11 August 2005

"[T]o those who say the death penalty is not a deterrent, I have two stock answers: One, it is not called capital deterrent, it is called capital punishment; and two, it for sure deters the condemned inmate from committing another crime."

And talk about Alabamans not too sure about the death penalty.


carpundit said...

If I remember correctly from years and years ago in school, there are two kinds of deterrence: general and specific. (Someone please correct me if I have the concepts wrong.)

General deterrence is what death penalty opponents cite. The death penalty, they say, does nothing to prevent future crime by others generally.

Specific deterrence is the kind I care more about. The death penalty is a guarantor of specific deterrence: that specific criminal will never commit that crime again.

Tom McKenna said...


The distinction is correct. This story is an example of an argument for specific deterrence. For an argument that in fact the death penalty is a general deterrent, and for the implication of that fact for the state (does the deterrent effect mean the state should execute more often?) see this article: http://www.aei.brookings.org/admin/authorpdfs/page.php?id=1131
(pdf needed).