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I chose capital punishment since it’s a highly contentious issue that has raised eyebrows over the years. This paper seeks to demonstrate whether capital punishment can reduce the levels of crime or whether it increases the levels of homicide. It does so by considering various factors such as the sanity of the individual, drug influence, and juveniles as well. The paper highlights some of the relevant researches on capital punishment before drawing an appropriate conclusion. It includes the most relevant and reputable research studies that have been conducted on the same to help determine whether it should be abolished or implemented. Further, the paper documents the research methods that were used to come up with the insight for my proposal
Capital punishment


Unlike many other forms of state punishments methods such as incarceration, capital punishment is a highly contentious issue. Simply put, capital punishment refers to the death penalty, which is a government-initiated process whereby one is sentenced to death.  It is also a legal punishment for heinous crimes in some states. Some of the common capital punishment methods include electrocution, lethal injection, hanging and death by a firing squad. While capital punishment might lead to a significant level of deterrence in some criminals, it also poses some major contentious issues that should cause concern. For instance, in some cases, the defendant might be executed wrongfully, which makes this type of state initiated punishment an ineffective solution for homicide crimes. There is no solution for returning the departed individual to their loved ones.

It is important to note that a total of 56 individuals have been acquitted on the basis of innocence between the years 1973 and 2015 in the US (Durlauf, Fu & Navarro, 2013). This shows how capital punishments are in some cases inappropriate. The opponents of the death penalty might argue that this statistics underscores how some jurisdictions wrongfully advance capital punishments. On the other hand, the proponents would be quick to mention that these statistics only encompasses individuals who are exonerated in law and that the innocent individuals are only a small fraction of the criminals. It is important to note that such statistics likely underestimate the deep causes of the actual complications that arise from wrongful convictions since once the procedure occurs, there is often minimal structures that can keep the case open (Mandery & Mandery, 2011). As a result, the chances of the misappropriation of judgments or justice will never come to light.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

It’s also equally important to note that the arguments for and against this type of punishment are inspired by various notable factors including religious, ethical and practical reasons. Proponents of this type of sentences might point out that it helps to mitigate the effects of crime, improve the society by reducing repeat criminals, provide justice to the affected ones and it is a legal punishment method for the crimes that it punishes. On the contrary, those against might be quick to mention that this type of punishment is not an effective method for punishing crimes.  In fact, they would mention that it’s ineffective at reducing crime levels, it risks the chances of wrongful execution and it’s a cannibalistic method. It also places the state in the same light as the defendants that were involved in committing the heinous acts in the first place. Besides, some might argue that various factors such as geographic, social influence, gender bias and race might compromise the legitimacy of this type of punishment for criminal acts (Durlauf, Fu & Navarro 2013).

Another important factor to consider when it comes to this type of punishments is the overall cost since the conviction is more likely to settle for the appeal method if the jury provisions the death sentence, as when compared to life without parole.  More so, capital punishment also comprises of various factors to consider especially when one has been diagnosed with mental illness or is perhaps a drug addict and is sentenced to death (Nagin & Pepper, 2012). In this case, it is difficult to conclude whether the act was due to ill thinking, drug influence or as a result of mental incapacitation. Also, capital punishment becomes contentious when provisioning punishment for juveniles who have engaged in homicide acts.

Literature Review

A recent study by the Uniform Crime Reports documented the effects of abolition and implementation of capital punishment in various states. The study discovered that the states without the death penalty have minimum homicide rates as when compared to the states that have implemented the same punishment. The same study documented that an average of ten of the twelve states that do not use this type of punishment experienced lower homicide rates than the average estimated amount. On the contrary, fifty percent of the states that implemented this type of punishment have crime rates that surpass the yearly national average (Lamperti, Marshall & Nixon, 1994). In fact, in the past two decades, the average homicide levels in the states that implemented the death penalty have averaged at 49%, which is slightly higher than the rate in states without this type of punishment. One such state that has experienced a significant decrease in the average number of crime levels is Michigan. Michigan abolished the capital punishment method well over 150 years ago, and the decrease in crime is notable.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

When we can accept that there might be circumstances where capital punishment is perfect for reducing murder rates, we must also realize that in some other situations it brings no significant change. Since neither side effect can be accurately measured, we are directly inclined to refer to statistical data provided by law enforcement authorities and agents from all the jurisdictions all over the country. While this data might contain some notable discrepancies, they do play an important role in determining the crime levels in various states. For instance, the uncertainty might be about the probability model especially when generating the aggregate murders by the enforcement authorities (Durlauf, 2013).  Although the statistics point out a significant level in deterring some specific crimes, the magnitude is minimal and the side effects of such a punishment might go in either direction.

