Critics Expose Myths Behind Capital Punishment

By Charles David Henry
Journalism Guild Writer

As the U.S. remains one of the five nations with the most executions in the world, critics opposing capital punishment are confronting the myths of its effectiveness.

Matthew Rozsa, writer for, claims the debate about the death penalty is “riddled with misinformation”; challenging these myths won’t just create necessary policy change, it’ll save lives.

One myth is that the death penalty helps stop crime, Roza said.

He cited a 2009 study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology that said 88 percent of the country’s top criminologist don’t believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicides, 87 percent believed abolishing it won’t have any affect on the murder rates, and 75 percent agree that Congress and state legislatures get distracted from finding solutions to crime problems.

Another myth is that anti-death penalty activists care more about criminals than their victims and for that matter all of the inmates on death row are guilty criminals, Rozsa states.

To dispel that argument, Cassandra Stubbs, director of ACLU, told MSNBC, the death penalty has innocence problems, and its days are numbered. There is good reason to suspect that many of the people put to death in this country have not been killers at all.

Professors John J. Donohue of Yale Law School and Justin Wolfers of the University of Pennsylvania did a comparative study on the rates of violence between states using capital punishment and those that abolished it. In conclusion, the study “failed to find any evidence of a deterrent effect.”

Columbia Law School professor Jeffrey Fagan and a group of researchers did a comparative analysis of the crime rate in Hong Kong, which abolished the death penalty in 1993, and Singapore, which uses it as mandatory for murder. According to Roza’s story, “They found little difference in violent crime rates between the two cities.”


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