Annotated References for Capital Punishment

credits to BBC Ethics Guide for the image

Apart from the relative concern on the general public’s safety and the relative significance of capital punishment to such, the author also explored the effects of capital punishment to the safety of the law enforcers and found put that contrary to old notions, capital punishment did not alleviate the atrocities and violence committed against the members of the police force. Bailey (1982) likewise mentioned no deterrent factor has been proven in the light of police killings and other violence committed against them.

The author tested the hypothesis for and against deterrence by gauging public reactions and subsequent criminal behaviors during periods where the administration of capital punishment and the debates that usually occur with it were communicated to the general public by means of print media and television. Bailey (1990) concluded that such knowledge of the execution or suspension of capital punishment does not prominently figure to the statistics on crime and thus could not be called to be an effective crime deterrent.

The author explored the results of a study on the deterrent effect of capital punishment inCaliforniafor the period of 1910 to 1962. The results, were however inconclusive and in spite of this, the state has continued to adopt the policy for capital punishment in the guise of crime deterrence. The author viewed this as most unfortunate – particularly in the event that lives are being doomed to death without ensuring that the ends for which such means are carried out were adequately met.

The author explored the dynamics of crime committed in theUnited States of Americathroughout the course of history, and how the increasing atrocities may have resulted to the growing need for a more rigid implementation of a punishment system. The development of crime would result to a better understanding on the operating principles and philosophies on crime prevention and deterrence. The factors affecting criminal behavior such as the media and public opinion likewise merited a lengthy discussion.

The book is an account of the evolution and issues surrounding death penalty in theUnited States. Apart from the deterrent effects of capital punishment, the author pointed out the dangers of a “brutalizing effect,” that is the tendency to create a culture of retaliation instead of forward looking justice and deterrence on states that opted to repay violence with equal violence and killings. The author likewise reviewed literatures on deterrence and brutalization and concluded that such measures overlap significantly on major areas. Because of this, while deterrence may effect capital punishment, its brutalizing effect could not be wholly undermined.

The authors sought to refute one of the most celebrated arguments and studies for the deterrent effect of capital punishment. For Bowers and Pierce (1975), Professor Erlich presented certain data inadequacies on his study which have lessened the integrity of the conclusions he then presented. The methods which Erlich employed in order to examine the critical variables on his previous study were evaluated and later on proved to have invalidated his conclusion. His data treatment and analysis were measured for validity and reliability and the authors concluded that such were insufficient for Erlich to have concluded that capital punishment is indeed an effective deterrent to crime.

The article is an evaluation of major econometric models employed in assessing the deterrent effects of capital punishment to crime – the most notable of which are the models proposed by Becker and Erlich. Both studies supported the deterrence hypothesis through the use of econometric modeling of crime and punishment. However, Brier and Fienberg (1980) adhered that there were considerable flaws in the empirical support presented by Becker and Erlich; as such could not be called fully reliable to prove the deterrence hypothesis.   

The authors assessed the consequences ofOklahoma’s judicial proceedings and its decision to return to the practice of capital punishment. The study revealed that though its deterrent effect are still highly debatable, brutalization figured more prominently – particularly on murder and homicides. The trends have been very observable on such offenses. While the brutalization effects appeared high on individual crimes, the disaggregation of data only confirmed these findings, making the brutalization trend observable even on a much general perspective.

The authors have explored the series of capital punishment executions and homicide rates onUnited StatesandCanadaand concluded that the conduct of death penalty does not have considerable effects on the murder and homicide rate annually. Thus, prior studies may have only used and abused available empirical evidences in order to prove the veracity of the deterrence hypothesis without examining the general aggregate data in the national sphere. As such the deterrent effect of death penalty in particular could not be conclusive in the light of national statistics and on comparative findings with other nations such asCanada.

The book provided a framework of understanding the principles and philosophies pf the abolitionist movement of death penalty in the United States of America. The author presented an overview of the struggle of the era and the symbolic implications of death penalty in the American culture and society. Through this, the reader is afforded with a general background of the prevailing rules and principles as well as areas of improvement in the struggle to promote life and liberty.

The authors sought to refute the notion that capital punishment has a deterrent effect to criminal behavior by presenting an argument that adopted the basic principles of deterrence. The article expounded that the quality of life, a criminal spends in prison has a more significant deterrent effect to crime rather than capital punishment. Through this, the authors sought to debunk the myth of deterrence in the face of capital punishment and even in the mere prospect of death.

The author explored the arbitrariness of capital punishment and its detrimental effect to the conduct of actual justice. The author shared the same belief with US Justice White in saying that death penalty could not achieve its deterrent effect because of its arbitrary quality, its randomness and the manner for which executions takes place. Because of this, while the courts may be ideally conceive as the greatest leveler of the land, it is still – ironically an institution which fosters discrimination and arbitrary sentencing, the gravest cause of which is the cold-blooded taking of an individual life.

