Article

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs: Four Destructive Influences of Capital Punishment on American Criminal Justice

Franklin E. Zimring and David T. Johnson

in The Oxford Handbook of Sentencing and Corrections

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199730148
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199730148.013.0030

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Dark at the Top of the Stairs: Four Destructive Influences of Capital Punishment on American Criminal Justice

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This article tries to show how capital punishment can become a destructive influence on American criminal justice. It first determines that due to the availability of the death penalty, there have been misrepresentations in the law of homicide. This has also led to “penal inflation,” which refers to the increased use of prison terms of life without parole (LWOP). It then notes that the general acceptance of most death penalty abolitionists of the use of LWOP sentences has resulted in an involuntary increase in the use of LWOP—one that exceeds the moderating effect on the use of the death penalty. It then addresses the continuous controversy over capital punishment, which has drained huge amounts of attention, resources, and energy that could have been used on reforms.

Keywords: capital punishment; criminal justice; death penalty; homicide; penal inflation; prison terms; life without parole

Article.  7343 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Courts and Procedure

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