One of the most compelling arguments for the death penalty is that it can prevent serious crime from occurring. Although some nations have the death penalty on the books for crimes like adultery or religious dissent, most of this time this sentence is imposed on a crime like premeditated murder.
In some years, the murder rates for states in the US that do not offer the death penalty were 46% lower than death penalty states.
It is clearly a contentious issue and one that does not necessarily have an easy answer. There are some ideas of an “eye for an eye” that come into play and questioning the resolve of a victim’s family is at best societally inappropriate. Yet the death penalty does still exist, even when police chiefs rank it as one of the least effective crime deterrent tools.
- Research up to this date is inconclusive about the effectiveness or non-effectiveness of the death penalty.
- Murder rates in the United States dropped or rose at the same time death penalty enforcements were increased or decreased respectively.
- One 2006 study took a look at the issue and determined that for every one execution of a convicted criminal, 5 fewer homicides occurred because of the event.
- As of December 2005, there were 37 prisoners under a sentence of death in the federal system.
- In 2009, researchers found that adopting state laws allowing defendants in child murder cases to be eligible for the death penalty was associated with an almost 20 percent reduction in rates of these crimes.
The reality about the effectiveness is in question because it is difficult to find neutrality within the issue to study it without a bias. People are either passionately against the death penalty because they believe that being pro-life means being an advocate for every life. Others believe that there must be deterrents in society that go to the extreme to prevent violent crime from occurring. Even with solid facts for either side of the debate, there will always be those who support their own personal position.
What Are Some of The Conclusions?
- It is thought that the moratorium on executions in the State of Illinois in 2000 led to an additional 150 murders over the next four years.
- It is believed that for every 2 ¾ years of time that is cut from a death row inmate’s time from sentencing to execution, one additional murder would be prevented.
- 88% of people believe that the death penalty has no effect on deterring homicides. Only 5% of people believed that it does.
- Murder rates have been lower on average in states that do not have the death penalty than those that do since 1990.
- The cost of trying a death penalty case may be up to 70% higher than in other instances where a charge of murder or homicide is being tried.
- The annual cost of the death penalty system in just California is $137 million.
- Because of the form of lethal injection that is used, many pharmaceutical companies are refusing to provide the necessary drugs to create a fatal event.
The real question is this: what kind of society does each person want to define themselves at their very core? Some would say that the death penalty should be enforced in any way, including hanging, electric chairs, firing squad, or even the guillotine. Others say that the reflection of a civilized society is seen in the care of their prisoners. The statistics can support either side of the debate, so what it is that you feel is important about the deterrence of crime in your community, state, or nation?
What Are the Trends of the Death Penalty Today?
- A majority of people prefer alternatives to the death penalty today during the sentencing of a crime that is punishable by death.
- Current death penalty convictions have reached their lowest levels in the US since they were reinstated as a valid sentence in 1976.
- Executions are at rate of 50% off of the record high levels of 1999 when 98 convicted prisoners were executed.
- 140 countries around the world do not practice the death penalty by law or implementation.
- Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death row because there was evidence to overturn a wrongful conviction.
- In 2007, a survey showed that 33% of black inmates in Philadelphia that were convicted and sentenced to the death penalty would have received a life sentence of imprisonment if they were white.
- Iran executed 369 people in the last year, placing them in first place amongst known figures. It is estimated that China executes thousands of people ever year, but there are no figures from the government.
- The 39 inmates that the US put to death in 2013 earned it a global 5th place ranking.
The global trend has been to move away from capital punishment. In nations where there are higher number of executions, there also tends to be much more government control into daily life. China, Iraq, Iran, and Syria are 4 of the top 6 nations on this list. Public executions took place in four countries last year. Texas accounts for over 40% of the total executions, yet the murder rates per 100k people were higher than in all but 3 states that do not have the death penalty on the books.
A Final Thought
- The average murder rate was 1.0 higher per 100k people in death penalty states than non-penalty states.
- The murder rate in death penalty states has lowered by 0.5 in the last 5 years overall while it has risen by 0.4 in non-penalty states.
- Only 1 state out of the Top 10 for murder rates in the US in 2012 did not have the death penalty on the books.
Although there is some evidence to support using the death penalty as a deterrent, there is also evidence that shows it doesn’t work at all. 6 out of the 10 lowest murder rates on a state level are in states without the death penalty. It may work in specific instances and that may be a good thing when it does, but as an overarching deterrent, the choice seems to be with the person looking at the data.