Death Penalty Does Not Deter Murder, According to New CU-Boulder Study

Started by Jacques, June 23, 2009, 09:32:11 AM

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Jacques

June 23, 2009, 09:32:11 AM Last Edit: June 23, 2009, 10:01:44 AM by Jacques
Eighty-eight percent of the country's top criminologists do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide, according to a new study published today in Northwestern University School of Law's Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology authored by Professor Michael Radelet, chair of the sociology department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Traci Lacock, an attorney and CU-Boulder graduate student in sociology.

The study titled "Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates? The Views of Leading Criminologists" undermines deterrence as a rationale for maintaining the punishment, said Radelet, one of the nation's leading experts on the death penalty.

"These data show that deterrence, which in many circles is the strongest justification for the death penalty, falls on its face when closely examined by those who are best qualified to study and evaluate it," Radelet said. "Any justifications for the death penalty that might remain pale in comparison to drawbacks such as high costs, arbitrariness, executing the innocent and diverting resources from more effective ways to reduce crime and assist victims."

The study was conducted by sending questionnaires to the most pre-eminent criminologists in the country, including fellows of the American Society of Criminology, winners of the American Society of Criminology's prestigious Southerland Award and recent presidents of the American Society of Criminology. The American Society of Criminology is the top professional organization of criminologists in the world.

The 77 respondents were not asked for their personal opinion about the wisdom of the death penalty, but instead to answer the questions only on the basis of their understandings of the empirical research available on the subject.

Eighty-seven percent of the expert criminologists also believed that abolition of the death penalty would not have any significant effect on murder rates, Radelet said. And 75 percent of the respondents agreed that "debates about the death penalty distract Congress and state legislatures from focusing on real solutions to crime problems."

"Our survey indicates that the vast majority of the world's top criminologists believe that the empirical research has revealed the deterrence hypothesis for a myth," Radelet and Lacock wrote. "The consensus among criminologists is that the death penalty does not add any significant deterrent effect above that of long-term imprisonment."

The study was funded by Sheilah's Fund at the Tides Foundation in San Francisco and was arranged through the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Professor James Marquart, head of the criminology and sociology program at the University of Texas at Dallas disagrees with a recent study of criminologists nationwide that concluded the death penalty has little deterrent effect. According to a study by Michael Radelet, Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado-Boulder and Traci Lacock, an attorney and Sociology graduate student, 88 percent of the country's "top criminologists" don't believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent.

Dr. Marquart, author of The Rope, the Chair and the Needle, and a former correctional officer, didn't participate in the study. He says academic findings "do support that, but in my own view...one must examine the facts in each case. It comes down to 'Do you have the right person?' And if you've got the right perpetrator, factually, legally and everything else, I believe that there is an individual deterrent value to it. And that means that if you have the right persons and that person is executed, they are deterred.


Best

Jacques

"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." Albert Einstein

Hutchsmash

"And that means that if you have the right persons and that person is executed, they are deterred."

Best quote I've heard in a long time!
"How come life in prison doesn't mean life? Until it does, we're not ready to do away with the death penalty. Stop thinking in terms of "punishment" for a minute and think in terms of safeguarding innocent people from incorrigible murderers."

JESSE VENTURA, I Ain't Got Time to Bleed

Jacques


"And that means that if you have the right persons and that person is executed, they are deterred."

Best quote I've heard in a long time!



Hey we talk aboout a Dr.  ;D

Best

Jacques

"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." Albert Einstein

63Wildcat

I wonder if they let the inmates witness the execution if it would "deter" murder...
"..the death of any public servant or innocent is a tragedy... the death of a murderer is a mere statistic..."  -63Wildcat

AS OF TOMORROW I'M TURNING GRAVITY OFF...

Harold1253

From what I've read from Death Row inmates, who have gotten post on web sites, they don't have to see the execution to have the point driven home reguarding the finality of the act of execution.  Seem to be a very sobering thing to see their buddies moved to the special section of convicts with dates, see them clear out their houses and be taken away to the Walls.  I'll bet anything they promise not to do it againand if given a chance and set free they would walk the streight and narrow and be model citizens.  We all know we, as a society, cannot take that chance.  We also know, those who have taken the gurney ride, are no longer a problem to anyone.

podmornica

The death penalty may not deter murder, but I think we can all agree that the recidivism rate of executed murderers is ZERO!

JT

#6
September 03, 2009, 12:31:54 AM Last Edit: September 03, 2009, 09:13:02 AM by JT
"Dr. Marquart, author of The Rope, the Chair and the Needle, and a former correctional officer, didn't participate in the study. He says academic findings "do support that, but in my own view...one must examine the facts in each case. It comes down to 'Do you have the right person?' And if you've got the right perpetrator, factually, legally and everything else, I believe that there is an individual deterrent value to it. And that means that if you have the right persons and that person is executed, they are deterred."

