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Johnson: Convicted murderers have not reoffended after release

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 21, 2013

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Elsworth Johnson, an attorney who is a member of The Greater Caribbean for Life, a group of organizations and individuals from countries in the region opposed to capital punishment, noted that convicted murderers released during resentencing exercises in compliance with a Privy Council decision that removed the mandatory death penalty have not reoffended.  This lends proof to the theory that long prison terms can serve as a deterrent.

Johnson said in the hysteria caused by the high crime rate people often think that the “all-encompassing solution is to kill someone”.

“Killing someone will do nothing to affect armed robberies, rapes, housebreakings or tax evasion,” he said.

A study by the United Nations on the relationship between the death penalty and homicide rates concluded: “Research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment.  Such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming.  The evidence as a whole still gives no positive support to the deterrent hypothesis.”

In fact, statistics provided by Amnesty International show that countries that have abolished the death penalty have lower murder rates than those that have retained it.

According to Amnesty International, in Canada the homicide rate per 100,000 of the population fell from a peak of 3.09 in 1975, the year before the death penalty for murder was abolished, to 2.41 in 1980.  The homicide rate in Canada remains significantly lower than prior to abolition.

However, Amnesty International noted that six of the 10 countries with the highest homicide rates in the region retain the death penalty (The Bahamas, Belize, Guatemala, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago).

Johnson added that the fight against crime must be multifaceted.  The focus should be on addressing the roots of crime, such as poor education and social dysfunction.

According to him, by the time a person has committed a murder, it’s too late.  He noted that politicians often offer the death penalty as a solution to crime because it’s a solution that costs no money,.

He said that thousands of people graduate each year without the skills to earn an honest living, suggesting that the debate on crimes needs to move away from an emotional discussion to an intellectual one.

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