Capital punishment: doesn’t work and takes place mostly in Texas

The Economist has mapped out all the executions that have taken place in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Not surprisingly, as Think Progress points out, “[o]ver one-third of all executions during this period took place in Texas, for a total of 481 people killed by that state. Of the remaining, non-Texas executions, the overwhelming majority are clustered in a small group of southern states.”

Also, a report released Wednesday by a committee formed by the National Research Council suggests that,

This new report from the Committee on Law and Justice concludes that research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide rates is not useful in determining whether the death penalty increases, decreases, or has no effect on these rates. The key question is whether capital punishment is less or more effective as a deterrent than alternative punishments, such as a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Yet none of the research that has been done accounted for the possible effect of noncapital punishments on homicide rates. The report recommends new avenues of research that may provide broader insight into any deterrent effects from both capital and noncapital punishments.

So, now, we can add lack of deterrence to the long list of reasons we shouldn’t have the death penalty, which is racist, classist, cruel, increasingly unusual, and kills innocent people.

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Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/alisonrose/ Alison

    I am very happy to say that I just got an email from SAFE California – the measure to repeal the death penalty here has officially qualified for the November ballot! I’m not sure what the current polling shows, though I believe last I saw, repeal had a slim lead. I really really hope people will do what’s right and get rid of it, and that more states and eventually the federal government will follow. It’s an abhorrent practice that has no place in our society.

  • http://feministing.com/members/sarahd/ Sarah Davis

    Despite research that is inconclusive, a lot of law enforcers continue to believe that capital punishment is the best way of deterring criminals. I grew up in Maryland and I was in middle school during the Beltway sniper attacks, as they have since come to be known. He and his accomplice killed people in both Maryland and Virginia, and they were tried in Virginia because it was felt that they were more likely to get the death sentence there. That was probably the first time I really thought about the implications of capital punishment, and I can’t say that I think it does any good.

  • http://feministing.com/members/smiles/ Smiley

    Katie,

    You jump to conclusions.

    The report says clearly: “Yet none of the research that has been done accounted for the possible effect of noncapital punishments on homicide rates.”

    It does not state that capital punishment does not deter – it says that the existing research cannot show anything one way or the other.