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Report No. 35

III.Comparison of figures of abolition and non-abolition States for the same period.

309. Comparison of figures of abolition and non-abolition States for the same period.-

It may be of interest to study the rise in homicide rate in States with capital punishment, and to contrast or compare it with States without capital punishment. As a sample of such study, we may take the figures for Rhode Island (capital punishment abolished in 1882) and Massachusetts (capital punishment in force).

The average annual number of deaths due to homicide per million of the population for the two States is as follows:1-

Country or State





Massachusetts (capital punishment retained)





Rhode Island (no capital punishment)





If this could be represented in the form of a graph, it would be evident, that in both the States, there has been a steady decrease in the homicide rate from the first time lag ending 1919 to the last time lag ending 1948. This shows, that besides punishment, there are also other factors which determine the incidence of homicide.

1. For figures, see R.C. Report, p. 371; for diagram, see R.C. Report p. 377; for dates of abolition, see R.C. Report, p. 345.

310. It has been stated, that statistics studied by 'various persons, e.g., by Warden Lawes, by Karl Schuessler for the period 1931-1946 (Comparative study of Abolition and Retention States) and by Barnes and Teeters, show that the rate of homicide is not affected by the presence or absence of death penalty1.

The pioneering work in statistics on the subject, as is well-known, is by Professor Thoruston Sellin. His views are quoted in the Royal Commission Report 2 and in the Canadian Report3.

1. Younger Capital Punishment-A Sharp Medicine Reconsidered American Bar Association Journal, February 1956, cited in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 18.

2. R.C. Report, p. 24, para. 67 and in Appendix (from p. 328 onward).

3. Canadian Report, pp. 12-13, paras. 43-49.

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