“Deterring bad behavior”

By John McMullen  |   Thursday, July 02, 2009  |  Comments( 0 )

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I'm a proponent of the death penalty, and I say that fully aware that most criminologists do not believe it stops crime.

In fact, according to a study published at Northwestern University School of Law’s Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 88 percent of the country's top criminologists do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide.

Similarly, 87 percent believe that abolition of the death penalty would not have any significant effect on murder rates. Finally, 75 percent of the respondents agreed that ''debates about the death penalty distract Congress and state legislatures from focusing on real solutions to crime problems.''

So why do I support the death penalty?

Simple, I'm not looking to deter, I'm looking to punish. Some crimes are so heinous that they deserve the ultimate punishment.

By now you might be asking: What any of this have to do with the National Football League?

Well, behavior -- or lack thereof -- has been one of the front-page stories in the NFL this offseason. Michael Vick's release from prison and possible return to the league along with the fates of Donte' Stallworth and Plaxico Burress have been much-discussed issues.

Earlier this week, ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio even penned a column stating the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy is "working," using a flawed statistical model based on number of arrests.

In 2007, NFL players had 33 arrests and other incidents from the day after the Super Bowl through the end of June. During that same period in 2008, the number increased to 37. The number this year has fallen to 23.

According to Florio, the "deterrent" (the league's Personal Conduct Policy) is stopping the "crime" (bad behavior).

Unfortunately, that's just ludicrous.

Seattle Seahawks fullback Owen Schmitt was arrested last weekend on charges of suspicion of DUI in Washington, days after Stallworth pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and found himself indefinitely suspended by Roger Goodell.

Does anyone really think the heavy hammer of everyone's favorite judgmental, evangelical-like commissioner was in the back of a drunken Schmitt's mind when he turned his ignition key?

No chance.

Criminals usually commit dozens of crimes before they are caught. Only Schmitt knows if that's the first time he got behind the wheel while impaired. But if it was, he is an awfully unlucky guy.

Days after taking his job, Goodell had already decided what he wanted his legacy to be. While Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue will be forever revered as economic geniuses, there was a dark side to their respective watches -- the NFL turned into a clearinghouse for felons and miscreants. Goodell has been far more aggressive in terms of disciplining players than his predecessors.

For the most part, I applaud that. Contemptible behavior deserves to be punished. Just don't expect that punishment to deter any future potential bad behavior.

Common sense says human beings are flawed and will always make mistakes.

Human beings who are spoon fed a sense of entitlement from high school on are even more flawed and no policy policing personal conduct can plug that dam.
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About John McMullen

John is the managing editor of The Phanatic Magazine, the assistant managing editor of The Sports Network and the co-host of the highly rated 'Johns on Sports' radio show on WTBQ in New York. Every Saturday from 6:30-9 p.m. (et) you can hear John along with his co-host, John Gottlieb, talk to the...
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