Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates  Article Review

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Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?

In the article Do executions lower homicide rates?: The views of leading criminologists (Radelet & Lacock 2009) look at the issue of whether there is a deterrence effect with the death penalty. Over the years there has been extensive agreement among criminologists that the death penalty could not be warranted on deterrence grounds. In 1996 a study was conducted by Radelet & Lacock that surveyed sixty-seven leading American criminologists regarding their opinion about the empirical research on deterrence and found that the vast majority of the experts agreed that the death penalty never has been and never will be superior to long-term prison sentences as a deterrent to criminal violence. The research in this article was designed to update the 1996 study and evaluate if any recent deterrence studies have modified the beliefs of the world's leading criminologists.


The question being looked at is whether the death penalty is a more effective deterrent than long-term imprisonment. This issue has been debated for decades or longer by scholars, policy makers, and the general public. There is one side that is for the death penalty that wants to argue that the punishment of death works to deter future crime from happening. The other side argues that the punishment of long-term imprisonment is just as effective as the death penalty in preventing future crimes. The argument is that life in prison is cheaper on society than executing those who commit bad crimes.


The results of this study indicated that only a small minority of top criminologists, ten percent or less, depending on how the question was asked, believes that there is any justification for the use of the death penalty. Leading Criminologists do not feel that the death penalty deters crime any more than long-term imprisonment does.

Understanding of Conclusions Drawn by the Author

The authors state that in 2007 Professor Mocan, a leading economist told writers for both the Associated Press and the New York Times that he thought that the death penalty had a deterrent effect. The data that is this article does not support that position. To the contrary, the data show that the scientific community, in particular social scientists, would likely take a position conflicting that of Professor Mocan. The current survey indicates that the vast majority of the world's top criminologists believe that the empirical research has exposed that the deterrence hypothesis is a myth. Current econometric studies, which hypothesize that the death penalty has a trivial deterrent effect beyond that of long-term imprisonment, are so partial or defective that they have failed to challenge consensus. In short, the agreement among criminologists is that the death penalty does not add any significant deterrent effect above that of long-term imprisonment.

Authors Success

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Sources Used in Document:


Radelet, M.L. & Lacock, T.L. (2009). Do executions lower homicide rates?: The views of leading criminologists. Retrieved from

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