Research insufficient to assess deterrent effect of death
April 18, 2019
Research conducted thus far won’t help people determine whether the death penalty has any effect on homicide rates, according to a 2012 report from the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering.
A survey of studies since a four-year moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in 1976 indicates they should not be used as a basis for policy decisions about capital punishment, a council committee concluded.
“Fundamental flaws in the research we reviewed make it of no use in answering the question of whether the death penalty affects homicide rates,” said Daniel S. Nagin, Teresa and H. John Heinz III University Professor of Public Policy and Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, and chairman of the committee that wrote the report.
Among the flaws:
– None of the research accounted for the possible effect of noncapital punishments on homicide rates.
– Studies made implausible or unsupported assumptions about potential murderers’ perceptions of and response to capital punishment.
– Estimates of the deterrent effect of the death penalty were based on unfounded assumptions, for example, that the effect of capital punishment is the same across all states and over time.