Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Study of the Effects of Capital Punishment on Homicide
Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences
Date of Last Revision
Number of Credits
Bachelor of Science
Date of Expected Graduation
The death penalty receives an abundance of criticism within the United States, as critics argue it to be cruel and an unjust form of punishment. As the debate carries on and more states illegalize the death penalty, the largest point of contention centers on the question: to what extent does the death penalty deter homicides from occurring? This analysis is critical to the implementation of the death penalty, as many legal scholars cite its ability to deter to be its strongest argument for persisting. Ultimately, any argument that undermines this theory provides a greater incentive for abolition, as the death penalty contains fundamental flaws which have otherwise made its use controversial. This paper attempts to answer the debate by providing an analysis using univariate, bivariate, and OLS regression models to demonstrate to what effect the death penalty deters homicide rates in a sample of states over time compared to other underlying factors. Ultimately, it is found that the death penalty does not have a noticeable impact on deterring homicides, with its relationship to the homicide rate being largely responsive with changes in other variables. While this does not disprove the deterrence theory, it suggests it is far weaker in deterring the homicide rate compared to other factors.
Dr. Phillip Marcin
Dr. Nancy Marion
Dr. Ronald Gelleny
Honors Faculty Advisor
Dr. Ronald Gelleny
Proprietary and/or Confidential Information
Stump, Jacob, "Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Study of the Effects of Capital Punishment on Homicide" (2022). Williams Honors College, Honors Research Projects. 1628.