Monday, October 1, 2007

Capital Punishment

Hola Everybody,
Freakin' Mets! ::sigh::

Starting tomorrow I will post a series of three blogs on racism in America.

Oh yeah! I keep forgetting to mention this! Apparently, there's some real talk about Yahoo doing away with 360 in favor of the bullshit Mash. Mash really sucks dead dawg farts.

What I will do in the event that 360 is done away with is create my own free site. I've had one before, at one point having about close to 100 members. we were able to organize a big picnic for site members through that site.

What I will try to do is offer a space where some of the community feeling can be transposed. Membership will be free and all one will have to do to join is register. I'm not interested in making money! I think there's a great little group here on my friends' list and I would like to maintain that feeling.

The site will feature pages for people to post or (more likely) connect their blogs, but the main feature will be a message-board divided into different forums. Think of a quick comments section but a lot better (with functions to post images, music, videos, etc.). For example, one forum will be for members to interact -- fun stuff and fake drama. Then there will be forums for different topics -- anything from art to politics to erotica. members who request it will have their own self-titled forums.

There are other features I will have, but I won't disclose it here because then someone else will steal my ideas. The site will be for open-minded people who want to connect in meaningful ways. that bullshit it's just Yahoo mentality won't float there. Any unnecessary and childish drama will be strongly discouraged. I will also have a feature in which people won't be able to right click and steal pics.

While I want to be inclusive as possible, no one will be reprimanded for nudity!

There are a lot of very talented people on my list and I will also offer pages (for free) to people who make things or are creative. Poetry, art, crafts -- whatever. I would really love it if people would come on board and make it our own cyber community. More details to come, so stay tuned...

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-=[ Capital Punishment: Is it a Good Way to Keep the Murder Rate Down? ]=-

Not that long ago, I witnessed a frustrated mother physically punishing one child for hitting his sibling. "You. Don't. Hit. Your. Bro-ther," she said loudly, punctuating each syllable with a hard slap to the on the head, hand, and butt. It amazes me how many parents, claiming to teach respect and peacefulness, make no connection to the fact that by hitting a child, you're also teaching them that the way to get your way is through physical aggression and dominance. I'm not surprised these two children fought incessantly -- their mother was reinforcing their behavior.

Since as far back as the nineteenth century, the evidence has shown that there is no relationship between severity of punishment and crime rate. Would Americans do the same today if it were proved to them that killing criminals doesn't make the streets any safer? It's hard to say, but I seriously doubt it. We're a vengeful group.

To be sure, many support capital punishment for other reasons. For example, many individuals support electrocuting, poisoning, or shooting people for failing to understand the sacredness of human life. Because you killed someone, we will kill you. This is somewhat analogous to the mother teaching her children non-violence by demonstrating violent behavior.


The United States in nearly alone in this among developed nations: Most industrialized nations have come to regard death penalty in the same most regard slavery: it's morally wrong.

Opponents to the death penalty have more than morality on their side as arguments, such as the very real possibility of executing someone innocent and the fact that race (of both convicted and victim) plays a huge in deciding factor in who actually gets executed.

But right now, let's just look at the effects on crime. The question here is whether capital punishment is a better deterrent than life imprisonment. The answer, according to the evidence, is that the two penalties are equally effective. Or rather, to be more honest about it, both are equally ineffective.

At first glance, it seems like common sense that the threat of losing their own lives would keep would-be criminals in line. However, a closer, more intelligent, look reveals that that the majority of murders are committed 1) during a moment of rage, 2) under the influence of drugs and alcohol, or 3) unexpectedly, in the course of committing another crime, such as a robbery. In any of these cases, the killer doesn't sit down and rationally weigh the pros and cons of what will happen when he is apprehended, so the death penalty isn't going to stop him.

In fact, intelligent, careful thought about why people break the law not only leads us to question the effectiveness of capital punishment, but also presents a challenge to the idea that throwing more people for longer periods of time is a rational response to crime in general. Want proof? Well, put this in your pipe and smoke it for a bit: Despite the fact that the US already incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation in the world, crimes rates are far higher than in most other countries. The neo-conservative assumption that crime rates were rising because the "costs" of crime in America were too low, is simply put, wrong. The evidence actually shows that too much incarceration serves to destabilize communities.

But I digress, the question at hand is whether capital punishment is a better deterrent than life imprisonment. It shouldn't come as a surprise that capital punishment isn't a deterrent since criminologists have never found any crime-reducing advantage for capital punishment. Actually, there was one (much-celebrated) study by an economist, Isaac Ehrlich, that purported to support the "fact" that each additional execution resulted in eight prevented homicides. Ehrlich's study was seriously flawed. It hinged on the on the fact that more murders were committed in the 1960s, when fewer executions were taking place. Of course, he ignored regional differences in the murder rate and other possible reasons for the increase in homicides (the easier availability of guns, for one). In addition, it turns out that other crimes of violence -- the kind that had never been punishable by death -- increased even more rapidly than homicides. Hmmmm...

In any case, other researchers have since tried to look for and failed to find the effects that Ehrlich got. This makes sense considering the fact that economists have a long-standing poor record in research, and this particular study contradicted everything done before then. In 1978, the National Academy of Sciences studied and rejected Ehrlich's methodology (he used a technique known as regression analysis) and concluded that there was no useful evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment. In other words, we don't know. And surely a practice as drastic as killing someone should be considered only if we do know that it makes our lives better.

But researchers being the dense people they are, two leading criminologists decided that just in case regression analyses did make sense, it was worth giving it another shot. They studied homicides and executions in New York State form every month from 1907 to 1963 and found that the death penalty not only failed to reduce the murder rate but actually seemed to increase it. On average, two additional murders occurred during the month following the execution. These researchers extrapolated that the death penalty had what they termed a "brutalizing effect" that was most likely due to criminals taking their cue from the state and imitating its violence. Sounds like parents who beat their children to me!

The researchers concluded that "The lesson of the execution, then, may be to devalue life [and to teach] that it is correct and appropriate to kill those who have gravely offended us." another writer put it more succinctly in the Journal of Law and Criminology," Use of the death penalty by the state, despite an intention to convey the message that killing is unacceptable, may convey the opposite message to the public. In other words, as all parents should already know: action speaks louder than words.

Of course, the methodology used by these researchers is equally as debatable as it was when Ehrlich used it. However, it still follows that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent against homicides. In fact, there has never been a case where homicides went up after a state abolished capital punishment. In addition, the states with the highest murder rates tend to be those where the death penalty is used. Other research has found that the same is true globally. they dug out old crime records to what happened in twelve countries that had abolished capital punishment between 1890 and 1968 and found that "abolition was followed more often than not by absolute decreases in homicide rates."

Anyone seriously concerned in making our cities safer would do better to look into the real root causes of crime. The consensus among those who have looked at this issue is that capital punishment is not a deterrent to murder.




If you would like to experience a compelling look at the issue moral of capital punishment, check out the film, The Exonerated (click here)

If you're interested in studying crime and punishment without the jargon, check out Elliott Currie's Crime and Punishment in America. Prepare to have your opinions, biases, and assumptions challenged.

The NY times has an article today on how exonerations through the use of DNA are forcing state lawmakers across to the country to change laws (click here).

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