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Study: Executions Do Not Bring Closure To Victims’ Families

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New research suggests assumptions about the death penalty may be wrong. (Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

New research suggests assumptions about the death penalty may be wrong. (Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

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AUSTIN, TX (CBS Houston) – According to a new study, executions do not heal the victims’ families.

The study also said that the primary reason people say they support the death penalty is based on an incorrect assumption: that the death of the murderer would bring satisfaction and closure to the victim’s family.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and from the University of Texas at Austin conducted the survey. Minnesota has no death penalty, and Texas leads the nation in executions.

Researchers conducted personal interviews then compared family survivors’ experiences in Minnesota with those in Texas. The victim’s family members in Minnesota showed higher levels of physical, psychological, and behavior health, than those in Texas. They also showed a higher level of satisfaction with the criminal justice system.

“We’re still kind of testing out all the implications of this study, but it certainly raises significant policy issues,” Mark Umbreit, Ph.D., from the University of Minnesota, told Psych Central. “It challenges this notion, this assumption that, ‘well, at least the death penalty really brings closure to survivors.’”

Umbreit believes that closure cannot occur just through the law. His research has shown that victims’ families need to receive closure with the help of therapy called restorative justice, which are conversations between the murderers and victims’ families.

“Restorative justice doesn’t view crime as just a violation of law. Yes, it is, but it’s fundamentally a traumatic act; a violation of people – of families and individuals,” Umbreit said. “The human impact is extremely important.”

Umbreit believes that more research should be conducted and on a larger scale.

“This is still what I’d consider an exploratory study – it’s a small sample. But it provides a very rigorous methodology – incredibly deep interviews with these people, where they share their life stories, their narratives. And that qualitative data matched with the quantitative data,” Umbreit said.

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