Failure to Deter Crime
There is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime. North Carolina’s murder rate declined after executions stopped. The death penalty has failed to deliver on the much touted promise that it makes the people of North Carolina safer.
Over the past several years, there has been a steep drop-off in the use of the death penalty. No one has been executed in North Carolina since 2006. The number of death sentences handed down by juries has been declining for years, and in 2012 for the first time, no one received the death penalty in North Carolina. Even prosecutors have declined to seek the death penalty in all but a handful of cases.
Yet, according to the N.C. Department of Justice, the state murder rate has declined in the years since executions stopped. Given this fact, there is no credible argument that the death penalty deters crime.
In fact, most people on death row committed their crimes in the heat of passion, while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or while suffering from mental illness. They represent a group that is highly unlikely to make rational decisions based on a fear of future consequences for their actions. The idea that the death penalty has the power to stop murder is naive and clearly proven false by the facts. Studies that have shown the death penalty reduces crime have been discredited by rigorous research.
Nationally, murder rates are significantly lower in states that don’t use the death penalty than in those with a death penalty statute — and have been consistently for the past two decades. In some years, the murder rate in non-death penalty states was as much as 46 percent lower than in death penalty states. In a 2008 survey, police chiefs from across the country ranked the use of the death penalty at the bottom of a list of effective crime fighting tools. They said more law enforcement resources were the most needed tool for reducing violent crime.
- Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?: The Views of Leading Criminologists
- A poll of police chiefs
- Deterrence and the Death Penalty, a report from the National Research Council