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Interesting Reading...

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Psychology and Crime News mentions several studies in the current issue of The Social Science Journal. The abstract for the study: Secondary analysis of dangerousness among death sentenced capital murderers reads thusly:

The theory of incapacitation involves reducing an offender's ability or capacity to commit further crimes. Capital punishment accomplishes this goal. An executed murderer never murders again. However, we do not execute all murderers, only capital murderers. This policy produces several research questions. Do capital murderers present a special risk to society? Are capital murderers more likely to murder or commit other violent crimes again than other murderers or the average citizen? To answer these questions, many states require a prediction of future dangerousness of a newly convicted murderer. To what extent has the judgment of future dangerousness matched actuarial data of subsequent murders and serious crimes? Using a secondary analysis, this investigation attempted to assemble available data of postconviction dangerousness of death sentenced capital murderers to create a more comprehensive actuarial account of subsequent dangerousness and to present the data in a common format used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Across 14 studies identified with relevant data, there were 13 instances of subsequent murder and 462 serious crime or prison rule violations.

4 Comments

Steve, any breakout available on those "462 serious crime or prison rule violations"? That could include everything from stabbing a guard causing permanent disability to smuggling in a copy of Playboy.

Haven't read it in detail yet. More later.

From the article:

"Dangerousness in this study was defined either as a subsequent murder, a subsequent serious (felony) crime, or a serious prison rule violation committed by capital murderers. Because this study was a secondary analysis, the exact classification of the subsequent serious crime was often unavailable."

So "serious" applies to the rule violations as well, but we don't really know what "serious" is.

Why was there a requirement that the "capital murderers" actually be death sentenced? That doesn't seem to be the correct starting point--shouldn't they be looking at all death-eligible murderers?

The allocation of death to certain offenders depends upon some random events, e.g., jury mercy, strength of evidence and appellate determination of error. So how is this study at all useful as a predictor for a legislator trying to draw conclusions about whom to deem capital-murder eligible?

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