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Thread: Death Penalty Decreases Crime

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    Death Penalty Decreases Crime

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,280215,00.html

    Anti-death penalty forces have gained momentum in the past few years, with a moratorium in Illinois, court disputes over lethal injection in more than a half-dozen states and progress toward outright abolishment in New Jersey.

    The steady drumbeat of DNA exonerations — pointing out flaws in the justice system — has weighed against capital punishment. The moral opposition is loud, too, echoed in Europe and the rest of the industrialized world, where all but a few countries banned executions years ago.

    What gets little notice, however, is a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument — whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.

    The reports have horrified death penalty opponents and several scientists, who vigorously question the data and its implications.

    So far, the studies have had little impact on public policy. New Jersey's commission on the death penalty this year dismissed the body of knowledge on deterrence as "inconclusive."

    But the ferocious argument in academic circles could eventually spread to a wider audience, as it has in the past.

    "Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it," said Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. "The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect."

    A 2003 study he co-authored, and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. "The results are robust, they don't really go away," he said. "I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) — what am I going to do, hide them?"

    Statistical studies like his are among a dozen papers since 2001 that capital punishment has deterrent effects. They all explore the same basic theory — if the cost of something (be it the purchase of an apple or the act of killing someone) becomes too high, people will change their behavior (forego apples or shy from murder).

    To explore the question, they look at executions and homicides, by year and by state or county, trying to tease out the impact of the death penalty on homicides by accounting for other factors, such as unemployment data and per capita income, the probabilities of arrest and conviction, and more.

    Among the conclusions:

    • Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).

    • The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.

    • Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.

    In 2005, there were 16,692 cases of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter nationally. There were 60 executions.

    The studies' conclusions drew a philosophical response from a well-known liberal law professor, University of Chicago's Cass Sunstein. A critic of the death penalty, in 2005 he co-authored a paper titled "Is capital punishment morally required?"

    "If it's the case that executing murderers prevents the execution of innocents by murderers, then the moral evaluation is not simple," he told The Associated Press. "Abolitionists or others, like me, who are skeptical about the death penalty haven't given adequate consideration to the possibility that innocent life is saved by the death penalty."

    Sunstein said that moral questions aside, the data needs more study.

    Critics of the findings have been vociferous.

    Some claim that the pro-deterrent studies made profound mistakes in their methodology, so their results are untrustworthy. Another critic argues that the studies wrongly count all homicides, rather than just those homicides where a conviction could bring the death penalty. And several argue that there are simply too few executions each year in the United States to make a judgment.

    "We just don't have enough data to say anything," said Justin Wolfers, an economist at the Wharton School of Business who last year co-authored a sweeping critique of several studies, and said they were "flimsy" and appeared in "second-tier journals."

    "This isn't left vs. right. This is a nerdy statistician saying it's too hard to tell," Wolfers said. "Within the advocacy community and legal scholars who are not as statistically adept, they will tell you it's still an open question. Among the small number of economists at leading universities whose bread and butter is statistical analysis, the argument is finished."

    Several authors of the pro-deterrent reports said they welcome criticism in the interests of science, but said their work is being attacked by opponents of capital punishment for their findings, not their flaws.

    "Instead of people sitting down and saying 'let's see what the data shows,' it's people sitting down and saying 'let's show this is wrong,'" said Paul Rubin, an economist and co-author of an Emory University study. "Some scientists are out seeking the truth, and some of them have a position they would like to defend."

    The latest arguments replay a 1970s debate that had an impact far beyond academic circles.

    Then, economist Isaac Ehrlich had also concluded that executions deterred future crimes. His 1975 report was the subject of mainstream news articles and public debate, and was cited in papers before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing for a reversal of the court's 1972 suspension of executions. (The court, in 1976, reinstated the death penalty.)

    Ultimately, a panel was set up by the National Academy of Sciences which decided that Ehrlich's conclusions were flawed. But the new pro-deterrent studies haven't gotten that kind of scrutiny.

    At least not yet. The academic debate, and the larger national argument about the death penalty itself — with questions about racial and economic disparities in its implementation — shows no signs of fading away.

