Caribbean Death Penalty Research is a forum for exploring public opinion on the use of capital punishment in Caribbean countries. We are conducting research into public opinion on the death penalty in the Caribbean and the impact of capital punishment on the families of death row inmates using a Public Opinion Survey (to do survey click HERE). We aim to produce high-quality research which can inform decision-making on criminal justice policies particularly relating to the question of the death penalty.
This aim is part of a move more broadly to produce research on capital punishment in the Anglophone Caribbean. It is a particular area of interest for the United Nations and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is currently working to build a research base from which to facilitate discussion among experts on the use of the death penalty across the English-speaking Caribbean. A forthcoming publication from the OHCHR entitled Victims of the Death Penalty comprises chapters by Florence Seemungal, Lizzie Seal and Lynsey Black, of the Caribbean Death Penalty Research website, on ‘Secondary Trauma and the Death Penalty – Its Impact on the Professionals Involved in the Execution Process’ and ‘Impact of the Imposition of the Death Penalty on Families of the Convicted in the Caribbean’. The chapters deal with the hidden victims of the death penalty, notably those involved in the administration of justice and the families of people sentenced to death and draws on interview data and research from Trinidad and Tobago.
The Need for Research
Researching public opinion on the death penalty is important because politicians and successive governments have relied on public support to argue for the retention of the death penalty in countries such as Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. Public opinion surveys can provide clearer and fuller information on the views held by members of the public, and findings from these surveys can be used as a useful tool in policy-making and advocacy.
Despite the habit of citing popular support for the death penalty, a recent Amnesty International Report, ‘Turning the Tide in the Caribbean‘, argues that:
‘opinion polls that seem to indicate overwhelming support for the death penalty tend to simplify the complexities of public opinion and ignore the extent to which it is based on an inaccurate understanding of the crime situation in the country, its causes and the means available for combating it.’
Existing research has shown that support for the death penalty decreases considerably when respondents are given more information; among a group of 500 persons, support for the death penalty fell from 92 per cent to 49 per cent when further information about individual cases was provided (see Amnesty International, ‘Turning the Tide in the Caribbean‘).
Support for the death penalty across the English-speaking Caribbean region is generally attributed to a traditional culture and a desire for retributive justice sparked by the rising rate of violent crime. As the media analysis on this site demonstrates, reports of homicide are frequently followed by calls for executions from politicians and the media. However despite this, there is no convincing evidence to support the argument that the death penalty is an effective response to violent crime. A recent study carried out in Trinidad and Tobago found no correlation between executions, imprisonment and crime:
‘over a span of 50 years, during which these sanctions were being deployed in degrees that varied substantially, neither imprisonment nor death sentences nor executions had any significant relationship to homicides. In the years immediately following an appeals court’s determination limiting executions, the murder rate fell.’
In this context, the Caribbean Death Penalty Research project seeks to further the knowledge on the death penalty in the Caribbean by conducting a PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY on views about capital punishment and to garner contributions from those affected by the death penalty.
Public Opinion Survey
We are conducting a public opinion survey. The survey will ask for some general details about yourself, and will then ask you to give your views on the death penalty and the mandatory death sentence for murder. The survey then offers five case studies in which a person is convicted of murder. For each case study, you will select the most appropriate sentence in each case and give a reason why you have chosen this sentence.
Submitting a completed survey means that I consent to participate in the aforementioned study. I understand all the safeguards that are in place to ensure the confidentiality of the responses and personal data that I provide for this study.
The survey should take no more than 10-15 minutes to complete.
Please click HERE to complete the survey.