Long upswing in executions reversed
as more convictions are overturned
Violence Index researchers find post 9-11
in hate crimes short-lived
NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind.
(Dec. 22, 2003) - Executions in the United States are on the downswing, in
part because of an increase in stays and overturned convictions, report
Manchester College researchers in releasing their latest National Index of
Violence and Harm.
increased 40 percent between 1995 and 1999, reaching a peak of 98,
executions have averaged only 74 annually since, said the researchers.
"Some of the decrease can
be attributed to the fact that serious questions continue to be raised about
the fairness of capital punishment," said Bradley L. Yoder, Ph.D., professor
of sociology and social work.
"Some see injustice in
the quality of legal representation available to capital murder suspects.
Others raise issues about the execution of youth or the mentally disabled
and about access to DNA evidence for suspects." Several states have
declared moratoriums on executions.
Since 2000, the courts
have exonerated 27 death row inmates (compared to 19 in the previous
four-year period), while an additional 178 have received clemency, including
167 in Illinois.
conducted as part of the National Index of Violence and Harm, indicates the
large increase in hate crimes in 2001 was a temporary spike primarily due to
post 9-11 crimes against Muslims and ethnic minorities. Although the FBI
did not determine the number of hate crimes directly related to September
11, the agency reported anti-Islamic crimes increased 15-fold, to 554
victims in 2001. Hate crimes had been dropping steadily, decreasing 10.5
percent from 1995 to 2000. Indeed, 90 percent of the 2001 increase was
attributed to anti-Muslim and ethnic bias, with total hate crime victims
increasing from 9,924 to 12,020 between 2000 and 2001. However, in 2002,
the number of victims fell to 9,222 comparable to pre-2001 levels.
The National Index of
Violence and Harm, originated by
psychology, sociology and mathematics professors and students in 1999,
examines data from 1995 through 2001 and includes 19 variables in two
scales, "Personal Violence and Harm" and "Societal Violence and Harm."
Personal violence includes violence against self, such as suicide, and
violence against others in traditional crime (such as homicide and
Due to increases in
homicide, robbery and suicide, a five-year plunge in the personal violence
index bottomed out in 2001. The
personal violence index (which also includes battery, sexual
offenses and deaths from substance abuse) had been steadily decreasing,
dropping an impressive 15 percent from 1995 to 2000.
In 2001, a companion
index of societal violence and harm showed a substantial increase for the
first time. This index includes violence or harm from overall societal
forces and also institutions related to government, corporations and
families (including lack of health insurance, poverty, infant mortality, law
enforcement abuse, air pollution, occupational injury, and domestic
violence). The increase in societal harm was driven primarily by increases
in post 9-11 hate crimes and various measures of social negligence (hunger,
homelessness, lack of health insurance, school drop-out rate).
Emergency food requests,
for example, increased 23 percent from 2000 to 2001 - the largest yearly
increase in 10 years. "Figures from 2000 and 2001 suggest the encouraging
decreases in crime and suicide observed during the good economy of the 1990s
have come to an end," notes researcher James P. Brumbaugh-Smith, Ph.D.,
associate professor of mathematics. "Meantime, increases in hunger and
homelessness seen during even these 'boom' years continue unabated."
College researchers also noted that while economic inequality decreased
consistently from 1995 to 2001 (by 4 percent overall), disparity based on
gender did not change significantly and disparity between the poor and the
wealthy actually increased.
"In fact, the income gap
between the top 5 percent and the lowest 10 percent of
households is the greatest it has been since government tracking begin in
1967," said Neil J. Wollman, Ph.D., Senior Fellow of the Manchester College
Peace Institute. Furthermore, in 2001, blacks, Hispanics and Asians were
159 percent more likely to live in poverty than non-Hispanic white
residents, the researchers said. Females were 24 percent more likely to
live in poverty than males, and children under 18 were 61 percent more
likely to live in poverty than adults.
"Most citizens and the
media look at violence only on the interpersonal level - murder, rape,
robbery, etc. But some researchers and commentators also have looked at
violence in broader, more societal terms," said Wollman. "Even though such
violence or harm is less dramatic or graphic, the physical or psychological
harm from such things as poverty or environmental pollution can be just as
devastating. We hope to present a more inclusive view of violence that
heightens the awareness of society on these concerns."
A detailed explanation of
the index (including statistical data and graphics) is available at