Cap Pun

Cap Pun - Elizabeth Hagen Deviance Social Control Term...

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Elizabeth Hagen 12/3/07 Term Paper Capital Punishment and Deterrence In 1975, University of Buffalo Professor Isaac Eehrlich published the first article attempting to ascertain the deterrence value of capital punishment which asserted that during the 1950s and '60s, each execution saved 8 lives by deterring murder. 1 Since Eehrlich’s experiment, there has been a steady accumulation of scientific and therefore irrefutable proof that the death penalty saves lives by deterring would-be murderers from killing. Rates of homicide are observed over time in states both with and without the death penalty, with special attention paid to changes accompanying sudden implementation or rejection of capital punishment laws in order to determine their deterrent effect. Many of these studies claim to have verified the average number of lives each execution saves, the range now reaching from 3 to 74 murders deterred. The logic behind how capital punishment deters crime is often understood to be common sense argument. People fear death and will act to avoid it; fear deters. Taking this notion one step further brings into focus the issue of methods of capital punishment. If fear deters, what is feared most should deter most. Ignoring the possibility of escaping punishment and the length of time between committing an act and being punished, both of which weaken a deterrent effect and which inefficiencies in the U.S. legal system guarantee, maximizing the deterrent effect of state executions would include making them public and extremely painful. The effects of widely published studies confirming deterrence are visible a majority of public opinion which agrees that the death penalty is a social necessity, though brutality is distasteful to most and a conventional aversion to cruelty has been at the ideological heart of many reforms on 1 Chan and Oxley, 2004 p 4 1
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state and military policies on prisoners and detained persons. In direct opposition to arguments for capital punishment as a deterrent is the theory of brutalization, which states that the death penalty not only does not deter, but actually increases murder rates as life is cheapened by the state, legitimizing violent problem-solver. Researchers cite an increase in murder rates in California during execution years as an example of the brutalization effect. “Cochran and Chamlin’s research on California suggests that the 1992 execution of Harris after a 25-year moratorium ‘may have produced two simultaneous but opposing effects: a deterrent effect on nonstranger felony-murders and a brutalization effect on argument-based stranger homicides’”. 2 There are also those that argue data reveals neither a deterrent nor brutalizing effect on would-be murderers; crime being so complex and multifaceted as to reveal relatively stable cyclical patterns which relate directly to socio-economic changes over time. All these stances lead to questions about the viability of a completely effective deterrent, whether or not that must come
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2008 for the course SOCI 101 taught by Professor Conley during the Spring '08 term at NYU.

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Cap Pun - Elizabeth Hagen Deviance Social Control Term...

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