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 Does the Death Penalty Deter Crime? New Studies.
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 11/21/2007 :  08:00:27  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The radio show News and Notes had a great segment yesterday on new studies about the death penalty as a deterrent. The first guy interviewed pretty well convinced me that the studies are not reliable, and so while I'm open to new evidence that might change my mind, I still stand firmly against the death penalty. It is a short segment and well worth listening to:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16468497

On a related note. I was rather disappointed with Penn and Teller's Bullshit! episode on the death penalty. It was very theatrical and tugged at a lot of heart strings, but I felt that, for them, it was light on the solid, evidence-based reasons why the death penalty does not make society more happy, peaceful, or productive, and instead merely throws about lives of both the reformable and probably a few innocents for the sake of revenge. Then again, I'd imagine that Penn and Teller made a very conscious decision to make that episode more emotional because they thought that approach would be more convincing.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

BigPapaSmurf
SFN Die Hard

3192 Posts

Posted - 11/21/2007 :  08:08:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send BigPapaSmurf a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Life in prison is a stronger deterrant than death, for me at least.

"...things I have neither seen nor experienced nor heard tell of from anybody else; things, what is more, that do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all. So my readers must not believe a word I say." -Lucian on his book True History

"...They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time." -Lucian critical of early Christians c.166 AD From his book, De Morte Peregrini
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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 11/21/2007 :  08:54:11   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The New York times also ran something on this on Sunday. I think the conclusion of the article is right:
Professor Wolfers said the answer to the question of whether the death penalty deterred was 'not unknowable in the abstract,' given enough data.

'If I was allowed 1,000 executions and 1,000 exonerations, and I was allowed to do it in a random, focused way,' he said, 'I could probably give you an answer.'


Freakonomics also has something to say.
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Orwellingly Yurz
SFN Regular

USA
529 Posts

Posted - 11/21/2007 :  12:12:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Orwellingly Yurz a Private Message  Reply with Quote
YO: Read this short bio to get the gist of a university in Malibu.

Kenneth Winston Starr (born July 21, 1946) is an American lawyer and former judge who was appointed to the Office of the Independent Counsel to investigate the death of the deputy White House counsel Vince Foster and the Whitewater land transactions by President Bill Clinton. He later submitted to Congress the Starr Report, which led to Clinton's impeachment on charges arising from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He currently serves as dean of Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California. Mr. Starr was born in Texas and is a Republican. (What a surprise.)

Orwellingly Yurz Sez:

The death penalty is cruel, but it's not unusual. OY!


"The modern conservative...is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
--John Kenneth Galbraith

If dogs run free
Then what must be,
Must be...
And that is all
--Bob Dylan

The neo-cons have gotten welfare for themselves down to a fine art.
--me

"The meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights."
--J. Paul Getty

"The great thing about Art isn't what it give us, but what we become through it."
--Oscar Wilde

"We have Art in order not to die of life."
--Albert Camus

"I cling like a miser to the freedom I lose when surrounded by an abundance of things."
--Albert Camus

"Experience is the name so many people give to their mistakes."
--Oscar Wilde
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ejdalise
Skeptic Friend

USA
50 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  00:56:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit ejdalise's Homepage Send ejdalise a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I am hesitant to jump in this, but I don't see it as a deterrent to crime. It is primarily a culling action, with the potential side benefit of bringing closure to the victim's family.

While I grant the the current system we have is flawed (much too long to execute sentences), I still maintain that some crimes are so odious as to leave little other choice.

For me it is an affront to allow certain people rights they themselves callously denied others.

ejd

--- Disperser ---
Winning enemies and aggravating friends since 1953
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  12:01:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
From a pure fiscal responsibility position you can argue against the death penalty. It costs more to execute a person than to imprison them for life.

Add in the questionable deterrent effect, the obvious bias of the justice system in some instances, the imperfection of the system in some cases (wrongful convictions), the idea that life in prison is a more severe punishment than death to many, and the death penalty seems even more untenable, IMO.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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ejdalise
Skeptic Friend

USA
50 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  12:56:11   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit ejdalise's Homepage Send ejdalise a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

From a pure fiscal responsibility position you can argue against the death penalty. It costs more to execute a person than to imprison them for life.


