Fear of death deters people from committing crimes, proponents say. Theyalso believe that if attached to certain crimes, the penalty of death exerts a positive moral influence by placing a stigma on certain crimes like manslaughter, resulting in attitudes of disgust and horror to such acts. Furthermore, receptionists insist that the deterrent influence of the death penalty reaches across state lines into jurisdictions that have abolished it, and so all benefit by itscontinued use. Perhaps this is the intended goal of the Violent Crime Control And Law Enforcement Act of 1994. It "establishes constitutional procedures for the imposition of the death penalty for federal crimes. It applies to federal statutes that previously carried the death penalty and creates many new capital offences. As a result of the Act, the death penalty may now be imposed for nearly sixtyfederal crimes. New capital offences include the murder of a federal prisoner serving a life sentence, and drive by shootings in the course of certain drug offences" (Internet 3/8/95). Those in support of capital punishment think achieving model citizens and a better society happen through fear and intimidation.
Many Americans believe that the death penalty is effective in deterring peoplefrom committing murder. However, others disagree, and many sociologists argue that the evidence dose not support this view. The evidence they provide includes the following:
1. The United States is the only western country that still executes murderers and yet it has the highest murder rate amongst the western countries.
2. In states of the United States that had retained the capitalpunishment, the homicide rates are generally higher than in states that have abolished it.
3. In states that have abolished the death penalty, homicide rates generally did not go up after the death penalty was abolished. Moreover, where capital punishment was restored in states that had earlier abolished it, it didn’t lead to any significant decrease in homicides
4. If the death penalty had adeterrent effect, then the execution of convicted murderers should scare potential killers and discourage them from killing. The number of homicides in the area should therefore decline. This may sound logical but the reality contradicts it.
The definition of Deterrence is the act or process of discouraging actions or preventing occurrences by instilling fear or doubt or anxiety.
Autilitarian approach sees punishment as a deterrent. Punishment discourages others from doing the same, by focusing minds on the consequences that will befall them should they choose to follow the same course of action. Deterrence theory assumes that most criminal are rational behaviour, and that possible future criminal activity because of the risk and threat of the same punishment. To put this toanother way, people will engage in criminal and deviant activities if they do not fear apprehension and punishment. If a stretch of road had a speed camera in operation, drivers will slow down to avoid a fine – they are deterred from committing a speeding offence. Deterrence is sometimes referred to s rational choice theory, because of the importance of the idea of a human rational decision not tocommit a crime because of fear of what might happen.
In his Scientific American magazine article entitled, "The Case of the Unsolved Crime Decline," criminologist Richard Rosenfeld examines why U.S. crime rates dropped more than 40% in the 1990's and what lessons current policy-makers can learn from this decline. Rosenfeld provides an overview and evaluation of previous research showing a...