The Death Penalty: Data Backs Common Sense

You know how everyone intuitively understands that the death penalty stops some (not all) criminals? Among friends, I’ve had discussions where people wonder why anyone would commit a murder in Texas. Criminals seem absolutely terrified of being extradited to Texas for good reason. In Texas, they get killed, good and dead.

You know how all the pointy heads said that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent it’s just society’s blood-thirsty need for vengeance? And you know how you thought to yourself, whatever, that scum-sucking psycho murderer rapist has zero chance of hurting anyone else and maybe some other scum will think twice.

Turns out, conventional wisdom was right.

According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented.

The effect is most pronounced, according to some studies, in Texas and other states that execute condemned inmates relatively often and relatively quickly.

The studies, performed by economists in the past decade, compare the number of executions in different jurisdictions with homicide rates over time — while trying to eliminate the effects of crime rates, conviction rates and other factors — and say that murder rates tend to fall as executions rise. One influential study looked at 3,054 counties over two decades.

“I personally am opposed to the death penalty,” said H. Naci Mocan, an economist at Louisiana State University and an author of a study finding that each execution saves five lives. “But my research shows that there is a deterrent effect.

I know. Shocking. But still, it’s nice to have data back up common sense.

Cross-posted at Dr. Melissa Clouthier.

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