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NCJ Number: 77983 Find in a Library
Title: Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment - New Evidence on an Old Controversy
Journal: American Journal of Sociology  Volume:86  Issue:1  Dated:(1980)  Pages:139-148
Author(s): D P Phillips
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 10
Sponsoring Agency: University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92037
Grant Number: R-C46
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper examines the short-and long-term effects of publicized executions on the homicide rate in London, England, from 1858 to 1921.
Abstract: Weekly homicide statistics for London were used for the 57-year period. A standard casebook of notorious murderers was used to generate a list of heavily publicized executions in England during this time. The number of column inches devoted to each execution in the 'London Times' was used as a rough indicator of the total amount of newspaper publicity devoted to each story. Control periods were established using the time intervals before and after the execution week of 4, 6, and 8 weeks. A data analysis demonstrated that homicides dropped significantly in the week of a publicized execution and that the more publicity given to the execution, the more the homicides dropped. In addition, homicides appeared to be deterred for only a 2-week period, the number then increased above that for the preexecution period before decreasing to the preexecution level. These results thus support both the conservative claim that executions have a short-term deterrent effect on homicides and the liberal position that capital punishment has no long-term deterrent effect. It is suggested that previous studies were unable to reveal the short-term effects because they only used yearly homicide data. Further studies of short-term effects in the United States are recommended. A table, graph, footnotes, and 31 references are included.
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Deterrence; England
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