Capital punishment has been and will likely always be a highly controversial issue. Throughout history, the death penalty has been used as a form of public display for crime deterrence. Examples in the past include beheadings, hangings, and now lethal injection. Modern research has been done around the issues of deterrence and whether the death penalty has any deterrent effect on homicide rates. This begs the question of whether it is ethical to execute a person just to deter others from committing crimes such as murder. “Researchers have come to many different conclusions regarding deterrence. Some have determined that the threat of capital punishment deters murderers and actually helps save a large number of lives. Other studies have concluded the opposite – that executions actually increase homicides and that the death penalty has no effect on murder rates whatsoever. Many believe that deterrence offers a utilitarian purpose.” (Moan) They believe that punishing others for criminal activity will prevent more future crimes from occurring. Governments hope that imposing the death penalty will deter future criminals from committing capital crimes because they want to avoid being executed. Although this has been a common goal throughout history, research is beginning to show that deterrence may not be as strong of a factor as many have thought in the past. Those in favor of the death penalty argue that if more convicts who are found guilty of homicides were actually sentenced to death, this could in fact change the murder rates and lower them. The theory behind this is that if a 100 percent of future punishment for homicide is an execution, this will in then lower homicide rates by deterring future murders, whom, understands that if convicted of a homicide, they will be put to death no matter what. Some research studies on the relationship between capital punishment and homicide have led economists to agree with the death penalty because they find that capital punishment does seem to deter murder. Those who favor the death penalty say, “It sets a scary example for criminals and also serves as an effective deterrent.” (Liptak) A New York Times article written by Adam Liptak discusses research done by H. Naci Mocan: “The studies, performed by economists in the past decade, compare the number of executions in different jurisdictions with homicide rates over time — while trying to eliminate the effects of crime rates, conviction rates and other factors — and say that murder rates tend to fall as executions rise.” (Liptak) Naci Mocan, who is an economist at Louisiana State University and top advocate of the research done on the death penalty as a deterrence, stated that new research examining data from 1996-2006 found, “Each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides.” (Mocan). Mocan further explained the equation they used to come to such conclusion: To investigate the impact of capital punishment and other forms of deterrence on homicide, we estimate regressions of the following form: MURDERᵢₑ = DETERμ-₁β + XᵢₑµΩ + µᵢ + ѱᵢₑ + ηᵢₑ + εᵢₑ, where MURDERᵢₑ is the homicide rate at state (i) and year (e) and DETER stands for the vector of deterrence variables… DETER consists of the subjective probabilities that potential offenders are apprehended, convicted, and executed. (Mocan) Secondly, a similar way that the death penalty can be calculated to prove deterrence is through a theory called criminology, for example, “if a robber is put in prison he is prevented from robbing on the streets. Murderers who are executed will be prevented from murdering again, either in prison, or in society if they should get out. This can be measured and reported also as a form of deterrence.” (Mocan). Criminology does not factor deterrence of would-be murderers or future homicides, but rather the convicted murderer and his deterrence, how he can no...
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