STUDIES: Majority of Leading Criminologists Find Death Penalty Does Not Deter Murder

Eighty-eight percent of the country’s top criminologists do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide, according to a new study published on June 16 in the Northwestern University School of Law’s Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.  The study was authored by Professor Michael Radelet, Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and graduate student Traci Lacock.  Their article, “Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates? The Views of Leading Criminologists,” is based on a survey of the pre-eminent criminologists in the country.  The research did not ask about the respondents' personal views on the death penalty, but only their views of deterrence based on empirical evidence.  Eighty-seven percent of the expert criminologists believed that abolition of the death penalty would not have any significant effect on murder rates.  The authors concluded, “Our survey indicates that the vast majority of the world’s top criminologists believe that the empirical research has revealed the deterrence hypothesis for a myth … [T]he consensus among criminologists is that the death penalty does not add any significant deterrent effect above that of long-term imprisonment.” Read the study here and the DPIC's press release here

(M. Radelet, T. Lacock, "Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates? The Views of Leading Criminologists,” 99 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 489 (2009)).  See Studies and Deterrence.