Last updated on: 11/10/2008 | Author:

Edwin H. Sutherland, PhD Biography

Late President of the American Sociological Society
Con to the question "Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?"

“The death penalty does not fit into the system that is being developed for the treatment of criminals, which is individualization on the basis of the character and personality of the offender rather than punishment on the basis of the crime committed. Some criminals, of course, cannot be reformed by known methods, but there are none whose reformation should not be attempted. The death penalty, as a compulsory penalty for any offense, is therefore an anachronism or rapidly becoming such.

The group which uses the death penalty is incensed at the crime, emotions run high until the execution and then the members of the group sit back with a contented feeling that their duty has been done. They burn up their energy in an emotional flash, which should be used for the correction of the conditions that have produced the crime.

When the death penalty is used, errors of justice are irreparable. Though most mistakes are prevented by the judicial system or by executive clemency, some occur, due to the pressure of public opinion, the decisions of judges, the personnel of the jury, the laws of evidence, the unreliability of testimony or even of confessions.

Finally, the infliction of the death penalty has a very bad effect on the prisoners and staff of the institution in which it is inflicted. The morale of the institution is shattered by the strain and nervous excitement.”

Criminology, 1924

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Late President of the American Sociological Society
  • Department Head, Sociology, Indiana University, 1935-1949
  • Visiting Professor, Sociology, University of Washington, 1942
  • Professor, Sociology, University of Chicago, 1930-1935
  • Professor, Sociology, University of Minnesota, 1926-1929
  • Associate Professor, Sociology, University of Illinois, 1925–1926
  • Visiting Professor, Sociology, Northwestern University, 1922
  • Assistant Professor, Sociology, University of Illinois, 1919-1925
  • Professor, Sociology, William Jewell College, 1913-1919
  • Visiting Professor, Sociology, University of Kansas, 1918
  • Former President, Indiana University Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology
  • Former President, American Prison Association
  • Former President, Chicago Academy of Criminology
  • Former President, Sociological Research Association
  • PhD, Sociology, University of Chicago, 1913
  • AB, History, Grand Island College, 1904
  • Died on Oct. 11, 1950
  • Coined the phrase “white collar crime”