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National Study of the Furman-commuted Inmates: Assessing the Threat to Society From Capital Offenders

NCJ Number
Loyola University of Los Angeles Law Review Volume: 23 Issue: 1 Dated: (November 1989), 5-28
J W Marquart; J R Sorensen
Date Published
24 pages
This analysis of the prison and parole behavior of 558 inmates who had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment as a result of the 1972 United States Supreme Court decision in Furman v. Georgia concludes that future dangerousness is not a plausible justification for imposing capital punishment.
The data were obtained from 29 States, mostly in the southern part of the country, and the District of Columbia. Results revealed that these inmates killed four other prisoners and two correctional officers while in prison, but the majority served out their sentences with few instances of serious misconduct. Over the course of 15 years, 239 of these inmates were released to the community. These parolees have spent an average of 5 years in society. Twenty-one percent recidivated and were returned to prison, 12 percent committed new felonies. One parolee from Texas committed a second homicide. However, nearly 80 percent of those released are not known to have committed additional crimes. Findings suggest that these inmates did not represent a significant threat to society. Thus, current capital sentencing schemes predicated on the incapacitation effect cannot accomplish their goals accurately or fairly. Footnotes