Studies Show Death Penalty Does Have A Deterrent Effect

I have for a long time now been a strong opponent of the Death Penalty. In fact, since I started blogging years ago, I have occasionally reinforced this idea, first taking up the argument in favor of the now executed Stanley “Tookie” Williams, and then a coupole years later for Phil Workman.

So I suppose someone might see the studies that show that death penalties do have a deterrent effect present a blow to my side of the argument. I don’t think it does.

For one, Liberal Values’ Ron Chusid adequately points out that journalists often times don’t do so well in reporting on scientific studies. Indeed, the ap article is rather sparse with the methodology and particulars of the studies in question, shrinking down the red meat of those works to bullet points.

• Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).

• The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.

• Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.

The rest of the article is for the most part a he said/she said piece over who supports the study and who finds it lacking with no effort expelled to explain how the study was performed, what its margin of error was, how valid its data, etc.

So, while this may make something of a splash in the media, call me skeptical for now. But regardless, this does not deter me from my stance on the death penalty, deterrence only being a small part of why I was against it in the first place.

It is a morality thing. It is believing that we as decent civilized people don’t really have the right to put someone else to death, and going back to mom’s wisdom, the death penalty is merely an incident of two wrongs failing horribly to make a right.

This study may make a case that the death penalty is a deterrent, but where is the study that shows the net benefit of society by taking these men and women who are placed on Death Row, reforming them instead, and allowing them to contribute? It doesn’t exist because that is something we just don’t do.

Where is the biblical contradiction that teaches away from “judge not lest ye be judged?”

And sure, the death penalty may be a deterrent, but wouldn’t focusing on society be a bigger deterrent? Where is the study that focuses on the economy and social conditions and their relevence to capital crimes?

There are probably a million things you could do to reduce the number of homicides in this country; rehabilitation, strengthen the economy and job opportunity, focus on changing the drug culture and provide legal and medically sound means for people with addiction problems to be treated, counseling, etc. and sure, the death penalty may be one of them. That doesn’t make it the most just, nor the most moral.

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