    Steven Shavell, a professor of law and economics at Harvard Law School and co-editor-in-chief of the American Law and Economics Review, said in an e-mail exchange that his journal intends to publish several articles on the statistical studies on deterrence in an upcoming issue

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    Even if the death penalty does decrease crime the error rate in capital cases is too great to tolerate in a civilized society. We make too many mistakes and execute too many who are not guilty.

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    Many economists are so obsessed with statistics that they lose sight of meaning. A study of cause and effect requires experimental design in which a single variable is manipulated or allowed to vary, correlational design can at best hint at relationships between variables, even when sophisticated factor analytic techniques are employed.

    In this case what we have is a correlation, and the very likely possibility that a third, fourth or fifth factor results in both decreased murder rates and increased executions.

    By the same logic many economists use, we could find any number of absurd things. For example there is a well known correlation between skyscraper construction and economic downturn, we could conclude from this that tall buildings depress economies and that recessions can be avoided if we disallow the construction of record-height buildings.

    The other thing economists need to realise is that economic statistics are entirely historical, they provide empirical information about a particular group at a particular time, not universal truths about mankinds' behaviour in general. Even if we run an experimental design in the realm of human action showing X causes Y, differing social and cultural norms may result in the precise opposite effect at another period of time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by chemist99a View Post
    Even if the death penalty does decrease crime the error rate in capital cases is too great to tolerate in a civilized society. We make too many mistakes and execute too many who are not guilty.
    Name 5 and provide the links.
    "Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and monkeys do too (if they have a gun)". -Eddie Izzard

    Long is the way
    And hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light. -Milton

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    Quote Originally Posted by chemist99a View Post
    Even if the death penalty does decrease crime the error rate in capital cases is too great to tolerate in a civilized society. We make too many mistakes and execute too many who are not guilty.
    Considering the avg number of capital punishments a year is around 70..... think of the 4000 babies in the womb that arent guilty of any crimes that are everyday being slaughtered through abortion.....

    Just putting some things in perspective for you......

    Just as many people died in the world trade center attack on September 11th, thats how many babies die from abortion everyday in America....
    There have been 2000 soldiers that have died in Iraq... thats only half the number of babies that die everyday from abortion on our own soil....

    What a shame for the "land of the free" that has "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"...

    THERE IS GENOCIDE HAPPENING AND NO ONE IS STANDING UP FOR THE TRUE INNOCENT AMONG US! in fact the ones against the death penalty ARE FOR ABORTION! Truly they are for the life of the innocent right.... ???? (said sarcatically)
    Last edited by VTCruiser; 06-11-2007 at 10:28 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by snakespit View Post
    Name 5 and provide the links.
    I'm afraid I have no examples, but isn't ONE too many?

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Symbiote View Post
    Many economists are so obsessed with statistics that they lose sight of meaning. A study of cause and effect requires experimental design in which a single variable is manipulated or allowed to vary, correlational design can at best hint at relationships between variables, even when sophisticated factor analytic techniques are employed.
    It appears that they have done just that.
    "To explore the question, they look at executions and homicides, by year and by state or county, trying to tease out the impact of the death penalty on homicides by accounting for other factors, such as unemployment data and per capita income, the probabilities of arrest and conviction, and more."
    In this case what we have is a correlation, and the very likely possibility that a third, fourth or fifth factor results in both decreased murder rates and increased executions.
    Any statistician worth his salt knows about multivariate statistics and doesn't need to design an experiment with only ONE variable. With enough of a population size, you can check the effects of dozens of variables at once.
    By the same logic many economists use, we could find any number of absurd things. For example there is a well known correlation between skyscraper construction and economic downturn, we could conclude from this that tall buildings depress economies and that recessions can be avoided if we disallow the construction of record-height buildings.

    The other thing economists need to realise is that economic statistics are entirely historical, they provide empirical information about a particular group at a particular time, not universal truths about mankinds' behaviour in general. Even if we run an experimental design in the realm of human action showing X causes Y, differing social and cultural norms may result in the precise opposite effect at another period of time.
    So, the cavaet is "The death penalty is a deterrent in the USA TODAY!" I can live with that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smiley View Post
    I'm afraid I have no examples, but isn't ONE too many?
    Exactly.

