Death Penalty


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Death Penalty and Issues of Deterrence


For members of society who are retentionists and want to keep the death penalty, its deterrent effects are one of their primary arguments. But there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty deters would-be criminals from their act of violence. Countless studies have shown that the murder rate in the United States has not gone down since the states were allowed to kill in 1976. In reality, the murder rate has increased, due to the brutalization factor that the punishment creates. There should be no doubt that the death penalty is an expensive, brutal, and ineffective deterrent to crime.

Though there isn’t much evidence that proves the death penalty deters crime, there is plenty of evidence and studies that prove it does not. The latest FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that in 2000, the national murder rate decreased 3.1 % from 1999, with the smallest decline in the South. The South remains the region with the highest murder rate, 6.8 victims per 100,000, compared to 5.1 in the West and Midwest, and 4.0 in the Northeast. Since the death penalty was reinstated, over 80% of all executions have occurred in the South, the region with the highest murder rate. The Northeast, the region with the lowest murder rate, has accounted for less than 1% of the executions. A survey done by the New York Times also found that states without the death penalty have lower homicide rates than states with the death penalty. The Times report states that ten of the twelve states without the death penalty have homicide rates below the national average, whereas half of the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above (New York Times, 2/19/00). During the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48%-101% higher than in states without the death penalty. There are many more studies that show where the death penalty exists, there is a higher murder rate.

According to statistics from the latest FBI Uniform Crime Report, regions of the country that use the death penalty the least are the safest for police officers. Police are most in danger in the South, which accounts for 80% of all executions (90% in 2000). From 1989-1998, 292 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the South, 125 in the West, 121 in the Midwest, and 80 in the Northeast, the region with the fewest executions.

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The three leading states where law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in 1998 were California, the state with the highest population; Texas, the state with the most executions since 1976; and Florida, the state that is third highest in executions and in death row population.

Finally, in comparing the rate of death by handguns in eight industrialized countries, the United States stands out with a rate of death by handguns that is much higher than the rate of other countries. The other seven countries are Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain. The United States is also the only country of the eight to retain use of the death penalty. In most foreign countries, gun control laws are more restrictive and gun owners are assigned more responsibility.

According to Robert Mauro (a professor at the University of Oregon) it all comes down to one thing, and that is brutality. Many sources supported his idea when he says we are encouraging more murder by executing criminals. By killing a criminal we are stooping to their level. We are solving a problem by killing it. We are resorting to greater amounts of violence with our system. Mauro says it all in once sentence: “So, as they say, an eye for an eye policy will leave us all blind”. The fact still remains


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