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Does the death penalty deter crime?

15 May 2014, 12:57

South Africa had one of the highest execution rates of all the countries in the world, more than China. The country carried out its executions by hanging, 2 949 people were hanged between 1959 and 1990. In 1987 alone 164 people were hanged. Solomon Ngobeni was the last person to be officially executed in South Africa on the 14 of November 1989; President De Klerk declared a moratorium in February 1990. The death penalty was abolished in South Africa on the 6 June 1995 as it was in conflict with the new South African constitution. Now all most 20 years later the people of South Africa are thinking that that ruling might have been the wrong move; I wish to prove them wrong.

In a study conducted by Professor Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock of the University of Colorado they asked many of Americas leading Criminologists if they thought that the death penalty was an effective way to deter crime, 88% said that it was not while 5% said it was (the rest not having an opinion). This coming from the most learned people in criminology in America and some of them in the world holds a lot of wait. The question is though: do the actual cold hard facts and numbers agree or disagree with the criminologists?

It is hard to find a report or investigation that is even a little accurate. This is due to the phenomenal amount of variables that present themselves in each individual country, such as the cultural and religious beliefs, the past events, and its geographical position. Even with all of these we are able to minimise the amount of variables by looking at a single country that has different laws in side itself.

Once again I shall use the USA as an example because it is one country but with certain states not allowing the death penalty. In the 2 decade period between 1991 and 2010 the states with the death penalty had 32.45% more murders then those that didn't have death penalties.

Even states that are right next to each other such as Iowa and Missouri have major differences in the murder rates. Iowa abolished the death penalty for a second time in 1964 and Missouri having the death penalty for: Murder in the first degree (premeditated murder). Iowa had 519 murders between 2000 and 2010 while Missouri had 4111 murders. Similar statistics can be found in all cases with death penalty states bordering non-death-penalty states.

Besides all the numbers and the debates about whether it is moral or not the fact of the matter is that people change and yes they should have thought about what they were doing, but that is what prisons are for. In a prison the criminals can study and go to reform programs encourage them to go to psychologists, which might be all they need to overcome something that is destroying their mental stability.

What happens if the person that is executed tonight had the opportunity to go to prison and completely change their state of mind, raise a family and teach their children how to behave? The death penalty doesn't allow for such a shift in the human mind it just ends it without considering what could have been.

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