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In criminology, brutalization refers to a hypothesized cause-and-effect relationship between executions and an increase in the homicide rate. This hypothesis proposes this relationship occurs because executions diminish the public's respect for life. Such an effect represents the opposite of a deterrent effect.[1][2]


A 1980 study found that in New York, there were an average of two additional homicides in the month after an execution, consistent with a brutalization effect.[3] A 1994 study found evidence of this effect in Oklahoma, but only in relation to stranger homicides,[4] while a 1998 study found strong evidence to support a hypothesis relating to the total number of homicides in Oklahoma.[5]


A 1978 study found no evidence to support the brutalization hypothesis.[1] A 1994 study also found no evidence to support it with regards to overall homicides in Oklahoma.[4]


  1. ^ a b King, D. R. (1 December 1978). "The Brutalization Effect: Execution Publicity and the Incidence of Homicide in South Carolina". Social Forces. 57 (2): 683–687. doi:10.1093/sf/57.2.683.
  2. ^ Shepherd, Joanna (14 December 2005). "Why not all executions deter murder". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. ^ Bowers, W. J.; Pierce, G. L. (1 January 1980). "Deterrence or Brutalization: What Is the Effect of Executions?". Crime & Delinquency. 26 (4): 453–484. doi:10.1177/001112878002600402.
  4. ^ a b COCHRAN, JOHN K.; CHAMLIN, MITCHELL B.; SETH, MARK (February 1994). "DETERRENCE OR BRUTALIZATION? AN IMPACT ASSESSMENT OF OKLAHOMA'S RETURN TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT". Criminology. 32 (1): 107–134. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.1994.tb01148.x.
  5. ^ BAILEY, WILLIAM C. (November 1998). "DETERRENCE, BRUTALIZATION, AND THE DEATH PENALTY: ANOTHER EXAMINATION OF OKLAHOMA'S RETURN TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT". Criminology. 36 (4): 711–734. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.1998.tb01263.x.