Capital Punishment in TexasbyToxico©
The debate on whether or not capital punishment is an effective deterrent to crime rages on, more vocally perhaps from those in opposition to it. Does capital punishment work to reduce crime? Texas has had a well deserved reputation for being the leading state in executions of death row inmates, so what better state to examine to find out if the death penalty works? Does capital punishment work in Texas?
The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has possibly the most extensive and well put-together web page for the argument against capital punishment. The unfortunate part of this entire website is that it contains little in the way of presentable or usable fact, backed up by verifiable statistics or proof that would support current argument against the death penalty in the State of Texas. The "Facts" link takes one to a page utilizing statistics primarily from 1992 and earlier. Some of the statistics are for other states (such as New York) or are national statistics. There are some facts, however, that should still be considered. One is that mentally retarded people can still be executed by the state of Texas. Another is that defense representation is usually of very poor quality.
The "Conditions" link takes one to an Austrian website that contains a high volume of letters from inmates and families of inmates. The tugging of the heart strings by emotional appeals for leniency by convicted murderers tends to leave a bitter taste in the mouth and mind when one considers the crime or crimes that landed the person on death row in the first place. I wonder to myself: "Did the murder victims make appeals to the murderer, not for better food or living conditions, but to be allowed to live?"
In the interest of discovering current hard-number statistics to support or disprove the effectiveness of capital punishment in Texas, I created two easily understood graphs from statistics culled from four websites, The Disaster Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. These line graphs utilize four sets of statistics: Actual numbers of Texas murders, numbers of executions in Texas, the Texas population (or population estimates) and the national inflation rate. The inflation rate is an interesting addition because murder tends to rise with a rising inflation rate. The first graph shows these numbers during the years of 1965 - 1981 when Texas did not execute anyone. The second graph shows the statistics for the years 1982 - Present since executions began again.
The graphs clearly show the following things:
· There has been a fairly constant decrease in the numbers of murders since the death penalty was utilized after being re-instituted (with the exception of 1991 (see point A on the second graph), which proved to be the year with the highest number of murders in the history of Texas). Note: The interest rate was rising each year from 1986, peaking in 1990 (see point B).
·The numbers of murders in Texas annually started falling dramatically as executions reached the double digits (see points C).
·1999 showed the lowest number of murders since 1968 (see points D on both graphs) and 2002's murder numbers are at the level they were in 1970 (points E on both graphs).
· An additional point must be kept in mind when examining these numbers which makes the conclusions more amazing. Obviously, the population of Texas continues to rise, yet the straight number of murders has decreased. Per capita figures would show an even more dramatic decrease, but since the straight numbers can present the same message, I did not use that technique.
At this point, another argument for abolition of the death penalty can be examined. It is said, and numbers certainly prove, that the monetary expenditure involved in putting someone to death exceeds that of keeping them in prison for life. Part of this could be remedied by denying appeal for those persons convicted beyond any doubt (preferably by DNA testing) to be the murderer.
Another method of justifying any expense involved would be to look at the amount of money actually saved by the decrease in murders due to the death penalty. Thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars are saved annually by the State of Texas because of a lowered murder rate; there are less investigations, less prosecutions, and fewer mouths to feed. Add to this the happiness of families that remain intact, and you have a value saved beyond dollars.
According to the evidence presented, it would appear that capital punishment works in Texas, and perhaps the rest of the United States would benefit from the same program of capital punishment that Texas now has. Surely, some aspects should be examined more in depth, such as executing mentally retarded people and ensuring that competent legal representation is provided to those who cannot afford to hire their own. However, because the numbers clearly show that a decrease in murders follows utilization of the death penalty, it seems that the death penalty is invaluable for the people of Texas.
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Disaster Center, The, "Texas Crime Rates 1960 - 2000", 2001, 28 Dec 2003 (website)
Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Uniform Crime Reports", July 2003, 28 Dec 2003 (website)
Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, "Consumer Price Index, 1913-", Oct 2003, 26 Dec 2003 (website)
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, "Home", Dec 2003, 29 Dec 2003 (website)
Texas Department of Criminal Justice, "Executions", 29 Dec 2003, 30 Dec 2003 (website)