New Jersey's Death Penalty: The Myth of Deterrence
There is No Relationship Between The Existence of The Death Penalty and Murder Rates
- Regions with the most executions have the highest murder rates, and those with the fewest executions have the lowest rates.
- According to the FBI's Preliminary Uniform Crime Report for 2002, the murder rate in the South incresed by 2.1% while the murder rate in the Northeast decreased by almost 5%. The South accounts for 82% of all executions since 1976; the Northeast accounts for less than 1%.
- A recent survey by The New York Times found that states without the death penalty have lower homicide rates than states with the death penalty. Ten of the twelve states without the death penalty have homicide rates below the national average, whereas half of the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above national average. During the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48%, or 101% higher than in states without the death penalty.(2)
- Death sentences are going down across the country, but the murder rate hasn't gone up. The number of people sentenced to death has dropped steadily every year for the past five years - and the latest National Crime Victimization Survey put out by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that the U.S. murder rate for 2003 is unchanged from 2001 and 2002.
- According to preliminary FBI Uniform Crime Report figures released in June 2005, the nation's murder rate dropped 3.6% in 2004. The number of executions also declined in 2004. The largest drop in murder was attributed to Chicago, which saw its lowest murder tally since 1965 - even though Illinois had commuted almost all of its death sentences to life without parole and has a several-year old death penalty moratorium in place.
- In 2003, the South had the highest murder rate in the country, and that appeared to continue in 2004 even as the South carried out 85% of the nation's executions. The Northeast, which had no executions in 2004, had the lowest murder rate in 2003 and that position appeared to remain the same in 2004.
The Death Penalty Diverts Scare Resources From Real Crime Prevention
- Since the reinstatement of capital punishment in New Jersey in 1982, 59 people have been sentenced to death. None have been executed. For 20 years, New Jersey's death penalty has wasted millions of dollars and consumed countless hours of time from prosecutors and defense attorneys alike.
- A recent Dartmouth Study found that death penalty trials are very costly relative to county budgets and that the costs are borne primarily by increasing taxes and decreasing expenditures on police, highway spending and other areas.(3)
People Don't Think Capital Punishment Deters Crime
- A May 2004 Gallup survey found a growing skepticism regarding the death penalty's ability to deter crime, with 62% of those polled saying that it is not a deterrent.
- A 1995 Hart Research Associates poll of police chiefs in the U.S. found that police chiefs ranked the death penalty last among effective ways to reduce violent crime. A full 99% of respondents said that reducing drug abuse, improving the economy and reducing unemployment, simplifying court rules, increasing prison sentences, increasing the number of police officers, or reducing guns were more important than expanding the death penalty in reducing violent crime.(4)
Pro-Deterrence Studies are Flawed
- A new study conducted by Professor Richard Berk of the UCLA Department of Statistics has indentifies significant statistical problems with the data analysis used to support recent studies claiming to show that executions deter crime in the United States. In Professor Berk's study, a re-analysis of the existing data shows that claims of deterrence are a statistical artifact resulting from flawed research.(5)
- Rutgers University Sociology professor Ted Goertzel examined the methods - and the variant results that emerge - used in studying the deterrent effect of executions on homicide. He concluded, " Models rather bizarre specifications."(6)