In the opening of his review of Deterrence and the Death Penalty, Brian L. Wilcox describes the death penalty as "one of the more contentious public policy issues in the United States." One factor that contributes to the contentious nature of the topic is the assertion that the death penalty deters future crime. I eagerly awaited this review because I wanted what Wilcox notes most readers of the actual book likely want—a definitive answer on the deterrent or lack of deterrent effects of the death penalty. It is surprising and disappointing that in over three decades of research there is no final answer. However, it may be the case that we are asking the wrong questions about our death penalty policies.
As experts on human behavior, can psychologists assist in developing testable theories that can help the nation in determining how we wish to control and/or address violent crime in society? Is the death penalty a necessary component of our criminal justice's response to violent crime?
By Brian L. Wilcox
PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(7)