Criminal Justice

Studies: Death Penalty Saves 3 to 18

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In results that have horrified death penalty opponents and are hotly contested among scientists, studies claim to have quantified the number of innocent lives that are saved each time a guilty convict is executed–between three and 18.

A dozen papers since 2001 apply statistics to show this deterrent effect, and a 2003 study, reconfirmed in 2006, for example, finds that five lives are saved each time the an execution occurs, writes AP. An Illinois moratorium on executions, beginning in 2000, resulted in 150 more murders during the following four years, according to a 2006 study.

“Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it. … The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect,” says Naci Mocan. An economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, he co-authored the 2003 study. He personally opposes the death penalty, Mocan tells AP.

Different studies, however, come up with different numbers of lives saved or lost, the AP article continues. And a Wharton School of Business economist criticizes several such efforts as “flimsy.” Says Justin Wolfers: “We just don’t have enough data to say anything.”

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