Capital Punishment Essay: Clarifying Impressions of Death Penalty

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Clarifying Impressions of Capital Punishment There are many false impressions floating around through American society concerning the death penalty; this paper hopes to clarify some of the more prominent, noticeable ones. Does the death penalty deter? Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. The most recent survey of research findings on the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the United Nations in 1988 and updated in 1996, concluded: "Research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment and such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. The evidence as a whole still gives no positive support to the deterrent hypothesis..."(Hood 238) Reviewing the evidence on the relation between changes in the use of the death penalty and crime rates, a study conducted for the United Nations in 1988 and updated in 1996 stated that "the fact that all the evidence continues to point in the same direction is persuasive a priori evidence that countries need not fear sudden and serious changes in the curve of crime if they reduce their reliance upon the death penalty".(Edwin) Recent crime figures from abolitionist countries fail to show that abolition has harmful effects. In Canada, the homicide rate per 100,000 population fell from a peak of 3.09 in 1975, the year before the abolition of the death penalty for murder, to 2.41 in 1980, and since then it has declined further. In 1999, 23 years after abolition, the homicide rate was 1.76 per 100,000 population, 43 per cent lower than in 1975. The total number of homicides reported in the country fell in 1999 for the third straight year.(Hood 253) One of the most important developments in recent years has been the adoption of international treaties whereby states commit themselves to not having the death penalty. Three such treaties now exist: * The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has now been ratified by 46 states. Seven other states have signed the Protocol, indicating their intention to become parties to it at a later date. * Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("European Convention on Human Rights"), which has now been ratified by 39 European states and signed by three others.

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