  • O’Malley, Sean. “Capital Punishment Is Not a Deterrent.” Current Controversies: Capital Punishment. Ed. Mary E. Williams.San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. Opposing ViewpointsResourceCenter. Gale.09 Feb. 2010

The article talked about the myths of capital punishment and its considerable violation to the Christian values of the sanctity of human life. While the judicial points of view varied in the course of events within history, the Church remained to be a staunch advocates for life and social justice – hence the abandonment of a principle that seeks to deter crime by revenge and violence. The author likewise adhered that a state that uphold the principles of capital punishment as a deterrent measure undermines the value of life and liberty, which it had sworn to protect.

The authors likewise sought to refute Erlich’s findings on the deterrent effect of capital punishment to criminal behavior. Erlich’s study a few years ago has been a groundbreaking literature for proving that capital punishment indeed has a deterrent effect on crime. Nonetheless, the authors contended that the employment of a time-series model and the time when the study was conducted by Erlich do not provide a stable ground for arriving to such conclusion and was potentially limiting in terms of possibly exploring other facets of the policy on capital punishment.

The publication discussed the evolution of capital punishment in the American context and the divergent opinions that formed upon its infrequent enforcement. Data were likewise presented in order to point out how capital punishment has been employed to the disadvantage of black persons – in that it also discriminates harshly and often without sufficient ground or reason. Thus, while it fails to achieve the deterrent effect that capital punishment sought to achieve, it highlights discrimination and other racist conflicts in the American criminal justice system.

The author adhered that the erosion of the church influence on the affairs of the state – particularly after the Reformation period has ended its struggle, contributed to the promotion of death penalty and in conceiving such as an effective deterrent to crime. What the states which have adopted it do not realize, is that the administration of death penalty has profound implications on the value laden principles of democracy and discrimination. The author believed that with the abandonment of such values, retribution and therefore vengeance, rather than deterrence is promoted.

The author talked about the moral scruples surrounding the battle against the administration of death penalty. According to Stevenson, death penalty is rooted on the principles of anger and hopelessness – a useless retaliation for something that was lost beyond recovery, and a reinforcement of an eye for an eye doctrine, which for him, was very un-Christian and inhumane in almost all aspects conceivable. By enforcing death penalty, the offenders’ respective family was likewise victimized, and suffer undue social stigma. Because of this, the cycle of retaliation and injustices continues.

The author explored the dynamics of capital punishment in the cultural, economic and political life of the Americans. The author compared the “killing state” to a juridical Frankenstein – which in the process of seeking deterrent ways even in employing violent measures eventually created tendencies for further atrocities and the disintegration of values. The terror inflicted upon the consciousness of the victims were sought to be transferred – not only to the offenders but to their families who had to face the dire consequence of having a family member publicly executed.

The authors explored the dynamics of pro-death penalty sentiments and the issues that might have nourished or disrupted such sentiments. Their study revealed that because death penalty sentiments on theUnited States of Americarest upon their conception of justice and hence more morally founded rather than utilitarian. The authors likewise revealed that such pro-death penalty sentiments could easily be replaced by a pro-life measure if the sympathizers would be assured of swift and fair justice – such as the infliction of life imprisonment without parole and verified knowledge that death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime.

The book explored the reasons why the United States of America continue to tinker on the prospect of capital punishment when almost all advanced European countries have ceased its implementation. The author believed that this is mainly due to the distrust of the people in the deterring capacity of the judiciary and not on mere utilitarian grounds. Aside from this, racial discrimination continues to prominently figure in the arbitrariness of criminal justice system, which forms the basic assumptions favoring death penalty.

The Psychosocial Origins of Prejudice

Credits to Targeted Individuals for the Image

Fishbein (2002) defined prejudiced attitudes as irrational, unjust or intolerant dispositions towards other groups and are often accompanied by stereotyping (p. 38). He likewise contended that people’s evolutionary heritage has been susceptible to such prejudgment against members of other groups. Furthermore, Allport (1979) adhered that prejudice arises from prejudgment when one refuses to acknowledge facts that are contradictory to one’s pre-established beliefs.

While socio-political and biological explanations have provided many reasons for the prevalence of prejudice and discrimination, it would also be worth taking into account the normative and psychosocial explanations for such behavior. As human beings tend to define themselves in the context of group membership, their inner motivations and their own moral assumptions, it would be helpful to look at and examine these areas in the light of further understanding the nature and dynamics of prejudice and discrimination.