I will grant you the cost, but in part that is due to the many appeals and the care that is taken in such cases. It still does nothing to change my mind. This is a matter of opinion, and for me the cost is not the issue.

Originally posted by Dude

Add in the questionable deterrent effect, the obvious bias of the justice system in some instances, the imperfection of the system in some cases (wrongful convictions), the idea that life in prison is a more severe punishment than death to many, and the death penalty seems even more untenable, IMO.


I already stated it is not a deterrent. To my knowledge, there has not been any documented cases of wrongful execution. They have been theorized, but it is precisely because of the extra cost and measures taken in such cases that there is no evidence for them. Contrast that to the many examples of wrongful incarceration precisely because no one cared enough to take another look.

And as to life in prison. The term itself is misleading. "Life" in many instances means 25-40 years. Sometimes even less. The "no parole" convictions are not the norm.

And I object to the term "punishment". For me, anyone who knowingly takes another person's life (extenuating circumstances aside, such as war, self defense, etc.) abdicates any rights at being treated as a human. There simply is no place for that person in society, and I see no reason to have them hand around. It is not a matter of punishment, but as I stated, of culling.

I also object to more consideration being given to the culprit than the victim, or the victim's family. One might even argue that continued incarceration provides opportunity for the person to take other people's lives, or at the very least inflict more pain and suffering both to other inmates and to guards.

While I don't advocate the death penalty for every situation, there are many cases where, at least to me, it presents itself as the only reasonable course of action.

I will grant that my views are based not on my concern for whether we are a "civilized" society or not, but rather by imagining myself in a situation of knowing the victim (family member, friend, etc.). There is no question in my mind that knowing the perpetrator is alive somewhere on this planet would forever be in the back of my mind. It's hard for me to totally remove the revenge aspect as being part of my feelings, but I can say that in at least my case the execution of the person would bring me closer to closure.

It might also save me from potentially facing a similar fate because of my actions should the person ever get out of prison. Then again, I would certainly try not to get caught.

--- Disperser ---
Winning enemies and aggravating friends since 1953
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  13:31:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
ejdalise:
To my knowledge, there has not been any documented cases of wrongful execution. They have been theorized, but it is precisely because of the extra cost and measures taken in such cases that there is no evidence for them.


This article makes a pretty convincing case that innocent people have indeed been executed.

I think it is in the realm of the highly unlikely that wrongful executions do not happen.

A Question of Innocence



My question is; what would be an acceptable number of “mistakes” to keep capital punishment on the books?

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Orwellingly Yurz
SFN Regular

USA
529 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  13:34:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Orwellingly Yurz a Private Message  Reply with Quote
YO: I don't believe a victim's family feels real closure when the killer of their loved one is killed. Revenge is a fleeting thing, but the loved one is gone forever.

Of all the heinous crimes committed, there's only one I struggle with in regard to whether the perpetrator should be executed: the raping and murdering of children.

My first wife was stabbed to death sitting in her car with her then boy friend. We had been divorced for years. I'm sorry the mother of my daughter is dead, but I've never seethed about the bastard who did it. BTW, the person has never been caught.

OY!

"The modern conservative...is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
--John Kenneth Galbraith

If dogs run free
Then what must be,
Must be...
And that is all
--Bob Dylan

The neo-cons have gotten welfare for themselves down to a fine art.
--me

"The meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights."
--J. Paul Getty

"The great thing about Art isn't what it give us, but what we become through it."
--Oscar Wilde

"We have Art in order not to die of life."
--Albert Camus

"I cling like a miser to the freedom I lose when surrounded by an abundance of things."
--Albert Camus

"Experience is the name so many people give to their mistakes."
--Oscar Wilde
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ejdalise
Skeptic Friend

USA
50 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  14:09:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit ejdalise's Homepage Send ejdalise a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

ejdalise:
To my knowledge, there has not been any documented cases of wrongful execution. They have been theorized, but it is precisely because of the extra cost and measures taken in such cases that there is no evidence for them.


This article makes a pretty convincing case that innocent people have indeed been executed.

I think it is in the realm of the highly unlikely that wrongful executions do not happen.


I thought that was what I said. It has been theorized.

