The inmates on death rows across the country are a fairly uniform bunch. They are poor, they are male, and roughly half of them reside in only four states, California, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania. They are often addicted to drugs or alcohol; they are the losers in our society, on the bottom rung of the ladder. Many of them –- and, indeed, convicted felons in general -– view the world and their place in it quite differently from the way those who hold to the idea of deterrence would expect. As Howard Zehr (54) argues, “If success comes, it is associated more with luck than hard work. If they are arrested for an offense, it has more to do with luck than something they did. Whether or not they do have the power to make real choices, many do not believe that they do.”
The implications of this sort of thinking are serious, for deterrence necessitates a belief that we choose what we will do in any given situation.