Several evidences may be able to prove the veracity of Fishbein’s (2002) claims. Available historical documents tend to indicate how past prominent figures possess such self-righteous notions of one’s group, and which has undeniably left an enormous consciousness of the civilizations that followed the examples and theories of these prominent figures. One of the most influential ancient philosophers – Aristotle divided the human race between the civilized Greeks and the Barbarians; David Hume and Immanuel Kant both asserted of the inherent inferiority of the Negroes; the Holy Roman Empire became the epitome of superior race and governance, further marginalizing other groups and cultures that it has conquered; the flourishing organized religions – such as Christianity and Islam presented salvation in the context of believing and unbelieving; and the ancient Judaic practices were founded in the belief of God’s preference to Israel over the “Gentile” nations (James, 2008).

The divisions brought by these distinctions have fostered ethnocentric attitudes of the people. Such attitudes were even encouraged by governments in almost all states of the world – where the most self-effacing effort to be cordial with foreign nations became an excuse for persecution due to betrayal or treason. As a matter of fact, the Holocaust during the Nazi era utilized such ethnocentric ideals – in the guise of patriotic sentiments, in order to justify their claims for dominance and annihilation. In theUnited States of America, the predominant notions of white superiority became the rational claim for slavery, and in spite of efforts to combat the worst forms of discrimination and racism, skin-color prejudices remain to be a major issue in the nation’s political, economic and social sphere.

True enough, the worst forms of discrimination stemmed from such prejudicial biases: in the past, people with mental illness were persecuted and shunned, due to beliefs that they were possessed with unclean spirits, or that because of their mental incapacitation, they are likewise devoid of feelings, and thus could not qualify as a human being worthy of decent treatment; women had to fight in order to exercise their political rights – feminist movements had to spring in order to combat machismo in almost all aspects of daily life, due to the early belief that men – owing to their physical prowess and perceived intelligence, were stronger beings than women. Indeed, while President Barack Obama has become the beacon of racial justice and racial equality, we have yet to see a female President of theUnited States of America.

Nonetheless, prejudices are commonly discussed in the context of racial disparity for it has been one of the most prevalent sources of pre-judgment notions – particularly among the Western culture (Devine, Plant & Blair, 2001: 198). This was basically due to the aforementioned discussion on Nazi dominance and Negro slavery, and the impact of such events to the social consciousness of the people worldwide.

Perhaps, there could never be a fictional literature that would provide deeper meaning to the effect of prejudices and stereotypes than Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eyes (1970). Racial prejudice has been the core theme of the novel, and the main character struggled to be free from being a victim of the society’s prejudicial opinions by adopting the same perspectives for which she was scrutinized. This only goes to show how prejudicial notions adopted through socialization could provide an enormous impact to individual consciousness and development.

One of the classic theories on prejudice adhered that prejudice is actually a personality disorder, characterized by authoritarian and righteous opinions of oneself. Like John Locke, Allport (1979) adhered that a person is born tabula rasa – that is a blank sheet, and is therefore not prejudiced. However, upon learning, socialization and experience, prejudgments were gradually acquired. As the individual refuses to acknowledge the influx of facts that are incompatible with his/ her own preconceptions, s/he becomes prejudiced. This personality disorder seeks to undermine the real value of equality among beings and adopts a false sense of identity and self worth – that is basically in conjunction to his/ her perceived inferiority of the others. Allport (1979) further mentioned that to a certain extent, as prejudice leads to stereotyping, it eventually becomes a “convenient scapegoat” for the problems confronted by the group and the individual. For instance, a feeling of community insecurity might be easily attributed to the presence of a substantial number of minority groups in the area – even when there is no concrete evidence of such assumption. Those in the majority would then regard the minority group as the threat or the source of conflict. Nobody is spared in this assumption – even children.

Scapegoats have originated from the ancient Hebrew tradition depicted in the Book of Leviticus in the bible (Lev. 16:1-22, New International Version). The Israelites purged their sins by an offering of a beast – commonly a goat. They believe that their sins transfer from this offering and hence they are free of sins, and hence guilt once more (Stephan& Stephan, 2000: 35). Thus in the same manner as one group blames the other for their own setbacks and mistakes, due to the prejudicial notions of superiority, they are “purged of guilt” and become utterly blameless for the unfortunate events that may have transpired. This course of action was labeled by Sigmund Freud, on his famous account on psychoanalysis and defense mechanisms as “projection” – an adaptive defense mechanism that aims to point out the blame, and hence the aggressive behavior towards the others.

