[THS] Dearth of Good Death Penalty Data
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Sat Apr 21 14:27:50 CEST 2012
Dearth of Good Death Penalty Data
by David Malakoff on 18 April 2012, 1:22 PM
Deterrent effect? The lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison in California.
It's a staple of debate over criminal justice in the United States: Does the death penalty deter homicide?
There's no way to know, according to a new study from the National Research Council. Studies conducted since a brief moratorium on the death penalty ended in 1976 "do not provide evidence for or against the proposition that the death penalty affects homicide rates," the study concludes.
"Fundamental flaws in the research we reviewed make it of no use in answering the question of whether the death penalty affects homicide rates," said Daniel S. Nagin, a public policy scholar at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "We recognize that this conclusion may be controversial to some, but no one is well-served by unsupportable claims about the effect of the death penalty, regardless of whether the claim is that the death penalty deters homicides, has no effect on homicide rates or actually increases homicides."
This is a fascinating area with regard to people's beliefs. Those states that have the death penalty are convinced that it is effective. Those states that have 'three strikes' laws are also convinced that the law lowers crime. In both cases they fail to account for comparable the fall in crime in states that don't have these measures.
Indeed, in countries that haven't had the death penalty for half a century or more and have not increased penalties have also seen a drop in violent crime.
Is this self delusional belief a natural extension of religiosity where members of a religion convince themselves of the efficacy of their belief by exclusively relying on each other as the source of information? At some earlier time in our evolution an individual would have reported to the tribe something that they saw, for instance a predator likely to attack the group or prey animal good to eat. The tribe could then avoid the predator and pursue the prey, a definite selective advantage for individuals having this ability (hailed as the sages or seers of the group). But at some point the information is passed from one person to another person, extinguishing the need for there have to have been an original empirical event or observation.
Thus people believe in Gods and the death penalty not because of the evidence gathered but because of the trusted people who also believe in these things.
Robert Karl Stonjek
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