Does the Death Penalty Deter Crime? by Peggy J. Parks

By Peggy J. Parks

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That the death Adler and Summers analyzed criminal activity and executions penalty deters over a 26-year period between 1979 to 2004. ” 30 same time, they found a direct correlation between capital — Louisiana State University economics professor Naci punishment and the future murder rate. According to their Mocan. research, when executions increased, homicides decreased the following year. Conversely, when executions leveled off, the murder rate spiked the following year. After their analysis was complete, Adler and Summers determined that each execution was associated with 74 fewer murders.

In 1996, for instance, non-death-penalty states had 44 percent fewer murders, and in 2006 the difference reached an all-time high of 46 percent. This, says the Death Penalty Information Center, is tangible proof that the death penalty does not deter crime—in fact, based on these figures, executions have an inverse effect, actually resulting in higher murder rates. 34 Yet Sunstein and Wolfers challenge such a definitive conclusion. ” they ask. “One approach notes that in states with the death penalty, the average murder rate is about 40 percent higher than in states without the death penalty.

Also, they argue, if there is any chance that convicted people could be found innocent during the appeals process, lengthier stays on death row could prevent them from being executed. So which perspective is correct? That is a question for which there is no easy answer—a question that will likely remain unresolved for many years, if it is ever resolved at all. 52 FACTS • Texas has accounted for 37 percent of executions in the United States since 1977 and an average of 40 percent since 1997. • A March 2009 report by the Justice Project analyzed the cases of 39 people from Texas who collectively spent more than 500 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

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