Prof Marquart is a brave man.  Coming "out of the closet" as a death penalty supporter in academic criminology circles is comparable to a climatologist or meteorologist confessing to the cardinal sin of being an anthropogenic global warming/climate change/whatever-they-call-it-these-days sceptic.  Both positions are treated with great suspicion and even disdain in academe, even though it is clear to anybody who can review the evidence without partiality that no decision can thus far be rendered in either direction due to a paucity of incontrovertible evidence and the existence of a discomforting body of mitigatory evidence which many would prefer to simply brush under the rug.

What Dr Radelet, the author of this study, unwaveringly fails to mention is this pesky and importunate body of evidence which indeed does imply a deterrent factor of non-negligible potency in states such as Texas where executions are commonplace.  There have been several studies - one recently out of Louisiana State University - which concluded that, for every one execution in the United States, between three and 18 innocent lives are saved.  In states which rarely or never impose the death penalty, the number of lives saved per execution is in the lower range (or are even outwith the interval), while death penalty-active states experience higher prevention figures.

The fundamental problem (and, in my opinion, an inextricable problem too) with these studies is how vulnerable they are to the personal bias of the researchers.  There is a common axiom in academic research which effectively states that when you set out to discover something allegedly by serendipity, but with your own hidden agenda, you will subconsciously filter out the results and evidence unhelpful to your cause and thereby be able to report your miraculous "discovery" unhindered.  I believe this is a major problem in research of this nature, and it is a problem difficult to militate against because of the ingrained opinions of many people on issues such as capital punishment.  For that reason, I would be cautious of being particularly deferential to this study.  If Dr Radelet's supposedly groundbreaking research is legitimate and impartial, why was Dr Marquart not included in the sample of respondents?  Was he disqualified for any arbitrary reason?  What random selection criteria, if any, did Dr Radelet use in selecting and assembling his respondent base?

Another thing to note is this: "The study was funded by Sheilah's Fund at the Tides Foundation in San Francisco and was arranged through the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C."

According to the homepage of their website, the Tides Foundation was "created to provide comprehensive, flexible services and tools to those dedicated to lasting progressive social change" and to "promote economic justice, robust democratic processes, and the opportunity to live in a healthy and sustainable environment where human rights are preserved and protected."  While their website doesn't explicitly state their opposition to capital punishment, it is not too discreditable to presume where these people stand with respect to the death penalty.  And as we already know, the DPIC is an anti-death penalty organisation: although not officially in name, it is in its actions.

In other words, we have here two anti-death penalty organisations which funded and orchestrated research by a leading death penalty opponent which found that the death penalty is not a deterrent.  Does anybody here seriously believe that they would have funded this research if they were not certain of its findings?  Of course not.  As a result, we can only assume this study was biased and illegitimate and it should be traduced as such.
JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
"I'm disgusted with the State for even putting me in this position."
-- Reginald Blanton, Texas death row.  As of October 27, 2009, Reggie's position has been in a coffin.

JeffB

Well said JT..  I would have to agree with your assessment of this study as being suspect relative to the affiliations the authors keep.  And of course, Dr. Marquart is correct: an executed individual is deterred in an absolute fashion.

Perhaps the only offenders who are not deterred by the prospect of execution are:  those who LITERALLY do not anticipate being caught, prosecuted, and sentenced to death, and those who simply, and literally, do not care if they are.  My assumption is that the vast majority of would-be capital offenders would-be, and are deterred; perhaps in varying degrees.  My question for Dr. Radelet would be; how the hell do you know how many murders are NOT committed, or are NEVER committed, because of the death penalty?  How can that be quantified?  If the existence of the death penalty saves even one life - wouldn't that be considered "value"?   ???
"SO SUCK IT YOU "BLUE COOLER" DOPE!"  -  Sylar24

JT

#8
September 03, 2009, 05:22:12 PM Last Edit: September 03, 2009, 05:25:24 PM by JT
Jeff, they can only know by comparing the execution:murder ratio in a state like Texas vis-a-vis another state in which executions are rarely conducted.  The method might seem satisfactory on its face, but it fails upon closer analysis.  There are many, many factors, primarily socioeconomic, which can influence the murder rate in a state.

States which have a high degree of poverty and a large percentage of African American citizens tend to have high murder rates.  (Without meaning to sound racist, there is a strong correlation between numbers of African Americans, poverty rates and murder rates.)  States with high rates of legal gun ownership and low rates of illegal gun ownership tend to enjoy low murder rates and low violent crime rates in general (but that is a discussion for another thread).  Moreover, states which have a low population density also have lower murder rates.  (Because people are physically more separated from one another, it is harder for them to kill each other.  As an example, the State of Wyoming has only one man on death row and has only conducted one post-Furman execution back in 1992.)
JT's Ridiculous Quote of the Century:
"I'm disgusted with the State for even putting me in this position."
-- Reginald Blanton, Texas death row.  As of October 27, 2009, Reggie's position has been in a coffin.

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