A new study has been released that explores the correlations between countries’ legal, political, and religious systems and their use of the death penalty. Professors David Greenberg from New York University and Valerie West of John Jay College examined data from 193 nations to test why some countries regularly use capital punishment while others have abandoned it altogether. They found, “In part, a country’s death penalty status is linked to its general punitiveness towards criminals. Countries that imprison more convicted criminals are also more likely to kill them.” Interestingly, the data showed that “a country’s population has no significant direct or indirect effect on its death penalty status. Nor does its homicide rate. Countries with fewer political rights are more likely to have the death penalty.” The link between political rights and abolition of the death penalty was illustrated by the fact that countries with higher literacy rates and developed economies were least likely to have the death penalty. Catholicism also showed a strong influence over the use of capital punishment in the study, showing a reduction of the death penalty where there was a large presence of Catholics. Greenberg and West point out, “There are exceptions to these generalizations. Retentionist societies are not all cut from the same cloth, nor are all abolitionist societies.”

(D. Greenberg, V. West, “Siting the Death Penalty Internationally,” 33 Law & Social Inquiry 295 (Spring 2008). See International and Studies.