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Find The Boots

Rantings from a few corporate types about life, technology, travel, guns, politics, and everything good in the world.

Whoda Thunk It Department, #74

Friday, June 22, 2007

As reported:

Studies say death penalty deters crime
My wife is a social scientist, so I say this with fondness, but it amazes me that the list of things that people feel the need to prove is so long. Really, I expect, any day now, to see a headline: Buttered Toast Slightly More Likely To Fall Facedown.



But it is useful when they get some good solid numbers on the topic:

"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?"


No, Naci, you'd have to work for the UN for that.

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).



You mean the principles that govern pretty much all behavior work for anti-social behavior too? Horrors.

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.

Cass Sunstein, a vociferous critic of the death penalty (and, indeed, of punitive imprisonment) said of the studies:

"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."

You think? Jesus. He then goes on to say:

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

Which is code for "make this go away, please, President Hilary.



But there is disagreement about the validity of the arguments:

"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."
Which sounds a lot like the global warming guru's dismissal of, well, everyone.



I am hoping this gets mainstreamed.

   

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