NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Charting Murders And Execution Rates

October 6, 2000

The death penalty works. Homicides soar when the death penalty is suspended, then drop when it is reinstated. Such is the evidence available from statistics.

Executions virtually ended after 1964 when the Supreme Court imposed various rules on the states and decreed an almost endless appeals process. In 1971, the justices declared all existing death penalties to be unconstitutional -- a ban which was not lifted until 1978.

By the 1990s, more than half the states reimposed the death penalty on murderers.

What happened to homicide rates during these periods?

  • Beginning at almost the exact point when executions ended, murder rates soared to unprecedented heights.
  • The murder rate tied the 1933 Prohibition Era record in 1973, broke it in 1974, broke it again in 1980, and peaked a third time in 1990-92.
  • Then suddenly it plummeted, so that by 1999 so that once again it was back to the levels of 1966 when murder rates first began rising.

Death-penalty advocates see in these trends graphic justification for their position.

Source: William Tucker, "Why the Death Penalty Works," American Spectator, October 2000.


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