to death won’t bring them back and the alternative to raising taxes to continue to support the justice system is making cuts to programs that are helping the living (who might even be loved ones the Petits left behind).

    • Kelsey, let me clear a few things up before addressing the sentiment of your response. It was God who instituted the death penalty on behalf of man. As Rich pointed out, Genesis 9:6 reads: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” In fact there are 21 offenses given by God Himself which were punished by death.

      Additionally, in the New Testament, Paul in Romans 13:3-4 says: “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” Paul talks about the govt. bearing the sword as a minister for God, that it is granted by God that the govt. may carry out punishment for crimes, including death for certain crimes.

      Paul also in Acts 25:11 when appealing to Ceaser says: “If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” We see Paul reiterates that there are just crimes deserving of death, but that he hadn’t committed any of them. This would have been an opportune time to speak on God’s behalf that the death penalty is somehow in conflict with God’s commands and character.

      Now, why were the Jews given the law? It was not to keep them from sinning:
      Romans 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin
      Romans 5:20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase
      Galatians 3:21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.

      The Law (10 Commandments) was not given to help us not sin, or to help us not need to live without the burden sin brings, quite the opposite.

      The Law is actually what brought the burden.

      Romans 7:7-9 I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.

      I just needed to clear up the misunderstandings on what the Bible had to say on the points you made.

      I also was not making an appeal for what Mrs. Petit and her daughters feel about the death penalty, but rather, would the attorney be able to place monitary concerns haggling down the value of the family’s lives while having to face them? I have no idea what their opinions were on the matter.

      I have to say, I do believe some crimes are worthy of having the perpetrator completely removed from society altogether. In a case such as this, I believe anything less is unjust. Being confined to a cell may be a compassionate sentence, but I do not believe it is the proper and deserving sentence.

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