The Centre for Criminology has long pioneered research into the death penalty and has influenced worldwide reform and abolition. Roger Hood, formerly Professor of Criminology, and Carolyn Hoyle, Professor of Criminology have undertaken a sustained cross-national study of factors that influence changes in the scope and application of capital punishment. This work began with Roger Hood’s report for the United Nations on the progress made towards the worldwide elimination of capital punishment, which was later published as The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective in 1988. In the latest (5th) edition (2015), Hood and Hoyle make a case for optimism as they report a continuing increase in the countries that have abandoned or reduced their use of capital punishment and explain this in terms of a new human rights dynamic.
The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective, along with their other research reports and articles, has become an essential resource for criminal justice professionals, NGOs, and policy makers attempting to reform the use of capital punishment in countries across the Caribbean and Asia as well as some parts of Africa. Their research extensively reviews and critiques the failure of capital punishment to meet contemporary human rights standards in those countries that still retain it and seeks to understand the rationales that support death sentences and executions in those jurisdictions, including perceptions about public opinion and deterrence.
This research has led to substantial partnership with various organisations, in particular The Death Penalty Project, which for three decades has engaged in litigation, capacity building, and research on the death penalty in over 30 countries. This collaboration has produced reports on the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, addressing public opinion on the death penalty, sentencing, and wrongful convictions. Such work is aimed at ensuring the greatest possible impact, with publication of reports followed by engagement with local stakeholders, not least governments and opposition parties.
The Death Penalty Research Unit will continue Oxford Criminology’s close partnership with The Death Penalty Project and other partner organisations to develop empirical, theoretical and policy-relevant research on the death penalty worldwide; to encourage death penalty scholarship including at graduate level, through education, events, research dissemination and an active blog; and to engage in knowledge production, exchange and dissemination in cooperation with civil society, charities, legal practitioners and local academics in those countries where research is ongoing. This exciting new research unit is made possible by this generous donation from Lady Edwina Grosvenor.