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  1. #1
    Sniffles
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    Default Studies Say Death Penalty Deters Crime

    I'm sure this will generate some debate here.

    Studies Say Death Penalty Deters Crime

    By ROBERT TANNER
    The Associated Press
    Monday, June 11, 2007; 4:53 AM

    Anti-death penalty forces have gained momentum in the past few years, with a moratorium in Illinois, court disputes over lethal injection in more than a half-dozen states and progress toward outright abolishment in New Jersey.

    The steady drumbeat of DNA exonerations _ pointing out flaws in the justice system _ has weighed against capital punishment. The moral opposition is loud, too, echoed in Europe and the rest of the industrialized world, where all but a few countries banned executions years ago.

    What gets little notice, however, is a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument _ whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.

    The reports have horrified death penalty opponents and several scientists, who vigorously question the data and its implications.

    So far, the studies have had little impact on public policy. New Jersey's commission on the death penalty this year dismissed the body of knowledge on deterrence as "inconclusive."

    But the ferocious argument in academic circles could eventually spread to a wider audience, as it has in the past.

    "Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it," said Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. "The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect."

    A 2003 study he co-authored, and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. "The results are robust, they don't really go away," he said. "I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) _ what am I going to do, hide them?"

    Statistical studies like his are among a dozen papers since 2001 that capital punishment has deterrent effects.
    They all explore the same basic theory _ if the cost of something (be it the purchase of an apple or the act of killing someone) becomes too high, people will change their behavior (forego apples or shy from murder).

    To explore the question, they look at executions and homicides, by year and by state or county, trying to tease out the impact of the death penalty on homicides by accounting for other factors, such as unemployment data and per capita income, the probabilities of arrest and conviction, and more.

    Among the conclusions:

    _ Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).

    _ The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.

    _ Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.

    In 2005, there were 16,692 cases of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter nationally. There were 60 executions.
    Studies Say Death Penalty Deters Crime - washingtonpost.com


    Thoughts?

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    Since my opposition to the death penalty has little to do with deterrence... I guess I don't care?

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    AKA Nunki Polaris's Avatar
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    While I agree that the death penalty deters crime, it's not possible to prove that belief through a study. I'm sure there are instances where crime rates have dropped after the capital punishment was put into practice, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the death penalty was responsible. There are thousands of alternate explanations. It's nice that they've looked into some of these and discredited them, but it's not humanly possible to discredit all of them, and that makes what they're saying slightly dishonest.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nunki View Post
    While I agree that the death penalty deters crime, it's not possible to prove that belief through a study. I'm sure there are instances where crime rates have dropped after the capital punishment was put into practice, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the death penalty was responsible. There are thousands of alternate explanations. It's nice that they've looked into some of these and discredited them, but it's not humanly possible to discredit all of them, and that makes what they're saying slightly dishonest.
    It was just proven!

    Gah!

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    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    The result depends on how you set up the study. The basic fact against death penalty is that developed countries without death penalty (most of them except the US) show a lower level of crime. This means that a comparative study between them and the US cannot be carried out since we lack any information on the marginal effect of each death sentence in a country other than the US.
    Now, it might be argued that due to sociological reasons the US have an higher baseline level of tendency towards criminality. In this case, a comparative study only inside the US can be a valid instrument to decide if the death penalty is effective or not as a deterrent.
    Let's remember, though, that comparing american's statistics to second or third world countries is not really sound methodology. Whatever regression you may try to run in order to obtain pure marginal effects, ends up being not satisfactory since all the factors are deeply interrelated so the variance-covariance matrix is rarely diagonal.
    SO, if you accept that the US population has an higher tendency to crime than other 1st world countries, then it's okay to derive conclusions like the ones of the article. If you don't, then it's meaningless
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    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    The link didn't seem to say much about the study itself. I was not given the material to assess its veracity, and I am a bit skeptical. I can't think of any way they might have done this that wouldn't have required study at a massive scale (longitudinally or retrospectively over many decades, and comparing many countries). If they did such a large scale study, and the results were statistically significant, then okay. But as of now I don't know that they did and I have doubts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacGuffin View Post
    It was just proven!

    Gah!
    At best, they proved it's likely the death penalty deters crime. That's all you can really do with a study. There's always room, however small, to interpret things differently.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nunki View Post
    At best, they proved it's likely the death penalty deters crime. That's all you can really do with a study. There's always room, however small, to interpret things differently.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MacGuffin View Post
    *smirk* I should also mention that the study was performed under limited, not infinite, conditions. In other words, the death penalty may prove beneficial in some cases and detrimental in others. Perhaps many, many others, and even most.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nunki View Post
    *smirk* I should also mention that the study was performed under limited, not infinite, conditions. In other words, the death penalty may prove beneficial in some cases and detrimental in others. Perhaps many, many others, and even most.
    Stay away from science.

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