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Executions, Imprisonment and Crime in Trinidad and Tobago

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 52 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2012 Pages: 113-140
David F. Greenberg; Biko Agozino
Date Published
January 2012
28 pages
The effect of death sentences, executions, and imprisonment on crime rates in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is assessed using annual time series data from 1955 to 2005.
The time series analysis of homicides and serious crimes in Trinidad and Tobago undermines politicians' argument that capital punishment is a solution to Trinidad and Tobago's increasing homicide rate. Over a span of 50 years - during which death sentences, executions, and imprisonment were deployed in varying degrees - neither of these sanctions showed any significant link to the homicide rate. In the years immediately following an appeals court's determination to limit executions, the murder rate declined. Although generalizations from the experiences of Trinidad and Tobago to other settings must be done cautiously, there are no reasons to believe that executions would be more effective in other countries than they are in Trinidad and Tobago. On the contrary, the small population of Trinidad and Tobago should facilitate informal communication among the population that would promote the knowledge of executions, which should maximize their deterrent effect. The authors note that the dysfunctionality of the Trinidad and Tobago criminal justice system has significantly weakened its ability to obtain convictions for large numbers of defendants, such that the system does not have the leverage for dealing punitively with those defendants it is able to apprehend. It has also failed to develop effective non-punitive alternatives. In addition, current knowledge of the reasons for rapid increases in homicides, as well as of effective strategies for reducing them, is currently so limited that any recommendations for reform would lack a sound empirical basis. The analysis of the relationship between penal sanctions and crime rates, specifically homicide rates, involved time series analyses of annual data on crimes that the government classified as murders between 1955 and 2005. The model for analyzing the data and the reasons for selecting it are presented. 2 tables, 5 figures, and 137 references