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Death Penalty is a must
This issue of the escalating homicide rate and mechanisms to improve it are wide-ranging. While the issue of decreasing the homicide rate involves a multi-dimensional approach where some tools (such as moral education, more vocational programmes, increasing the social responsibility of the denominational churches, increasing temporary relief programmes, looking at proper rehabilitation programmes that are geared to minimising repeat offenders, mentoring programmes) will assist in the long-term, we must look at what is required now given a most horrendous and unspeakable murder rate. New York State that has over 20 million people has a far better homicide rate that Trinidad and Tobago has had for the longest time. Imagine from 2002-2009, we had over 3,000 homicides (excluding other serious crimes like shooting and wounding with intent to kill, rape). Citywide, New York, as huge as it is, experienced a 16.5% decrease in homicides between 2011 and 2012—there were 315 murders in 2011 and 263 in 2012. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is again calling on many OAS states to abolish the death penalty or at least have a moratorium in its application.
This call may not be the best at this time in our country’s life as we have seen that within the first four months of 2012, there were more murders than calendar days at the time. The situation is worsening and the reality is we need to act now with the fastest deterrent possible. Many human rights advocates vehemently and vociferously want abolition of the death penalty and deem it inhumane and barbaric. I ask, for someone to stab someone multiple times, slit their throat, dismember their parts is humane? Do we remember the names Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Chuck Attin? The death penalty is the law of Trinidad and Tobago and one would recall that in the Constitutional Amendment (Capital Offences Bill) that was brought by the PP Government, it initially had categorisation of murders as what is obtained in the United States. The Opposition had objected to this and so the Government had decided to remove the categorisation of murders and kept the death penalty for all murders. Research has shown that experts, empirical data/statistics support the death penalty. The death penalty is currently enforced in the United States, and a substantial body of research has been done in the country to support the deterrence effect from implementing this policy. Emory University Economics Department chairman, Hashem Dezhbakhsh, and Emory professors Paul Rubin and Joanna Shepherd in 2003 stated: “our results suggest that capital punishment has a strong deterrent effect. An increase in any of the probabilities—arrest, sentencing or execution—tends to reduce the crime rate. In particular, each execution results, on average, in 18 fewer murders—with a margin of error of plus or minus ten.” Their database used nationwide data from 3,054 US counties from 1977-1996.
In 2003 University of Colorado (Denver) Economics Department chairman Naci Mocan and Graduate Assistant R Kaj Gottings found “a statistically significant relationship between executions, pardons and homicide. Specifically, each additional execution reduces homicides by 5 to 6, and three additional pardons (commutations) generate 1 to 1.5 additional murders.” Their data set contained detailed information on the entire 6,143 death sentences between 1977 and 1997. SUNY (Buffalo) Professor Liu in 2001 found that legalising the death penalty not only adds capital punishment as a deterrent but also increases the marginal productivity of other deterrence measures in reducing murder rates. Liu found “Abolishing the death penalty not only gets rid of a valuable deterrent, it also decreases the deterrent effect of other punishments. The deterrent effects of the certainty and severity of punishments on murder are greater in retentionist (death penalty) states than in abolition (non death penalty) states.” The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) economist Dr Paul Zimmerman stated in 2003, it was estimated that each state execution deters somewhere between 3 and 25 murders per year (14 being the average). Assuming that the value of human life is approximately $5 million (ie the average of the range estimates provided by Viscussi (1993), our estimates imply that society avoids losing approximately $70 million per year on average at the current rate of execution all else equal.” The study used state level data from 1978 to 1997 for all 50 states (excluding Washington DC). When presented with a body of research like this, it is clear that there are positive societal spinoffs from implementing the death penalty. There is even prior evidence of its effect in Trinidad and Tobago, as during the period of the 1994 Glen Ashby and 1999 Dole Chadee executions, murders fell by 24 per cent over this period, only to exponentially rise up when the implicit threat of the executions being implemented subsided. It is clear, given our current homicide levels, we as a country need to find the common ground so that the death penalty could be immediately implemented, as it is the law of the land. This issue should not be politicised any further while innocent citizens remain under siege.
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