Sun | Jul 22, 2018

Letter of the Day | Before MP Hayles embarks on hanging spree

Published:Friday | June 23, 2017 | 12:00 AM


Member of Parliament Ian Hayles is a frustrated man. Crime is up and he is upset. So he does what most angry, frustrated persons do: throw caution to the wind and give vent to his emotions.

Hayles wants us to hang the bastards. He is asking 100,000 Jamaicans to "pressure" their MPs into advocating for the resumption of capital punishment. We can't blame Ian Hayles; he is attending a lot of funerals and I am sure he has to contribute to some of the expenses.

I hate looking abroad for references, but we are not too excited about research in this country. A report released five years ago by the prestigious National Research Council of the National Academies, based on a review of more than three decades of research, concluded that "studies claiming a deterrent effect on murder rates from the death penalty are fundamentally flawed".

The council is right. Because perusal of these studies will reveal that none of them attempts to factor in the effects of non-capital punishments that may also be imposed, and estimates of the effect of capital punishment are based on statistical models that make faulty assumptions.

I have tried - without success - to find scientifically reliable data that show where executions have proven to be an effective deterrent. Those who claim the contrary produce evidence that relies on questionable statistical analyses and variables.

Permit me to cite the tale of two similar cities - Hong Kong and Singapore. Singapore had an execution rate of one per million per year. It then skyrocketed to a level that was the highest in the world in 1997, then dropped by 95 per cent by 2007. Hong Kong had no executions during the last generation and abolished capital punishment in 1993. Yet, there is an extremely close similarity between homicide levels over the past 35 years. So we have two similar communities with significant differences in execution policy but no difference in homicide trends, Brother Hayles.




If he needs more convincing, I will refer MP Hayles to the relevant US records. They reveal that for the past 17 years, the homicide rate in states that do not have the death penalty has been consistently lower than in states that execute prisoners.

There needs to be a more rigorous and robust analysis of existing research before we allow policy judgements to be influenced by these results.

I have a suggestion for MP Hayles: How about asking those 100,000 'pressurers' to come up with some ideas for effective law enforcement before going to their MPs? I suspect that the certainty of apprehension could prove to be the most effective deterrent to crime.