Capital Punishment and Deterrence
This chapter presents a study that tested the deterrence hypothesis in Texas, the most active execution jurisdiction during the modern era. The dominant approach to determining the relationship between deterrence and the death penalty involves comparing the rate of homicide or some subset of homicide and either the legal status of the death penalty or the performance of actual executions within or across particular jurisdictions. To examine the deterrence hypothesis during the modern era, data that spanned the years from 1984 through 1997 were collected from official sources. The year 1984 was chosen as the beginning of the data collection period because of the availability of specific data on homicides and the onset of executions. The greatest amount of support for the deterrence hypothesis is found when the decrease in murder rates is paired with the increase in executions during the 1990s.