    1 innocent person given a life term in prison is too many, but it happens. I would even be willing to bet that the margin for error is greater in non-death cases, due to the close scrutiny that death cases recieve. I am all for minimizing the chances that an innocent person is given the sentence, however I am not willing to throw out a useful and effective means of punishment simply because the system which issues it is somewhat flawed.


    Problem is, everyone keeps talking about all of these innocent people that we have put to death, yet coming up with concrete examples seems to be a bit of a problem. Where is this massive horde of innocent people that have been put to death?

    And by the way, are you chemist99a's other personality?
    "Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and monkeys do too (if they have a gun)". -Eddie Izzard

    Long is the way
    And hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light. -Milton

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    I'd like to use this thread to think out loud about how stupid lethal injection is. Why do they swap the patient's arm with alcohol?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by VTCruiser View Post
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,280215,00.html

    Anti-death penalty forces have gained momentum in the past few years, with a moratorium in Illinois, court disputes over lethal injection in more than a half-dozen states and progress toward outright abolishment in New Jersey.

    The steady drumbeat of DNA exonerations — pointing out flaws in the justice system — has weighed against capital punishment. The moral opposition is loud, too, echoed in Europe and the rest of the industrialized world, where all but a few countries banned executions years ago.

    What gets little notice, however, is a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument — whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.

    The reports have horrified death penalty opponents and several scientists, who vigorously question the data and its implications.

    So far, the studies have had little impact on public policy. New Jersey's commission on the death penalty this year dismissed the body of knowledge on deterrence as "inconclusive."

    But the ferocious argument in academic circles could eventually spread to a wider audience, as it has in the past.

    "Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it," said Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. "The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect."

    A 2003 study he co-authored, and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. "The results are robust, they don't really go away," he said. "I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) — what am I going to do, hide them?"

    Statistical studies like his are among a dozen papers since 2001 that capital punishment has deterrent effects. They all explore the same basic theory — if the cost of something (be it the purchase of an apple or the act of killing someone) becomes too high, people will change their behavior (forego apples or shy from murder).

    To explore the question, they look at executions and homicides, by year and by state or county, trying to tease out the impact of the death penalty on homicides by accounting for other factors, such as unemployment data and per capita income, the probabilities of arrest and conviction, and more.

    Among the conclusions:

    • Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).

    • The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.

    • Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.

    In 2005, there were 16,692 cases of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter nationally. There were 60 executions.

    The studies' conclusions drew a philosophical response from a well-known liberal law professor, University of Chicago's Cass Sunstein. A critic of the death penalty, in 2005 he co-authored a paper titled "Is capital punishment morally required?"

    "If it's the case that executing murderers prevents the execution of innocents by murderers, then the moral evaluation is not simple," he told The Associated Press. "Abolitionists or others, like me, who are skeptical about the death penalty haven't given adequate consideration to the possibility that innocent life is saved by the death penalty."

    Sunstein said that moral questions aside, the data needs more study.

    Critics of the findings have been vociferous.

    Some claim that the pro-deterrent studies made profound mistakes in their methodology, so their results are untrustworthy. Another critic argues that the studies wrongly count all homicides, rather than just those homicides where a conviction could bring the death penalty. And several argue that there are simply too few executions each year in the United States to make a judgment.

    "We just don't have enough data to say anything," said Justin Wolfers, an economist at the Wharton School of Business who last year co-authored a sweeping critique of several studies, and said they were "flimsy" and appeared in "second-tier journals."

    "This isn't left vs. right. This is a nerdy statistician saying it's too hard to tell," Wolfers said. "Within the advocacy community and legal scholars who are not as statistically adept, they will tell you it's still an open question. Among the small number of economists at leading universities whose bread and butter is statistical analysis, the argument is finished."

    Several authors of the pro-deterrent reports said they welcome criticism in the interests of science, but said their work is being attacked by opponents of capital punishment for their findings, not their flaws.

    "Instead of people sitting down and saying 'let's see what the data shows,' it's people sitting down and saying 'let's show this is wrong,'" said Paul Rubin, an economist and co-author of an Emory University study. "Some scientists are out seeking the truth, and some of them have a position they would like to defend."

    The latest arguments replay a 1970s debate that had an impact far beyond academic circles.