Though prejudice may result to some minor personal discomfort, such feelings may escalate to resentment, avoidance, discrimination, physical harm and ultimately, extermination (Fishbein, 2002). In order to address this, the society must be cognizant of the sources of such discomfort and prejudices and look at the possible explanations or rationalizations that people usually employ in the formation of such pre-conceived notions. Devine, Plant, and Blair (2001) discussed these rationalizations as a theory of integrated threat, which the majority groups may feel towards the minority. These threats may be realistic or symbolic, inter-group anxieties, or composition of negative stereotypes (Devine, Plant & Blair, 2001: 200). The dominant group may feel threatened for the increasing number of the minority, thus regarding them as competitors to the limited resources and opportunities in their respective communities. They may also feel – within the realm of their moral consciousness that they are right, and that the values presented by their counterpart group are incompatible with the values that they uphold. In this particular instance, it would be difficult to assert the values of equality and human dignity, because their perceived “rightness” is already founded on their own conception of morality.

On the other hand Lawrence Blum (2002) defined prejudice and discrimination into two basic referents: inferiorization and antipathy. Like Allport’s assumption, Blum (2002) suggested that prejudices are largely made in order to emphasize one’s superiority over the other, and in providing such emphasis hostility and hatred become the resulting factors.

Right now, with the increasing awareness of the social constructs of the major perils of prejudices and ethnocentrism, institutions become more conscientious in their policies and course of actions. Principles of non-discrimination were applied to workplaces and minority groups were gradually provided with increasing rights to be afforded with welfare services, similar to the majority group. However, the stream of consciousness remains. With the passing of cultural and social heritage comes an imminent desire for superiority and self-righteous predispositions. Though prejudicial biases are gradually earning its just merits as social taboo, covert actions and thoughts against members of the “other” group are becoming increasingly rampant. Color-blind ideals are said to be one of the very foundations of such covert prejudices and discriminations, notably in the lines of ethnicity and skin color. Increased conscientization efforts may prove to be effective. However, as long as self-interests and preservation remain to be the paramount concern of humanity, prejudices would keep on becoming an “inherent” aspect of humanity and society.

References

Allport, Gordon. The Nature of Prejudice. MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979

Devine, Patricia G., Plant, E. Ashby & Blair, Irene V. “Classic Contemporary Analyses of Racial Prejudice.” Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Intergroup Processes. Ed. Rupert Brown & Sam Gaertner. MA: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd., 2001

Fishbein, Harold D. Peer Prejudice and Discrimination: The Origins of Prejudice. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2002

James, Michael. “Race.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 28 May 2008. Accessed from www.plato.stanford.edu, 05 February 2010

Kinder, Donald R. & Sears, David O. “Prejudice and Politics: Symbolic Racism versus Racial Threats to Good Life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 414-431 (1981). American Psychological Association. Accessed from www.issr.ucla.edu, 05 February 2010

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye.New York: Vintage Books, 2007

Stephan, Walter & Stephan, Cookie White. “An Integrated Threat Theory of Prejudice.” Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination. The Clarent Symposium on Applied Psychology.New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2000.

Crime and Poverty

End Poverty to Stop Crime. Credits to filipspagnoli.wordpress.com for the image

Like poverty, crime is a social phenomenon. It affects a substantial segment of the population and inflicts damage to the morale of the people. By taking into consideration how crime becomes directly proportionate with the poverty rate in a given neighborhood or community (Becker, 2001), one could thus assume that aside from the obvious relationship of both problems, crime stems from the pitfalls of poverty: those left with bitter survival options resort to property crimes, and those who commit the worst crimes imaginable might be due to the desperate situations some people find themselves in.

By taking into account the basic requisites for survival, poverty undeniably pushes a person to desperation, hopelessness and apathy. By being hopeless, one becomes alienated with the given set of social expectations and resorts to trying to fulfill one’s needs at all cost. Survival – being the primary consideration, must be effected at all cost. How could one try to find the logic in the moral backwardness of stealing when one sees his/ her children starving? How could one try to find rationality in obeying the law when in doing such, one condemns himself/ herself and his/ her family to a life of lowly aspirations – of perpetual struggling to make both ends meet, of falling in line to the mercies of welfare and other people, of working 12 hours a day in the streets, obtaining nothing but a few dollars so the family could have something decent to eat in the evenings?

Individual responsibility, however, runs contrary to this statement. By placing crime within a larger social construct, the notion of free will is undermined. A person – no matter how poor s/he might be is gifted with the similar capacity to work hard and do his/ her best to elevate his/ her situation. Yet though this may be the case, sufficient evidences thrive on stating that while the capacities are similar, the conditions afforded by the society are not necessarily equal to people of diverse social status. Public and private hospitals, public and private education, and subtle segregationist policies were all monuments of these blatant differences. So while character development might be a significant intervention for crime prevention, poverty alleviation is certainly as important.

References

Becker, Gary S. (2001). “Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach. Journal of Political Economy: 169-217. Accessed 02 April 2010 from www.ww.uni-magdeburg.de

Dantzker, M.L. & Hunter, Ronald D. (2006). Research Methods for Criminology and Criminal Justice: A Primer. Ontario: Jones and Bartlett Publishers

*See other post related to poverty