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A poll of U.S. Police Chiefs details the death penalty and its minuscule effect on actual crime. The poll was commissioned by the Death Penalty Information Center and conducted by R.T. Strategies of Washington, D.C. in 2009.
500 randomly selected U.S. police chiefs were polled on a number of topics surrounding capital punishment. When asked to name one area as “most important for reducing violent crime,” results show it has little effect. With only 1% listing it as the best way to reduce violence, it serves as a microscopic deterrent at best.
Even Republican states such as Utah and Virginia have recently banned the death penalty, and 2021 had the fewest executions since 1988. Critics of the penalty often cite its inhumanity and ineffectiveness as justifiable reasons to abolish the deadly practice. Additionally, DNA evidence has led to multiple convictions being overturned for incarcerated persons.
Bible Belt states like Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Alabama, and Mississippi all carried out the death penalty in 2021.
The DPIC states death penalties peaked during Y2K, however, since that point many states have banned it, and numbers have dropped precipitously. Historically the South has had far more executions than any other region. Even though the trend is moving downward, old laws die hard.
According to the polled police chiefs, the death penalty is the least efficient use of taxpayers’ money to prevent criminality. They ranked expanded training, community policing, drug/alcohol programs, and neighborhood watches as more cost-effective ways to use taxpayers’ money.
The human toll is worth more than any tax can collect. Longtime death row inmates such as Julius Jones are often at the mercy of public petitions and celebrity attention to evade final judgment. Yet their ability to breathe free air often depends on the discretion of a Governor. Jones’ case highlights the quickness of the judicial system to charge but a snail’s pace to exonerate, even with overwhelming evidence.
Donald Grant of Oklahoma is scheduled for execution on Thursday for a robbery and double murder in 2001. Though his lawyers have attempted to get the type of execution changed, the presiding judge has ruled against it. Last November he was also denied clemency and the execution is expected to move forward.
With Police Chiefs in near synchronicity, it may be only a matter of time until the death penalty is abolished nationwide. However, for some today and many more in the past, it will be too little too late.
(*Correction: An original version of this article cited the poll as “new”. It was actually commissioned in 2009.)