Death sentence no deterrent

2016-05-24 06:00

In People’s Post (17 May) Yagyah Adams wrote “Death penalty is required” to curb crime.

Really? If indeed capital punishment would “curb the crime rate”, why has South Africa’s murder rate been on the decline since it was abolished in 1995? Then the rate was 67.9 per 100 000 people; at present it’s 32.2 per 100 000 people (a similar phenomenon occurred when Canada abolished it in 1976; their murder rate also declined).

In the United States, a September 2000 New York Times survey found that during the previous 20 years, the murder rate in states with the death penalty has been 48% to 101% higher than in states without the death penalty.

The Economist echoes this, saying “there is no solid evidence that the death penalty is any more effective at deterring murder than long terms of imprisonment. This seems counter-intuitive. Surely death must deter someone. But the kinds of people who kill are rarely equipped, or in a proper emotional state, to make fine calculations about the consequences. Even for those who are, decades of imprisonment may be as great a deterrent as the remote prospect of execution.”

In European countries which have banned such extreme sanction, their murder rate remains far below that of America’s. More than two-thirds of countries have done away with it either in law or in practice.

Even in Malaysia, a zealous exponent of state-sanctioned killings for drug dealing, the Malaysian Bar has urged the government to abolish the death penalty. Records have shown that the death penalty has not reduced the number of offences, but they have instead increased. This shows that the death penalty has a zero deterrent effect.

Amnesty International states: “The threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs or alcohol, those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who panic while committing another crime, or those who suffer from mental illness and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime.”

A number of violent crimes, notably murder, rape and assault, are called “social fabric crimes” by the police because many of these offences are committed by people known to one another in familiar environments. In South Africa, 50.3% of women murdered are killed by an intimate partner. Elevated blood alcohol levels combined with unemployed status was also found to be associated with intimate killings.

Obviously then, drink and drugs exacerbates the violence when the killer has lost his civil faculties. And hardly, in the rage of the moment, will the potential killer think: “Hold on a moment, I may get the death penalty for this.” Indeed, if that thug knows he could face the death penalty, nothing will hold him back from further violence against others.

Chris Charles Glencairn


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