Monday, June 11, 2007

Studies say death penalty saves lives

by acting as a deterrant to violent crime:

What gets little notice, however, is a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument — whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.
"Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it," said Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. "The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect."

A 2003 study he co-authored, and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. "The results are robust, they don't really go away," he said. "I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) — what am I going to do, hide them?"
Statistical studies like his are among a dozen papers since 2001 that capital punishment has deterrent effects. They all explore the same basic theory — if the cost of something (be it the purchase of an apple or the act of killing someone) becomes too high, people will change their behavior (forego apples or shy from murder).
Among the conclusions:
• Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).
• The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.
• Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.
The studies' conclusions drew a philosophical response from a well-known liberal law professor, University of Chicago's Cass Sunstein. A critic of the death penalty, in 2005 he co-authored a paper titled "Is capital punishment morally required?"

"If it's the case that executing murderers prevents the execution of innocents by murderers, then the moral evaluation is not simple," he told The Associated Press. "Abolitionists or others, like me, who are skeptical about the death penalty haven't given adequate consideration to the possibility that innocent life is saved by the death penalty."

I used to oppose the death penalty, as I did not want to run afoul of the 6th Commandment. Then, I started reading Bible Commentaries, and I learned the 6th Commandment, properly interpreted, should read "Thou shall not murder."

Further, I learned Jesus was not a Ghandi-like pacifist, as I had supposed. [Even Buddhists are rarely Ghandi-like pacifists. Only a few months ago, Buddhist monks took up arms against Muslims who were terrorizing a Buddhist monastery.] Jesus' "turn the other cheek" admonishment actually related to being insulted, as opposed to being physically threatened. Further: Jesus, close to the end of his life, instructed his Apostles to wear swords for self-defense.

I do not see biblical oppostion to the death penalty. The Old Testament is filled with death penalty-type behavior/opinion. In the New Testament, in addition to rampaging through the Temple, and to instructing the Apostles to don swords, Jesus arguably endorses the death penalty in Matt 5:21-22. I see no alternative explanation for the verse.

A long, yet enlightening look at Biblical doctrine and the death penalty: link.

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