Ineffectiveness in crime prevention

2016 2016-01-30T20:00:05+0300 2016-01-30T20:00:05+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

There is a widespread opinion that the death penalty deters crime. Such statements are often made by the governments that impose the death penalty. However, there are no statistics or other data.

Moreover, the most comprehensive survey on the relationship between the death penalty and murder rates was carried out for the United Nation in 1988, and updated in 1996, finding that “research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. Such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. The evidence as a whole gives no positive support to the deterrent hypothesis.” Statistics from countries that have abolished the death penalty show that the absence of the death penalty has not resulted in an increase in serious crime. This also applies to the countries in transition to democracy. Nowadays it can be argued that the rejection of the death penalty in Albania, the Russian Federation and Ukraine have not led to unrest among the population and increase in the number and scope of the violent crimes. Not a single culprit has been executed in Lithuania since 1996, while the number of killings is steadily declining. In Georgia, the death penalty was abolished in November 1997 as well, and a serious decline in the number of targeted killings has been observed since then.

Those people who really plan their crimes in advance are deterred not by the severity of punishment, but by the likelihood that they will be caught and convicted. When a crime is planned, the offender is usually focuses on how to avoid arrest and conviction, and not on the degree of severity of the penalty. The threat of even the severest punishment will not be an obstacle for those who are confident that they will not be caught. The key to deterrence is not n the severity of the punishment, but in the strong probability that the culprits of the crime will be identified, arrested and convicted.

This means that crime prevention efforts should be aimed at improving the efficiency of law enforcement. Public confidence in the fact that the crime will be promptly and professionally investigated and the culprits brought to justice, is crucial to deter crime. This implies the strengthening of trust between the community and law enforcement bodies, as well as increasing the credibility of the justice system. Demanding tougher penalties and maintaining the death penalty to deter crime, law enforcement agencies distract public attention from their performance on the prevention and investigation of crimes, that in fact is essential to the security of citizens and the development of the legal community.

The death penalty is also not necessary for combatting terrorism and organized crime. Analysis of the death sentences against members of criminal gangs shows that executions usually concern the culprits, not the customers, and do not affect the activities of organized criminal groups in the future. There is also no evidence that terrorism will decline due to the existence of the death penalty. In fact, the officials who are responsible for fighting political crimes and terrorism have repeatedly pointed out that the death penalty may lead to the opposite effect – executions can create martyrs whose memory becomes a rallying point for terrorist organizations and for further terrorist acts.