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Is There a Deterrence?

Selected as a graduate Research Assistant in my first year of film school at American University was both humbling and exciting. Unaware of the project I would be assigned, I initially met with Maggie the week prior to the start of the school year. It was at this meeting I would learn about the documentary in progress, ‘In The Executioners Shadow,’ and what my role would be throughout the year.

Admittedly, I was the ‘why’ child growing up, always questioning the ‘why’ of everything. My parents, I’m sure grew tired of this, but none-the-less, always encouraged me to find answers to all of my questions. The quest for truth felt like mini adventures for me then and as I grew up, I realized knowledge is paramount in making decisions of any kind.

Conducting research for ‘In the Executioners Shadow’ has led me down many rabbit holes, only leading me to ask more ‘why’s’ and feeling this relevance in the overall discussion regarding capital punishment. It seemed logical to do a side by side comparison of capital executions compared to rates of violence to identify any causal relationships or trends. Ensuring I looked objectively at all sides, I compared crime statistics complied in the FBI Uniform Crime Report to the statistics of capital executions per year compiled by the DPIC and Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Essentially, the numbers paint an interesting picture no matter where you stand. For example, one region of the US will have the highest crime rate and will also have the highest number of executions. In comparison, another region will have the lowest crime rate and lowest number of executions. Additionally, there were fewer executions in 2014 than in past years however the rate of violent crime fell by 0.2% compared to 2013. Is there a deterrence connection? It’s worthy of further discussion regarding what is working to prevent these crimes from happening and ensure no one has to lose a loved one.

Additionally, many criminologists and senior law enforcement officials agree that funding to help keep violent offenders off the street would be best utilized in more officers on the streets, youth programs, substance abuse and mental health programs, and so on. Ideally, get ahead of the issues and be proactive not reactive.

Maggie, Rick, and the entire team have worked tirelessly to bring you a film that will raise discussion on both sides on how best to confront the issue of criminal justice reform. We hope you will come along with us, exploring and seeking the answers, that will ensure justice for all and together, build a stronger community. United we stand, divided we fall.  

- Samantha Tinsley