There is a basic assumption that man, by nature, is afraid to lose his life. In psychology, some theoretical concepts suggest that punishment reinforces human behavior. This leads us to the idea that there is associated learning when punishment is implemented. Death penalty is a form of punishment that at the bottom line results to losing someone’s life. Thus, there is a prevailing assumption that the death penalty offers deterrence for murder and other capital crimes. To be sure of this claim, various studies provide the idea for policy making in the US in order to be certain whether it has a deterrent impact for murders and crimes. The work at hand presents the point that death penalty indeed has the capability to control the prevalence of murder and other related capital crimes. Critical analysis of the available literature concerning the issue is included.
Anti-death-penalty proponents like John Blume, a law professor with the Cornell Death Penalty Project, concludes that there is no credible evidence to support deterrence of murder and capital crimes with the implementation of death penalty. The main justification of their points stands on the ground that “If deterrence worked, how could Texas which executes a dozen inmates a year, have a higher murder rate than Colorado, which has executed one murderer in more than four decades?” (Booth). In 2009 survey, more than 88% of criminologists believe that the death penalty was not a deterrent to murder, a result showing strong link to the consistent lower murder rate of non-Death penalty states compared to those that are employing the Death penalty (The Death Penalty and Deterrence).
Daniel Nagin, expert in criminology and statistics at Carnegie Mellon University, said in an interview, “The studies have reached widely varying, even contradictory, conclusions. Some studies conclude that executions save large numbers of lives; others conclude that executions actually increase homicides; and still others conclude that executions have no effect on homicide rate” (National Journal staff). In 2002, part of the annual Texas Crime Poll revealed that majority of the respondents showed support for the death penalty, but a substantial number of them also showed lack confidence on its use while others supported moratorium on executions (Vollum and Longmire 521).
After concluding a research study that says each execution saves five lives, H. Naci Mocan, an economist at Louisiana State University, said, “I personally am opposed to the death penalty, but my research shows that there is deterrent effect” (Liptak). Mocan adds, “Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it. The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect” (Tanner). However, legal scholars refuted this idea, specifying the point that theories of economists do not apply to the violent world of crime and punishment, as they might be linked to faulty premises, insufficient data and flawed methodologies (Liptak). This is all the same point which by Fox and Radelet state against the research study of Ehrlich and Layson.
The measurement of the deterrent effect of death penalty has been critically considered from another wider point of view when Ehrlich’s and Layson’s works reveal the importance of using the economic perspective on the issue by employing economic model, which could show further that every execution may possibly deter as many as 18 homicides (Fox and Radelet 30). However, Ehrlich’s economic model is said to have failed to provide conclusive evidence supporting the deterrent effect of capital punishment (Chan and Oxley 1). However, Fox and Radelet scrutinized Ehrlich’s and Layson’s methodology by understanding the flaws involved in using econometric model, data quality, time period, negative bias, and aggregation bias and even the misinterpretation of Layson’s findings.
Unconvinced of the above general claim, the proponents of the death penalty argued that the murder rate could have moved to an upward spiral further if the mentioned states exercising death penalty might have not instituted the death penalty, as it might essentially have more murders to put to a halt compared to other states (Booth).
Knowing the above varying points concerning the issue of death penalty and its deterrent effect to crime rates, we can deduce the complexity of this case. We are, therefore, become certain that this is indeed not only an issue of socio-political, but legal and economic context. There is no wonder why the economists and legal scholars may have varying point of views of looking at death penalty and its impact on the US crime rate. Social scientists may also have other point of views. This definitely results to implementation of different methodological approach, which further leads to varying interpretation just as how the study of Ehrlich employing economic model was debunked by legal scholars. Legal scholars, from their own perspective, may rely on the crime rate in comparison with the states that employ and do not employ the death penalty. However, the bottom line of these varying approaches is the thought that each of them exercises actual research observations and analysis of data, in which the entire results may obtain their justification. In other words, all research studies employ scientific discipline which, according to Mocan, may always lead us to conclusion. Such conclusion is, therefore, remarkable and it may tell us the deterrent effect or the other way around.
It is clear that the two opposing views may have their strong point on the issue. However, it is also clear that they may also possess some remarkable bias allowing them to be one-sided in dealing the whole point. This is clear from their justifications. For instance, economists may not accept the point of legal scholars as intuitively they strongly believe that there is associated economic issue involved in the implementation of death penalty that will help save lives in the future. Legal scholars on the other hand completely debunked the usefulness of economic model to help solve the problem linked to the realm of crimes and punishments. This alone showcases a personal bias against the economist perspective. Economists are relying on their intuition that at some point resulted to inferential actions that take the process of scientific inquiry.
At this point, it is evident that the issue in great detail is substantially political in nature that has direct and remarkable impact on the policy development. However, policy development is dependent on the actual evidence generated on this matter. We cannot be certain for sure if there is an associated relevant truth with the actual conclusions that each side of this matter is proposing knowing that each may have pre-existing bias or prejudicial beliefs against the point of others. However, policy and politics may be two important factors that could help us provide the opportunity to understand the value associated with death penalty. The government cannot escape the perception that it may be all about politics it seeks in employing death penalty, allowing the public to see it taking a strong stance against crimes, rather than an implementing body of a policy that seeks to punish criminals to reduce crimes (“To Hang or Not to Hang”). Thus, it is evident that it is all in the intention or objective of the implementing body, the government, to which the capital punishments may create a deterrent effect for murders and crimes. This may also explain the point why in some other states, capital punishment is effective and it generates poor results in the other states. This therefore leads us to conclude that death penalty has a deterrent effect for capital crimes, at some certain level, as far as the level of involvement of the implementing body and the law is concerned. It is through implementing policies that everything will be put into action. As observed, the law and the associated policies provide the opportunity to put everything in order and achieve the desired result for the advantage of the majority or the general public.
Booth, Michael. “No Credible Evidence on Whether Death Penalty Deters, Experts Say”. Denverpost, 6 March 2013. Web. 1 Aug. 2013. .
Chan, Janet, and Deborah Oxley. “The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: A Review of the Research Evidence”. Crime and Justice Bulletin, Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research 84 (Oct. 2004): 1-15. Print.
Fox, James Alan, and Michael L. Radelet. “Persistent Flaws in Econometric Studies of the Deterrent Effect of the Death Penalty.” 23 Loy. L. A. L. Rev. 29, 23.1 (1989). Web. 1 Aug. 2013. .
Liptak, Adam. “Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate.” The New York Times 18 Nov. 2007. Web. 1 Aug. 2013. .
Muhlhausen, David B. “The Death Penalty Deters Crime and Saves Lives.” The Heritage Foundation, Leadership for America, 28 Aug. 2007. Web. 1 Aug. 2013. .
National Journal staff. “Does the Death Penalty Deter Crime? Studies are Inconclusive.” National Journal, 29 May 2013. Web. 1 Aug. 2013. .
Tanner, Robert. “Studies Say Death Penalty Deters Crime.” Washington Post, 11 June 2007. Web. 1 Aug. 2013. .
“The Death Penalty and Deterrence”. Amnesty International. Web. 1 Aug. 2013. .
“To Hang or Not to Hang.” Trinidad & Tobago News Bulletin Board, 22 June 2013. Web. 1 Aug. 2013. .
Vollum, Scott, and Dennis R. Longmire. “Confidence in the Death Penalty and Support for Its Use: Exploring the Value Expressive Dimension of Death Penalty Attitudes.” Justice Quarterly 21.3 (2004): 521-546. Print.