Originally posted by Kil

My question is; what would be an acceptable number of “mistakes” to keep capital punishment on the books?


Let's use the same number of acceptable fatalities as we allow for drinkers when they drive . . . somewhere around 25,000 per year.

The point being that everything we do in life is a matter of compromises, and there are few absolutes. Your desire for wrongful deaths is probably the same as mine - zero. I don't want to see any innocents hurt or killed. That said, it is a fact of life. If we go strictly by numbers, there are many other areas where efforts to curb the occurrences would yield greater returns.

--- Disperser ---
Winning enemies and aggravating friends since 1953
Edited by - ejdalise on 11/22/2007 14:27:21
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ejdalise
Skeptic Friend

USA
50 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  14:26:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit ejdalise's Homepage Send ejdalise a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Orwellingly Yurz

YO:


YO? A proper appellation would be ejd, or sir, or just leave it out. We're shooting for classier forum here.

Originally posted by Orwellingly Yurz

I don't believe a victim's family feels real closure when the killer of their loved one is killed. Revenge is a fleeting thing, but the loved one is gone forever.


It's good you share your own opinion, but do you really feel comfortable speaking for everyone else? I mean, I know at least one person who does not agree with you. That would be me. Perhaps there are a few more.

And I'm not sure what that last sentence means. I mean, it's true, but so what? Revenge, at least in my case, is only a portion of it.

Originally posted by Orwellingly Yurz

Of all the heinous crimes committed, there's only one I struggle with in regard to whether the perpetrator should be executed: the raping and murdering of children.


I refrained from using that example as too easy. And also discriminative. As hard as it is to comprehend, the raping and killing of a 21 year old is no less justifiable, and no less deserving of the death penalty.

Originally posted by Orwellingly Yurz

My first wife was stabbed to death sitting in her car with her then boy friend. We had been divorced for years. I'm sorry the mother of my daughter is dead, but I've never seethed about the bastard who did it. BTW, the person has never been caught.


Ex-wife murdered and you don't seethe about it . . . I've heard that one before, at least a few times.

But again, personal opinions are great. I shared mine, and you shared yours. Now, let's take an example. We both lose a loved one. You want the killer of your loved one to live. Fine. I don't want the killer of mine to live. Why should you have any say so on that matter? People are different, and cope with loss in different ways. If you are comfortable with the person living, more power to you. In my case, there would be significant seething.

Hopefully, we'll never have occasion to put our respective opinions to the test.

--- Disperser ---
Winning enemies and aggravating friends since 1953
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13467 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  15:30:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
ejdalise:
Let's use the same number of acceptable fatalities as we allow for drinkers when they drive . . . somewhere around 25,000 per year.


There are no acceptable fatalities due to drunk driving. Drunk driving is a crime. And if drunk driver kills another person, it's considered a homicide. We do not allow for it. Find a better analogy.

And yes, there are risks in life. In my opinion, capital punishment is one of those areas where eliminating the risk of an innocent dying is fairly easy to solve. Get rid of it.

As for the feelings of the victims families, while I sympathies, there are very good reasons why they don't get to decide on the fate of a convicted person. I think we need to be guided by reason and not emotion in cases that have such lasting consequences.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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ejdalise
Skeptic Friend

USA
50 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  16:55:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit ejdalise's Homepage Send ejdalise a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Drunk driving is a crime. And if drunk driver kills another person, it's considered a homicide. We do not allow for it. Find a better analogy.


Fine. Let's use the estimated number of people killed by the medical profession due to misdiagnosing, administration of wrong medicine, or just plain incompetence. That number has been placed at an incredible 800,000 per year. Personally, I don't buy into more than half that number.

Originally posted by Kil

And yes, there are risks in life. In my opinion, capital punishment is one of those areas where eliminating the risk of an innocent dying is fairly easy to solve. Get rid of it.


Simple answer to a complex question. Perhaps we'll tackle education, abortion, war, and poverty next.

Sounds like a sarcastic answer, but . . . no, I guess it is. The point being that the same argument can be used against wrongful incarceration. The same studies that say the death penalty is not a deterrent also find the same is true of tougher prison sentencing guidelines. Why is the destroying of a life looked at differently depending what guise it takes? How is spending one's life in jail any better than having been killed outright in a case where the person is innocent?

