Does Capital Punishment Deter Crime? Research Paper Sample

Does Capital Punishment Deter Crime?


            Capital punishment or death penalty is punishing by death. Crimes that can attract capital punishment are called capital crimes or offenses. In most countries, capital crimes include murder, robbery with violence, and treason (Doyle 2007). At the moment, there are thirty six countries in the world that practice the death penalty. More than 100 countries have abolished the dead penalty while 6 have prohibited the punishment for normal crimes but still practice it for offenses like war crimes. It is important to establish evidence for the death penalty as a form of deterrent punishment because policies must always be supported by evidence (Doyle 2007).

Purpose of Study

The Purpose of this research is to survey and determine the evidence of capital punishment as a deterrent. The research will emphasize on all the aspects of the death penalty as administered recently and in the past. The study will also provide evidence for or against death penalty as a deterrent.

Overarching Research Question

The research will solely focus on the deterrence factor of capital punishment and not an assessment of whether the death penalty is just or not. Raymond T. Bye details the root of the deterrence factor in capital punishment. Bye says life is the most sacred thing to an individual, and if one is threatened with death, he or she cannot ignore. Not everybody is willing to sacrifice his life to achieve a certain objective that is perceived or is criminal. The death penalty is one of the most powerful deterrence tools and has a potential to repress crime (Bye 1919).

This research will test the deterrence factor of the death penalty by analyzing the past practices of the punishment and its role in the society. The disadvantages of the deterrence factor will be assessed by making a comparison of states that practice death penalty and those that do not. The following will be used to compare the states; the number of death penalties, alternative punishments for the death penalty, and crime rates. The study will only consider murder in comparing the crime rates to ensure equality. In the end, the research will avail empirical data of the past death penalties in the states and the effect they had on the larger society. At one time, almost all states in the US practiced capital punishment, and reforms only came towards the end of the 19th century and the 20th century (Ankar, 2004).


The research will put two hypotheses under consideration;

Hypothesis I

States that practice the death penalty have lower crime rates than states that do not practice it. The hypothesis’ independent variable is whether a state practices capital punishment or not while the dependent variable is the crime rates. Some states have statutes in their laws that permit the death penalty while others do not have. The states that have the death penalty statutes have the right to sentence a person to death as long evidence is sufficient. The statute does not limit the frequency of the death punishment, and the states are not obliged to practice the punishment. Likewise, states that do have the death penalty states have no right to sentence a person to death even if the evidence is sufficient.

Hypothesis II

States with the highest numbers of executions have few capital offenses than states that do not apply capital punishment and those that have no statutes. The independent variable is whether or not a state sentences at least one individual on an annual basis. The dependent variable is the crime rates just as in the previous hypothesis. For the consistency of the research, frequent application of the capital punishment is defined as an average of two executions on an annual basis.

Methodological Approach and Rational

The type of methodological approach best suited for this study will be the mixed methods. The method will be suitable because the hypotheses have independent and dependent variables that need to be compared comprehensively.

For the first hypothesis, a comparison of the average murder rates for all the states that currently have a death penalty statute. The comparison will be made, and data presented in the form of murders per 200 000 residents. Secondly, the mean murder rates for each state in the year 2010 will be calculated and compared. The year 2010 is chosen because it is 34 years after the lifting of the capital punishment moratorium. Lastly, current (2014) mean murder rate in states that have death penalty statutes and those that do not have will be compared.

For the second hypothesis, three case studies will be performed to compare the murder rates in states that utilize their death penalty statutes and those that do not. To avoid tedious and bulky work, a few sample states will be chosen as long as both sides of the independent variable are represented. Both sides will be represented by six states (those that utilize the death penalty and those that do not). After testing the two hypotheses, a report will be written ascertaining whether they were held or not.


Anckar, C. (2004). Determinants of the death penalty. London: Routledge.

Bye, R. (1919). Capital punishment in the United States. Philadelphia, Pa.: Committee on

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Doyle, C. (2006). The death penalty. [Washington, D.C.]: Congressional Research Service.

Ganschow, R. (2008). Death by geography. [San Francisco, Calif.?]: ACLU of Northern

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