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Deterrence & Justice, page 3


There are some studies which suggest that the death penalty actually causes a "brutalization effect", this means that it increases the number of murders rather than deter it.[7] Some retentionists argue against this claim by asking questions like "Why would criminals become more likely to engage in illegal activities because the punishments for those activities become more severe? Have dramatic increases in the rates of incarceration resulted in dramatic increases in kidnappings?" What is wrong with this statement is that we are referring to ending someone's life by choice, after the threat has been neutralized. It is possible to imagine that as a parent creates an environment of fear and abuse in a home it is likely that the child might end up doing the same to his children as an adult. The same type of effect may be produce from a state law system that induces fear and abuse through the power of implementing capital punishment onto a population, a psychological effect may promote brutalization on some individuals. Retentionists also claim that convicted murderers, if not executed, could escape, are sometimes released, or kill other inmates and police officers while on LWOP. However, could this not be said to be the case for death row as well?

Moreover, studies show that the three leading states where law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in 1998 were: California, the state with the highest death row population; Texas, the state with the most executions since 1976; and Florida, the state that is third highest in executions and in death row population (FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 1998). [8] People just do not think about the death sentence before committing murder, this statement was well explained by Hugo Adam Bedau in 1992, "Persons who commit murder and other crimes of personal violence either premeditate them or they do not. If the crime is premeditated, the criminal ordinarily concentrates on escaping detection, arrest, and conviction. The threat of even the severest punishment will not deter those who expect to escape detection and arrest. If the crime is not premeditated, then it is impossible to imagine how the threat of any punishment could deter it. Most capital crimes are committed during moments of great emotional stress or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when logical thinking has been suspended."[9]. The presumed great deterrent effect of capital punishment is a joke.

Statistical findings on the deterrence effect of capital punishment are not at all conclusive or consistent; therefore, they are not a proper tool to defend the retention of capital punishment. This is a fact that even retentionists acknowledge,"The death penalty would be unacceptable if its only purpose was to deter people. The most important is to punish the guilty one, to see that retribution is made, that justice is administered and that the human value is acknowledged."[10]

In the following section I will discuss capital punishment as a form of "Justice".



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