    Then, economist Isaac Ehrlich had also concluded that executions deterred future crimes. His 1975 report was the subject of mainstream news articles and public debate, and was cited in papers before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing for a reversal of the court's 1972 suspension of executions. (The court, in 1976, reinstated the death penalty.)

    Ultimately, a panel was set up by the National Academy of Sciences which decided that Ehrlich's conclusions were flawed. But the new pro-deterrent studies haven't gotten that kind of scrutiny.

    At least not yet. The academic debate, and the larger national argument about the death penalty itself — with questions about racial and economic disparities in its implementation — shows no signs of fading away.

    Steven Shavell, a professor of law and economics at Harvard Law School and co-editor-in-chief of the American Law and Economics Review, said in an e-mail exchange that his journal intends to publish several articles on the statistical studies on deterrence in an upcoming issue
    Wait, so lemme get this straight. You think that we should cherish every single embryo out there even if it means denying a woman a right to her own body, but you have no trouble executing people that actually exist? Wow, you conservatives are very intelligent thinkers. How can I deny your impeccable logic?
    "They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years, and [heck], we're not using it anymore."
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    With enough of a population size, you can check the effects of dozens of variables at once.
    You can check the statistical relationship between dozens of variables, not the effects of them.

    For example if I correlated left hand strength with right hand strength across a billion individuals I would probably find a correlation of about 0.93, however this relationship is not causal, cutting off one hand will not result in a 90% strength reduction in the other.

    Correlational studies like this one can not determine cause and effect.

    So, the cavaet is "The death penalty is a deterrent in the USA TODAY!" I can live with that
    That would (almost) be a valid conclusion if the study employed experimental rather than correlational design, a very difficult thing with regard to broad social trends, but the only way such a conclusion could be validated. Even if that were true, it would not say "death penalty is a deterrent TODAY", it would say "death penalty was a deterrent on average over the period in which the study took place"
    He or she who supports a State organized in a military way – whether directly or indirectly – participates in sin. Each man takes part in the sin by contributing to the maintenance of the State by paying taxes.

    ~ Gandhi

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    Problem is, everyone keeps talking about all of these innocent people that we have put to death, yet coming up with concrete examples seems to be a bit of a problem. Where is this massive horde of innocent people that have been put to death?

    The problem is that once the prisoner is executed there is no reason whatsoever to examine his guilt or innocence. If he was innocent there is nothing to be done and nobody is interested in rocking the boat. If he was guilty there is also no interest. What we do have is a number of cases which otherwise would have proceeded to execution except for last minute DNA evidence which proved exculpatory. Too many mistakes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smiley View Post
    I'm afraid I have no examples, but isn't ONE too many?
    Is one too many people wrongfully convicted and sent to life in prison where they died behind bars?

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    Frankly I don't care what the stats say. I don't want my government to have the power to execute.

    And IF we are. Everyone on death row gets the same level of representation. I am sick of the rich being able to buy themselves off with better representation.

    Actually - that kind of ticks me off period. The idea that money should purchase you better counsel for the same crime (or a worse crime) than the poor slob using a public defender.

    An attorney friend of mine thought it might be helpful if ALL attorneys were required to do 1-2 years of public defender service and that it was then part of their record as an attorney.
    “But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most? ” ~ Mark Twain

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by chemist99a View Post
    The problem is that once the prisoner is executed there is no reason whatsoever to examine his guilt or innocence. If he was innocent there is nothing to be done and nobody is interested in rocking the boat. If he was guilty there is also no interest.
    That's why we hold the trial before the execution, not after.

    What we do have is a number of cases which otherwise would have proceeded to execution except for last minute DNA evidence which proved exculpatory. Too many mistakes.
    Wow, the system works. Almost executed is not the same thing as executed. And again, while i know it does happen from time to time, how many cases can you provide as examples where someone was sentenced to death, and later exhonerated from all charges? I bet not too many.

    ~"We have executed too many innocent people in this country!"

    *"Who?"

    ~"Well, we almost executed them."

    LOL, I love it.
    "Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and monkeys do too (if they have a gun)". -Eddie Izzard

    Long is the way
    And hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light. -Milton

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