Recent evidence suggests that capital punishment may have a significant deterrent effect, preventing as many as 18 murders for each execution, say Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule of the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies.

Capital punishment presents a life-life tradeoff where a refusal to impose capital punishment could result in a significant increase in the number of deaths of innocent people. In other words, unjustified killing is exactly what capital punishment prevents, say the authors.
Recent research has strengthened the claim of Sunstein and Vermeule.
  • A study based on state-level data from 1977 to 1997 finds that each execution deters five murders on average.

  • Another study based on state-level data, this time from 1997-1999, found that a death sentence deters 4.5 murders and an execution deters three murders.

  • Additionally, the deterrent effect of the death penalty has been found to be a function of the length of waits on death row, with a murder deterred for every 2.75 years deducted from the period before execution.

Even the Supreme Court supports the idea, say Sunstein and Vermeule:

  • Using state-level date from 1960-2000, the Supreme Court made comparisons of the before-and-after effects of suspending and reinstating the death penalty; a substantial deterrent effect was found.

  • After suspending the death penalty, 91 percent of states faced an increase in homicides -- and in 67 percent of states, the rate was decreased after reinstatement of capital punishment.

Furthermore, the familiar problems with capital punishment -- potential error, irreversibility, arbitrariness and racial skew -- do not argue in favor of abolition, because the world of homicide suffers from those same problems in an even more acute form, say the authors.

Capital punishment may be morally required not for retributive reasons, but in order to prevent the taking of innocent lives, conclude Sunstein and Vermeule.

Source: Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, "Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs," AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, March 2005.


Mrs Amy Kah said...

Even though it is true that death penalty prevents other murders from taking place, it is still not the best way to deter potential aggressors. I find it rather interesting that politicians support the idea of death penalties openly as it involves the deaths of other people. I feel that the time of a person's death should only be decided by God. Other alternative methods that can be used as deterence can be the use of torture on major criminals such as terrorists instead.


A.Quek said...

I find interesting is the part about homicide increasing in countries which suspended capital punishment and then later decreasing when capital punishment was resumed. This is interesting as such examples or statistics show how capital punishment is imperative in preventing or reducing homicide, and is applicable to all countries and people.

I agree with the article that capital punishment is an effective deterrent for murder. I agree because a good example is Singapore which as some of the lowest crime rates in the world today due to the government's use of capital punishment against criminals such as the death penalty.

The implication one can draw from the article is that capital punishment is an integral part of any country's legal system and cannot be avoided if the country seeks peace and stability. Although some may argue that capital punishment such as the death penalty is against human rights, we need to understand that the death penalty is used against people who have committed extremely grave crimes against humanity, and have not adhered to human rights laws in the first place.

A possible problem could be in persuading countries in implementing capital punishment in their legal systems if they have not already done so. Several countries may be reluctant to turn to capital punishment due to reasons such as human rights, potential error and irreversibility. A solution could be to take a look at the countries which have the lowest homicide levels in the world and check how many of those countries have already implemented capital punishment.

Celeste (10s13)

Eliza Isa said...

The effectiveness of the death penalty should not be measured in such a way. It is tantamount to having a suspension punishment for being late and then testing if there will be a significant increase if it were to be removed. In this case, removal of the punishment will of course have people thinking that it would be okay to be late since, "I would not be punished". The same way, major criminals would take part in more crimes knowing that they would go unpunished.

If data was compared this way, then it would be fair to say that it is inaccurate for them to say that, "homicide activities increased significantly after capital punishment was taken down".

Also, I agree that capital punishment does act as a rather effective deterrent for criminals attempting or planning to engage in major crimes for they would have to think of the consequences they would have to deal with if they were caught.

However, it is ironic that capital punishment is meted out on a murderer. In which, the life of a person would took a life is taken. Two lives are taken. Is this justice done? To compensate the victim's family?