"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Death Penalty: Myths & Realities

Myths and Realities provides ‘quick answers to common questions’ about the death penalty.

The ‘myths’ covered, for example, include: ‘The death penalty keeps societies safer’, ‘the death penalty is applied fairly’, ‘there is nothing in international law to stop countries using the death penalty’, and ‘victims and relatives are in favour’.

The booklet is interactive in format – allowing readers to read the myth and turn over a flap to discover the reality.

We hope it will be a useful guide for activists and advocates of abolition, giving them the arguments they need to tackle common pre- and misconceptions.

This publication has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union.

Penal Reform International (PRI) is an independent non‑governmental organisation that develops and promotes fair, effective and proportionate responses to criminal justice problems worldwide.

MYTH O1 - “The death penalty keeps societies safer.”
BASIS OF BELIEF: “When there are harsh sentences for crimes, people will not commit them.”
REALITY: The death penalty doesn’t keep people safer than other sentences. No reliable research has found that death sentences prevent people from committing crimes more than other punishments.
Many countries without the death penalty have lower murder rates than those that keep it. For example, in Canada, the murder rate in 2003 (27 years after the death penalty was abolished) was 44 per cent lower than in 1975 (before abolition).
The main thing that stops people from committing crimes is a belief that they will be caught. Therefore, increasing the chance of arrest is more effective than having severe penalties like execution. Many crimes are committed in the heat of the moment, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In these cases, it is very unlikely that offenders will be influenced by potential punishments. Far from making societies safer, the death penalty has been shown to have a brutalising effect on society.
State sanctioned killing endorses the use of force and continues the cycle of violence. In terrorism cases, executions can create ‘martyrs’ and become a rallying point for their organisations, encouraging more attacks and continuing the cycle of violence. People prepared to sacrifice their lives for their beliefs – for example, suicide bombers – are unlikely to be put off by execution: it may even encourage them.

Click here to read/download the interactive booklet (pdf)

Source: Penal Reform International, October 2015

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