Death penalty - Research Paper Example

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For as long as there have been records of written law, there have been records of the use of death as the ultimate penalty. Put most simply, the death penalty is the right of the governing authority to take one's life as punishment for the commission of a criminal offense. …
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Download file to see previous pages In response to the argument that capital punishment deters crime, opponents point to a substantial body of research that suggests otherwise. Prior to Ehrlich's work and the subsequent application of econometric methods to the question of deterrence, few criminologists believed that there was strong evidence to support this argument. Recent surveys of criminologists have found that they still overwhelmingly believe that capital punishment does not deter crime; in 2009, a study of leading American criminologists found that 88 percent thought the death penalty was not a deterrent.
Critics point out that a large number of studies on the topic have found no deterrent effect, and that the attitudes of criminologists reflect this evidence. Sellin's work on the deterrent effect in 1959 was one of the first primary studies that compared states with similar populations and crime rates, and found that those with the death penalty had, on average, no significant decreases in homicide rates. This work was followed by dozens of published studies that compared states with or without the death penalty, and notably after 1972, compared homicide rates before and after the halting of executions within specific states, and concluded there was little deterrent effect.
Beginning in the 1970s, there has also been a substantial body of work that has focused more extensively on rebutting the methodologies and findings of Ehrlich and later econometricians. In response to Ehrlich's findings, the National Academy of Sciences appointed a panel of experts to review his work and concluded in 1978 that his methodology was flawed, and his conclusions were not sustainable. Critics have pointed out that his findings were largely dependent upon the specific variables he chose to include in his studies, as well as the specific time frames he focused on, and even minor changes to these inputs and parameters have resulted in radically different outcomes. More recently, the work of Jeffery Fagan and several colleagues has demonstrated that the use of econometric methods by researchers who have found a link between executions and deterrence are equally susceptible to large variances through small changes to variables or time frames. Aside from the argument that capital punishment does not deter crime, critics also argue that the death penalty does not in fact result in increased justice for either victims or society. Many critics are opposed to the idea of retribution on moral or religious grounds, and argue that for a variety of reasons, the death penalty constitutes a violation of the Eighth Amendment's ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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