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Deterrence Notes


Here are a few articles of interest on the deterrence front. Charles Keckler of George Mason U. has this article in the Journal of Law, Economics & Policy on the question of which kinds of potential murderers are most likely to be deterred. He suggests targeting sentencing accordingly. However, it is important to keep in mind that deterrence is not the sole purpose, and imposing the greatest punishment on those most deserving of punishment is also important. The JLEP is not a peer-reviewed journal and therefore this article does not qualify for our deterrence abstract list, but it's worth noting. Update: See correction here.

Fred Thompson has this article in Town Hall.

John Lott has this article at FoxNews.com. He takes issue with the objection that the chance of being executed is so small that no one is likely to consider it, noting that in other situations people do change their behavior in response to very remote risks of death. It is also worth noting that the percentage probability of execution need not be to the right of the decimal point. The State of Delaware executed 1.5% of murderers in the period from restoration of capital punishment through 2004.


Why do so many believe that deterrence is the only legit motive for punishment? Particularly when we're talking about malice in se crimes? It's not that deterrence is un-important, but surely retribution has a rightful place in our criminal justice system.

We received the following comment by email from Professor Keckler:

Dear Mr. Scheidegger:

Thank you for including mention and a link to my recent article in the Journal of Law, Economics and Policy.

A couple of points though. My piece for JLEP was certainly reviewed by two professional (not students) reviewers; whether this counts as peer-review according your lights I'm not sure.

I would say that if you're going to reference my working paper draft (as you do currently), it would be better to replace it with the JLEP version, which is similar but considerably improved.

Anyhow, thanks again.

Charles Keckler

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