The death contest

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Just found a chart in the Christian Century which shows that states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without.

In 2009: with – 5.26; without 3.90. That’s a 35% higher rate in death-penalty states. No doubt there are other factors, but this one at least makes you go “hmmmmm.”

4 thoughts on “The death contest

  1. Any study of the cultures of the different states? The U.S. is not a monolithic cultural entity, even if you only look at “mainstream” culture. My experience at Fielding, where faculty and students are spread out across the continental U.S. and Canada, has opened my eyes to the important cultural differences between regions. I think there’s a cultural reason why different states 1) have different murder rates and 2) have different stances on the death penalty. And what works in one cultural region might not work in another. In other words, let’s not assume that murder rates reflect the efficacy of using the death penalty. In death penalty states, the murder rate might go up if it were abolished. In non-death penalty states, the murder rate might go down further if it were implemented. “Might” being the operative word.

    I am going to make an unproven assumption here by saying that states with the death penalty have cultures that are more violent, and the powers that be respond to their individual situations with more violent “solutions.”

    I think the question of the death penalty is a lot more complicated than a simple graph can communicate. I think Mark Twain was onto something when he said there were two kinds of lies — damn lies and statistics.

  2. I am opposed to the death penalty, but agree with Kim that I don’t believe a simple correlation can be drawn from that chart.

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