Thursday, May 18, 2006

That deterrence thing

Reason No. 37 to support the death penalty: It's a deterrent, right?

Well, maybe. Maybe not.

Let's leave behind the deterrence studies and the statistics for a moment. As Mark Twain said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

The truth of the matter is, every study that has been done on deterrence gets twisted and contorted into support for the death penalty or opposition to the death penalty when in point of fact the statistics don't seem to show anything, one way or another.

Let's think about this from a common sense perspective. I recently was pleasantly surprised to see this commentary filter in to my email box from our Indiana affiliate:
The next time there's an execution in your state, ask 10 average people you know (who aren't abolitionists or death penalty promoters) the name of the person executed and what their crime was. In my experience, even educated, supposedly "engaged" people can't answer correctly. If folks like that don't know the reasons why someone was executed, then how in the world can the death penalty deter a drug addict robbing the local 7-11 for money for more drugs? People who commit murder simply do not make the fine calculations that death penalty supporters claim they do.


Tyler Roznos said...

if someones on death row... they did something to get there regardless of whether i know what it is or not...

FightforJustice said...

There is certainly individual deterrence in that the murderer will not kill again. As far as general deterrence goes, it's not all encompassing. Just because it doesn't deter everybody doesn't mean it deters nobody.

Dale said...

I have looked pretty hard at the data on deterrence and I agree it is inconclusive. As a psychologist, I very much doubt that any deterrent effect is strong enough to justify the death penalty. That's not based on the data, which I think fails to inform us, but on a rational approach to violent crime. Murder as depicted in fiction is different from murder in reality. The former often involves elaborate planning and conspiracy. The latter more often involves people in the midst of a rage, intoxicated, with a long history of poor judgment and impulsive behavior. Murder which is truly planned and calculated may well be deterred by the threat of execution, but I think that's a minority of murder cases.

If you ask the Governor of my home state if the death penalty is a deterrent, he'll tell you he believes it is. If you ask him why he believes that, he'll tell you that he...believes it.

Don Dodson said...

If the death penalty is not a deterrent, explain to me why Michael Moore is still alive and I am not on death row.