Writing Assignment 1

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Radelet & Borg address the most common arguments for and against the death penalty, and how views on capital punishment have changed over time in respect to six specific areas: deterrence, incapacitation, caprice and bias, cost, innocence, and retribution. No theories are presented; instead, the authors elect to analyze secondary data from previous studies, surveys, experiments, and other social science literature. Although some of the research cited was conducted by one (or both) authors previously, most of the data comes from Gallup Polls, federal statistics, and literature or experiments published by other criminologists in journals or books. According to Radelet & Borg (2000), deterrence was, in the past, the most frequently-cited reason for arguments in support of the death penalty. The claim stems from a belief that potential criminals will be less likely to commit severe acts of violence if they know that those who carried out similar crimes before them were put to death – in much the same way that heads on pikes at the gates of a city were intended to deter criminal activity in the Middle Ages. Recently, however, many studies have concluded that the death penalty offers no significant deterrent effects, and the few which claim to find support for these effects have received substantial criticism (Radelet & Borg, 2000). The majority of both criminologists and law enforcement officers surveyed expressed that they do not believe the death penalty offers any difference in the amount of violent crimes committed (Radelet & Borg, 2000). Incapacitation is another oft-cited justification for use of the death penalty, since no murderer has ever been executed and subsequently gone on to kill again. Radelet & Borg (2000) state t... ... middle of paper ... ...ies are abolishing the death penalty has continued to increase. In summary, Radelet & Borg (2000) draw three general observations from the data. First, there have been significant changes in the arguments made for and against the death penalty in the United States. While the case of cost is admittedly not as clear as the other areas, retribution has become the only real justification for capital punishment. Second, countries around the world have been, and continue to be, declining in their usage of the death penalty. Last, social science scholars are being listened to. More research is being published on key issues, and changes are being implemented, albeit seemingly slowly, in accordance with research conducted by criminologists. Works Cited Radelet, M.L., & Borg, M.J. (2000). The Changing Nature of Death Penalty Debates. Annual Review of Sociology 26 43-61.

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