For decades, homicide has been a common occurrence in states with capital punishment than in those where it had been abolished. In fact, data that was acquired from 1973 to 1984 demonstrates that the rates of murder in states without the death penalty were significantly lower and averaged at about 65% of the states that were using the same punishment method. There is minimal deterrence level that can be seen here, and it might be covered by various other notable factors (Shepherd, 2004).  Some of them include:

  • The magnitude of homicide death levels changes in various groups of states that implement the death penalty as well as those that do not. For instance, studies have shown that it is higher in states such as Indiana and Ohio, while it is less in the Middle Western states.
  • States that have similar economic conditions and social populations, it is almost impossible to differentiate the abolition state from the rest.
  • The statistics of the homicide death rates can be compared with the states that use the penalty as well as the states that have abolished it as well.

However, other notable researchers have demonstrated the short-term evidence of capital punishment on deterrence levels. For instance, in 1935, Robbert Dann published various analyses of homicide cases that occurred in Philadelphia. The peculiar aspect of the study is that it documented the homicide rates  occurring 60 days before and 60 days after the executions were made public (Grenier, 1972). The researcher pointed out that the deterrent effect of the executions led to the minimal homicide rates especially during the period before the executions. However, the result went in the opposite direction, as the rates were significantly higher. After two decades, Leonard Savitz implemented a similar study. His study documented no significant variation in the homicide levels both before and after the capital punishments.

Research Design

The following are some of the steps that one may undertake when carrying out a research on the side effects of capital punishment in any given state:

  1. Highlight the levels of crime after the abolition of this type of punishment in the chosen state.
  2. Following this, highlight the crime levels in the states when the penalty was a legal execution method
  3. Consider various factors such as enforcement authorities, occurrences of other crimes such as drug dealing, socio-economic factors and gender bias when it comes to determining the efficiency of this type of convictions method.
  4. Use statistical data to document the effect of capital punishment in the various states to give a better perspective of its side effects.

Hypothesis/problem statement

If one commits an abominable act and is sentenced to life in prison, the punishment might be more effective as a deterrent for violent crimes than death penalty. Statistics have shown that there is no notable difference when it comes to abolishing or implementing this type of punishment (Nagin & Pepper, 2012). In fact, states that do not use the death penalty have relatively reduced levels of homicide crimes than the states that have implemented the same method. There is no telling what would happen if all the states embraced this form of crime punishment. Although it might go a long way in providing closure to the affected individuals, as it is also an equitable punishment for heinous acts, it raises questions when one is wrongfully convicted. The individuals who have been wrongfully executed brings in a logical reason to abolish this types of penalty, though no practical methods are available to keep cases open and to expose any miscarriages that might occur during death sentences. If executions reduced the number of homicide levels, this would be a significant factor to consider, especially when based on the adverse social side effects of this type of punishment.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]


Death penalty- the state punishment administered to someone legally convicted of a capital crime by execution.

Deterrent- an act that discourages one from engaging in unwanted acts

Capital punishment- a legally and authorized killing of someone as punishment for a certain crime
Juvenile- youth; a young person

Adult- grown-up; fully developed mature and/or developed


Durlauf, S. N., Fu, C., & Navarro, S. (2013). Capital punishment and deterrence: Understanding
disparate results. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 29(1), 103-121.

Grenier, B. (1972). Capital punishment (1st ed.). Ottawa: Information Canada.

Lamperti, J., Marshall, J., & Nixon, R. M. (1994). Does Capital Punishment Deter Murder? 

Mallory, S. (2007). Understanding organized crime (1st ed.). Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett.
Mandery, E. & Mandery, E. (2011). Capital punishment in America (1st ed.). Sudbury, MA:
Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Nagin, D. & Pepper, J. (2012). Deterrence and the death penalty (1st ed.). Washington, DC:
National Academies Press.

Shepherd, J. M. (2004). Murders of passion, execution delays, and the deterrence of capital
punishment. Journal of Legal Studies, 33(2), 283-321.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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