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NCJ Number: 94083 Find in a Library
Title: Is Capital Punishment a Unique Deterrent? A Dispassionate Review of Old and New Evidence
Journal: Canadian Journal of Criminology  Volume:23  Issue:3  Dated:(July 1981)  Pages:291-311
Author(s): E A Fattah
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 21
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Canada
Annotation: This review of research regarding the deterrent effect of capital punishment concludes that it neither deters homicides nor offers society any unique protections.
Abstract: If the death penalty is a unique deterrent to murder, then a declining use of it should be followed by an increase in murder rates. Statistics from many countries including the United States, however, show that murder rates have remained constant or declined despite trends away from capital punishment. Other statistical studies of jurisdictions with and without the death penalty have shown that the presence or absence of capital punishment has no visible effect on homicide rates. Research also has revealed that abolition of the death penalty does not increase risks for law enforcement officers or assaultive behavior in penal institutions where convicted murderers are detained. Moreover, capital punishment defeats its own purpose of protecting society by increasing the number of acquittals in capital cases. The death penalty is not likely to be an effective deterrent for those who are unafraid of death or have a wish to die, and it may act as an incentive for murder in certain personalities. The alleged deterrent effect of the death penalty is based on the assumption of free and rational choice, but the crime for which the penalty is most frequently prescribed, criminal homicide, is generally the result of sudden impulse or a violent over-mastering passion. Finally, the deterrent effect of the death penalty is considerably weakened by the remoteness and uncertainty of the threat it presents and by man's inability to conceive of his own death. The paper includes 52 references.
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Deterrence
Note: Revised version of a paper presented at the VI UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders - Session on Capital Punishment Organized by Amnesty International Tuesday, August 26, 1980
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