This story is over 5 years old.


What’s the Cheapest Way to Execute Evildoers?

It's time to get more bang for our criminals' dead carcasses.
Κείμενο Allison Van Siclen

The USA loves three things: violent sports, adding more patties to burgers, and executing prisoners. Forty-three prisoners were put down last year, putting us behind only China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Lethal injection—an odd way of killing someone that is not cruel or unusual at all, according to the courts—was the most popular form of capital punishment. But it’s becoming more and more expensive. Lethal injection is normally a three-step process: The prisoner must be sedated and then paralyzed, before being shot up with potassium chloride, which stops the heart. In 2009, it cost prisons as little as $168.03 to knock off a wrongdoer thanks to the inexpensive, and now unavailable (thanks to some soft-hearted judges), sedative thiopental sodium. The replacement chemical became pentobarbital, which is $861.60 a pop, and raises the price of execution to $1,286.86 per person. Some frugal-minded death penalty states like Texas are wondering if they should eliminate the capital punishment altogether. But why not consider some other, cheaper execution methods first?

Electric Chair

Cost: The start-up fee is for the chair, but executions are only around $217.25 per prisoner. This includes $150.00 for the executioner and the cost of the necessary but non-reusable materials like shaving cream and a razor to shave the inmate’s head, the brine-soaked sponge for improving contact between the chair’s helmet and the inmate’s skull, Electro-Cream to reduce burns (?), and a leather face mask and diaper to catch/conceal exploding bodily fluids.


States Where It’s an Option: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennesse, and Virginia

Firing Squad

Cost: The last prisoner killed by a firing squad was Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010, and it cost the state of Utah . Most of that went to the staff’s salaries, but the materials themselves—the chair he was strapped to, his jumpsuit and hood, and five Winchester rifles for the volunteer shooters—still cost $25,000. Plus the $861.60 it cost to sedate him.

States Where It’s an Option: Utah

One Shot, One Kill

Cost: Why do you need a fucking firing squad? Until the recent death-penalty moratorium, Mongolian executioners used a .38 revolver, aimed directly at the neck. A gun like that might cost about $575. The assault rifles that China and Taiwan use to kill prisoners are about $539, but in Taiwan, a prisoner is anesthetized before being shot in the back of the head at the base of the brain, which presumably adds to the cost. In most Asian countries, pentobarbital costs about $337, which would mean that the execution would be a pricy $876, except that (according to Wikipedia) in Taiwan it is customary for the prisoner to attach anywhere from $NT 500 to $NT 1000 (about 15 or 30 bucks, respectively) to their leg as a tip for their executioner, taking the cost down to an affordable $861 or $846.

Where It’s an Option: China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Belarus, Lebanon, Cuba, Grenada, North Korea, and Indonesia


Cost: The prisoner is buried in to their waist if they’re a man or to their chest if they’re a woman. Officials are usually the ones who throw the stones, but villagers can join in for certain crimes (witchcraft, adultery, rape). The rocks have to be small enough that the prisoner stays alive for 10 to 20 minutes. You need at least 50 pounds of rocks, which cost about $8. Or you could just find some rocks left over from the last stoning. Combined with the start-up cost of the sandbox, the execution comes to a total of $144. Nothing is less expensive than a rock.


Where It’s an Option: Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi-Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates


Cost: One of the most economic forms of capital punishment, the price of a is $99. Add the price of a hanging rope and you can swing it for around $120.99. (Get it? “Swing”? Like their dead bodies!)

Where It’s an Option: New Hampshire, Washington, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Mongolia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Palestinian National Authority, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, India, Burma, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, South Korea, Malawi, Liberia, Chad


Cost: The cheapest way to kill someone is to put them on a big stick and nail their hands to a smaller stick, then let the combination of time and gravity force the exhausted prisoner to fall forward, constricting their lungs. The price of plywood and four nine-inch nails comes to $43.28, making this the cheapest form of execution.

Where It’s an Option: Sudan and Saudi Arabia


Cost: Building a guillotine costs around $1,200, lumber and hardware tools included. Add a few bucks to that if you want to pimp it out with paint, a pad for the chopping bed, and a basket to catch the head. You can learn how to build one . Doug Teper, a Georgia state legislator, proposed back in 1996 . It’s actually sorta hard to argue with him—decapitation is relatively painless and leaves the criminals' organs intact so they can be donated. Or you could just not kill people.


Where’s It’s an Option: Nowhere, after France cut it out in 1981.

The justice system is fucked, bro. Read more about it:

Who Helps Rich Dudes When They Go to Prison

Where Love Goes to Die

The Perils of Piss Tests