Executions, Deterrence and Homicide: A Tale of Two Cities
University of California at Berkeley
Columbia Law School
David T. Johnson
University of Hawaii at Manoa
August 31, 2009
Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 09-206
CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper
We compare homicide rates in two quite similar cities with vastly different execution risks. Singapore had an execution rate close to 1 per million per year until an explosive twentyfold increase in 1994-95 and 1996-97 to a level that we show was probably the highest in the world. Then over the next 11 years, Singapore executions dropped by about 95%. Hong Kong, by contrast,has no executions all during the last generation and abolished capital punishment in 1993. Homicide levels and trends are remarkably similar in these two cities over the 35 years after 1973, with neither the surge in Singapore executions nor the more recent steep drop producing any differential impact. By comparing two closely matched places with huge contrasts in actual execution but no differences in homicide trends, we have generated a unique test of the exuberant claims of deterrence that have been produced over the past decade in the U.S.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 54
Keywords: Capital punishment, deterrence, homicide
JEL Classification: K14
Date posted: July 21, 2009 ; Last revised: September 9, 2009
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