DETERRENCE OR BRUTALIZATION? AN IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF OKLAHOMA'S RETURN TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT*

Authors


  • *

    Cochran and Chamlin contributed equally to this work and jointly share first authorship. Presented at the annual meetings of the American Society of Criminology, held in New Orleans, November 4–7. 1992. We would like to thank Mr. Raymond Pascutti. Uniform Crime Reporting Supervisor for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, for kindly providing the data for this analysis; we would also like to acknowledge the helpful comments of Drs. Robert J. Bursik, Jr., Harold G. Grasmick, and the anonymous reviewers who read earlier drafts of the manuscript. Please submit any correspondence to John K. Cochran at the following address: Department of Sociology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019.

  • John K. Cochran is Associate Professor of Sociology and Research Associate with the Center for the Study of Crime, Delinquency, and Social Control at the University of Oklahoma. He is a consultant for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, where he is currently involved in a study of race relations and racial discrimination in the DOC system. His current research interests include a macrosocial examination of assaults on police officers and a study of police response time.

  • Mitchell B. Chamlin is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. Drawing on utilitarian and conflict models, he is concerned primarily with the impact of structural conditions on changes in the capacities of localities to engage in crime control processes, as well as with modeling changes in the level of criminal behavior. Currently he is involved in macrosocial longitudinal research examining assaults on police officers.

  • Mark Seth received his MA in Sociology at the University of Oklahoma. He is cur rently involved in an examination of the role of extralegal factors in police response times to calls for service.

Abstract

On September 10, 1990 Charles Troy Coleman was put to death by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Coleman's execution was the first in the state in more than 25 years, generating significant media coverage and providing a unique opportunity to assess the impact of the state's return to executing capital offenders. Interrupted time-series analyses are performed with weekly data from the UCR Supplemental Homicide Reports for the state for the period January 1989 through December 1991. Analyses are performed for the total level of criminal homicides and homicides disaggregated into two types of murder–felony murder and stranger homicides–testing hypotheses that predict opposing impacts for each type of homicide. As predicted, no evidence of a deterrent or a brutalization effect is found for criminal homicides in general. Similarly, the predicted deterrent effect of the execution on the level of felony murders is not observed. Evidence of the predicted brutalization effect on the level of stranger homicides is observed, however. Supplementary analyses on further offense disaggregations continue to support these initial findings and permit a more coherent interpretation of the results.

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