Monday, December 12, 2005

Death penalty not a deterrent

CNN: Governor denies clemency for ex-gang leader

This just seems so silly.

Texas executes more criminals than any other state. There is a 1/20 chance of being executed when on death row in Texas. However, if you're selling drugs on the streets of Chicago, not only are you making something like $3/hour on the street level but you have a 1/4 chance of getting killed (and this doesn't even count the chance that you'll do something wrong and your employers will kill you). For people who have grown up with 1/4 odds of surviving, those 1/20 odds look pretty good!

Additionally, the death penalty was brought back in order to be a deterrent to help stop crime. Though the death penalty only applies in murder cases, so it only has an impact on murders. Thus, the criminals mentioned above still do as much non-murder crime as they do without the threat of the death penalty.

Now, I don't know how such studies were done and I'm a little skeptical of these numbers, but apparently studies have shown that the aggregate effect of 10,000 executions is the reduction in the number of murders by 1. We brought back the death penalty in 1976. Earlier this year, we performed our 1000th execution (on December 2nd, actually). Do the math. Even if that stat about 10,000 executions is not correct, if there have only been 1000 executions, there is no way the death penalty could possibly be making a dent in the glut of murders in this country.

Justice Harry Blackman, one of the justices responsible for bringing the death penalty back, was later quoted as saying, "I will no longer tinker with the machinery of death." He and others have also referred to it as being arbitrary, capricious, racist, and classist.

Imprisonment, however, has shown to be a very good deterrent against crime. So does enforcement. Increase enforcement and imprisonment and crime will decrease. The death penalty's additional deterring force is miniscule at best -- it just gets lost in the noise.

Unless we plan on killing people for things other than murder and doing it far more often, we really need to get rid of this broken device.

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