Is the Death Penalty an Effective Crime Deterrent – Yes

Most of us are not capable of murder except in the extreme conditions of protecting ourselves or our children. Others are able to take the life of another in war or in moments of rage and jealousy. Still others have absolutely no concern for human life and there are those who actually take sadistic pleasure in terrorizing and torturing other human beings.

In a perfect world, there would be no murder, no rape, no child molestation. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. We live in a world of good and bad and free will. People are not born with self-control. In fact, children are born programmed to “push the envelope”, to see how far they can go before someone else steps in and tells them, or forces them, to stop. In prehistoric times, the penalty for non-conformist behavior was shunning. Members of the tribe would simply refuse to acknowledge the offenders existence. They wouldn’t share food or shelter, usually resulting in the death of the shun-ee. As a social species, cooperation and a certain degree of conformity are necessary. We all learn, as part of our upbringing, just what we can and cannot get away with.

Delayed gratification and restraint are learned behaviors. When these behaviors are not learned and subjects are mentally capable, the risk of punishment is the only true deterrent. We do not steal because we have learned it is “wrong” and that there will be undesirable repercussions to stealing. We do not hurt others because we learn it is wrong and because we don’t want them to hurt us back. Even our sense of wrong-doing is based in the threat of an eternity in Hell.

The death penalty has been shown to be a very effective crime deterrent, but only when it is used in a timely manner. When the delay between judgment and execution is too great, the opposite appears to be true. In the days and places of immediate hanging or stoning to death, or the removal of a limb, crime was greatly reduced. It simply wasn’t worth the punishment. Currently, opponents are happy to point out that the death penalty does not appear to deter crime when, in fact, the ineffectiveness is due to the lengthy delay. In California, the delay between judgment and execution grew from 4 years (1977 to 1983) to 12 years (2005). Often the delay runs 20-25 years. With these extensive delays, those willing to commit rape or murder are not deterred. Their thought processes are simply not affected by such long-term consequences. Even when alternative punishments are used, a life sentence generally only results in a 15 year sentence. When death penalty sentences are commuted or delayed indefinitely, homicide rates increase by four to five times, while an execution reduces the rate by five times, taking other variables into consideration.

Where is the justice for the family of the victim or the protection of future victims?  Another consideration: The average taxpayer is punished by being forced to support those incarcerated. As brutal as it may sound, the execution of repeat offenders will save lives and protect those who are innocent more often than it will do the reverse.

Opponents often point to demographic disparity between economic and racial categories but they neglect factors such as local unemployment rates, education rates, per capita income, minimum legal drinking ages and infant mortality rates. Without taking all the variables under consideration, proponents and opponents alike can, as we all know, make the statistics mean whatever suits their side of the argument.

The bottom line is, if everyone knows that they will be quickly and legally killed for committing such crimes as murder and child rape, those crimes will be reduced. Will an occasional innocent person be killed by this system? Yes. Will countless innocent lives be saved by executing those warped individuals willing to commit such atrocities? Undoubtedly, yes.