I will posit that the difference is not so much for the person being incarcerated or executed, but for "ourselves" (that is in quotes because at least one person does not agree). Somehow, and I suspect because of religion, the taking of a life has become anathema when done under the rule of law. Perhaps we have Polyannic aspirations of reaching this theoretical higher plane of social, political, and personal civility . . . all the while failing to recognize there are human beings that amount to little more than animals.

I will state my opinion that not all lives are equal, that not all persons have the same value. Someone who has no problem inflicting pain and suffering has no business being considered fit for humanity.

Before anyone points out the incongruity of the statement vs. my view on the death penalty, I'll remind them that the later is by application of laws, and is not indiscriminate (at least not yet).



Originally posted by Kil

As for the feelings of the victims families, while I sympathies, there are very good reasons why they don't get to decide on the fate of a convicted person. I think we need to be guided by reason and not emotion in cases that have such lasting consequences.


One could argue that the state took over the function because it relieved responsibility (or desire) for the families to act on their own.

I agree with your last sentence, but the same needs to be applied to doling out life imprisonment as well. In both cases there are lasting consequences.

Our current system is very much geared toward no protection for victims and potential victims. While I see in the news large group of protesters outside a prison where an execution is to take place, I don't see the same protesters outside the home of an abused wife whose husband is about to be let out of jail.

I readily admit I have a very harsh outlook toward anyone who deliberatively kills, or even hurts anyone. I see them as dangerous, and they should be marked for removal. Luckily for a large number of felons, and unluckily for an even larger number of past, present, and future victims, my views are very much in the minority.

Thankfully, despite what I consider misguided but well intentioned objections, I'm still able to express them here.


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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  18:51:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by ejdalise

YO? A proper appellation would be ejd, or sir, or just leave it out.
Orwellingly Yurz begins every post with YO (his initials backwards) and ends every post with OY.
We're shooting for classier forum here.
For a guy who's against the death penalty, whaddaya wanna go shooting classy forums for?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  18:57:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by ejdalise

Fine. Let's use the estimated number of people killed by the medical profession due to misdiagnosing, administration of wrong medicine, or just plain incompetence.
I think the only comparable number would be another type of intentional killing of human beings. I figure that leaves deaths caused by war or premeditated murder (which ironically can get one the death penalty).

The death penalty is not an accident, so deaths from drunk driving or medical mistakes aren't in the same league. Might even have to discount wartime collateral damage.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 11/22/2007 :  22:00:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
ejd said:
The same studies that say the death penalty is not a deterrent also find the same is true of tougher prison sentencing guidelines. Why is the destroying of a life looked at differently depending what guise it takes? How is spending one's life in jail any better than having been killed outright in a case where the person is innocent?

Personally I'd not argue in favor of harsh sentencing guidelines. Prison should be, IMO, only for those who commit violent crimes. If we had an adequate system to help those who break laws, on their first offense, and get them the tools they need to live inside the social structure, then we could also include those who clearly demonstrate an unwillingness to abide by law in prisons (multiple non-violent offenses).

Then I'd argue that all prisons should be maintained in a state of military discipline with minimal creature comforts, no free time, etc. Give the innmates the option of actively participating, getting a job within the prison system (prisoners should be required to attend to their own upkeep and expenses. Prisoners should run farms, tend livestock, conduct all prison maintenance, prepare all their own food, and so on. The prison should be as close to self sufficient as can be, after an initial taxpayer expense to build and organize it.

All those who actively participate will be paid a wage (the same wage for all prisoners, no salary teirs) out of which they will have to pay for their personal expenses like rent, healthcare, clothing, food, education (all prisoners will be required to learn an employable skill), paying the guards to guard them, etc.

All those who decline to participate will be kept in a small room, fed exactly what they need to maintain their current metabolic rate, be isolated from the rest of the prisoners, and charged for the expense of keeping them imprisoned. On the day they are released, they get a bill.

As long as such a prison were run strictly in accordance with US military training manuals (for nutrition, living conditions, hours of work/rest, and so on) it would never fail a legal challenge.

Such prisons would, IMO, be a real deterent to crime and also provide prisoners with training, discipline, and job skills that will give them a chance


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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