Proponents of the death penalty often argue that the threat of being executed acts as a deterrent that prevents people from committing murder. But those who oppose capital punishment challenge that claim. And some researchers argue that state-sanctioned execution might actually increase homicide rates.
Now, a panel of independent experts convened by the prestigious National Research Council has taken a look at this question and decided that the available research offers no useful information for policymakers.
"We recognize that this conclusion may be controversial to some, but nobody is well-served by unsupportable claims about the effect of the death penalty, regardless of whether the claim is that the death penalty deters homicides, has no effect on homicides, or actually increases homicides," says Daniel Nagin, a public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University who chaired the committee.
This committee did not examine the moral arguments for or against the death penalty. Its job was to look at the science. Nagin says the panel reviewed dozens of studies and found fundamental flaws.
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