News Release

Bush and Gore Agree Death Penalty Deters; But What Are the Facts?


Last night, presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore agreed that the death penalty is an effective deterrent. “I think the reason to support the death penalty is because it saves other people’s lives,” Bush said during the debate. Gore agreed, saying: “I support the death penalty…. I think it is a deterrence. I know that’s a controversial view, but I do believe it’s a deterrence.”

But what are the facts about data on the death penalty and deterrence? The following policy analysts are available for interviews:

Executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, Dieter said today: “The issue of deterrence has been studied for decades, and the overwhelming conclusion is that the death penalty has failed to be a deterrent and certainly is no more of a deterrent than life without parole. The average of murder rates per 100,000 population in 1998 among death penalty states was 6.2, the average of murder rates among non-death penalty states was only 3.2. A look at neighboring death penalty and non-death penalty states shows similar trends.”
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Program director with the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, McClary said today: “Several studies have shown that the death penalty is not a deterrent. For example, a recent survey by The New York Times found that 10 of the 12 states without the death penalty have homicide rates below the national average. Life without parole would deter people just as well as the death penalty.”
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Chair of the Sociology Department at the University of Florida, Radelet has done research on the death penalty for 20 years, writing six books on the subject. He said today: “The argument that the death penalty is a more effective deterrent to criminal violence is an argument that has been supported by virtually no credible research over the past 75 years. A 1996 survey of 70 of America’s top criminologists, ‘Deterrence and the Death Penalty: The Views of the Experts’ in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, found that over 80 percent agreed that the death penalty has not and cannot lower homicide rates.”

Warden is director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law, which has helped show that nine prisoners on death row were innocent. This was in large part responsible for the death penalty moratorium put into place by Republican Gov. George Ryan in Illinois. Warden said today: “Until 1808 they had the death penalty for pickpockets in England and it didn’t deter that. The claims of these presidential candidates call into question their fundamental judgment. Every single study indicates that the death penalty provides no deterrent effect whatsoever.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167