The concept that death sentences and also executions provide closure come victims’ households is a myth, says Susan A. Bandes, Centennial distinguished Professor of law Emeritus in ~ DePaul University regulation school. In a January 8 commentary in The Crime Report, Bandes, a pioneer in the study of emotion and also the law, takes on and debunks the idea that executions lug victims’ family members members closure.

Prosecutors, including previous Attorney basic Bill Barr, often offer the promise that closure as a justification for resources punishment as a policy and also for transferring out specific executions. As soon as the room of righteousness announced that is intention to resume federal executions after ~ a 17-year hiatus, Barr asserted that “we owe it come the victims and also their family members to carry forward the sentence implemented by ours justice system.” Yet, Bandes explains, previously in his career, Barr had actually cited deterrence and retribution as his reasons for supporting the death penalty. “Barr’s shift mirrored a subtle but an effective change in the nationwide conversation around capital punishment,” she says. “As the deterrence reason proved hard to justify, and the retributive rationale started to sound also angry and vengeful, both have actually been changed with a kinder, gentler-sounding justification: by moving out executions we deserve to honor the victims and aid their families heal.”

Despite the popularity together a justification for the death penalty, closure has no communication in emotional research, Bandes says, and there is no evidence that executions provide relief come victims’ families. In fact, study has presented that households often feel re-victimized as soon as an execution does no bring about the closure they had hoped for.

“The most telling recognize is that a number of family members feeling relieved simply due to the fact that they are finally totally free of the legit system,” Bandes writes. “As Matthew Shepherd’s parents and also the Richard household (victims of the Boston Marathon bombing) understood, lot of the pain originates from the resources system itself—lengthy, love wrenching legal proceedings in i beg your pardon the household would be called to testify and the defendant would remain at center stage because that years.”In other research, a 2012 study comparing the wellbeing of victims’ household members in Texas, which has actually the death penalty, and also Minnesota, which go not, found that the family members in Minnesota had “higher level of physical, psychological, and also behavioral health.”




You are watching: Does the death penalty give closure to victims families

Susan A. Bandes, The death Penalty and the Misleading principle of ​‘Closure’, The Crime Report, January 8,2021.


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