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« Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 725 -- Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 727 -- Texas Leading Nation Economically. »

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 726 -- Death Penalty Deterrence.

Death Penalty Means Fewer Murders-

Crime in America fell in 2009 across the board:


There are a lot of explanations floating around, but I would offer the basic explanation that we are tougher and smarter on crime these days. Forensic evidence these days helps catch rapists before they become serial rapists, for example. And we put rapists away, for the most part, for a long, long time.

The death penalty also apparently works to deter crime:

HUNTSVILLE — As many as 60 people might be alive today in Texas because two dozen convicted killers were executed last year in the nation's most active capital punishment state, according to a study of death penalty deterrence by researchers from Sam Houston State University and Duke University.

A review of executions and homicides in Texas by criminologist Raymond Teske at Sam Houston in Huntsville and Duke sociologists Kenneth Land and Hui Zheng concludes that a monthly decline of 0.5 to 2.5 homicides in Texas follows each execution.


Researchers ran mathematical models that considered homicide figures from the Texas Department of Public Safety to see whether month-to-month fluctuations in executions could be associated with subsequent fluctuations in homicide counts.

Teske told The Associated Press that although the published study ended with 2005, the conclusions are valid for subsequent years.

He said some experts disliked the results: "I have a hard time getting people to understand that this reports a scientific analysis of an issue and is not a political statement."

The original piece can be found here.

The SuperFreakonomics also points out that when the ACLU successfully wins one of its lawsuits to release prisoners en masse, the crime rate goes up:

In recent decades, the ACLU has filed lawsuits against dozens of states to protest overcrowded prisons. Granted, the choice of states is hardly random. The ACLU sues where prisons are most crowded and where it has the best chance of winning. But the crime trends in states sued by the ACLU look very similar to trends in other states. The ACLU wins virtually all of these cases, after which the state is ordered to reduce overcrowding by letting some prisoners free.

In the three years after such court decisions, the prison population in these states falls by 15 percent relative to the rest of the country.

What do those freed prisoners do? A whole lot of crime. In the three years after the ACLU wins a case, violent crime rises by 10 percent and property crime by 5 percent in the affected states.

So it takes some work, but using indirect approaches like natural experiments can help us look back at the dramatic crime increase of the 1960s and find some explanations. One major factor was the criminal-justice system itself. The ratio of arrests per crime fell dramatically during the 1960s, for both property and violent crime. But not only were the police catching a smaller share of the criminals; the courts were less likely to lock up those who were caught.

In 1970, a criminal could expect to spend an astonishing 60 percent less time behind bars than he would have for the same crime committed a decade earlier. Overall, the decrease in punishment during the 1960s seems to be responsible for roughly 30 percent of the rise in crime.

Imagine that. You put criminals behind bars, they don't commit crimes. You release them, they commit crimes.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Jobs, Jobs, & More Jobs.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 January 2010 03:12 PM